Trade Your Lawn for a Vegetable Garden to Cut Down on Greenhouse Gases

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If you’re looking for a tasty way to help the environment, consider swapping your lawn for a vegetable garden. According to a recent study in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, each kilo of vegetables you grow can cut greenhouse gases by two kilograms. Over time that can add up: Researchers found that vegetable gardens, if properly managed, could substantially help states reach their greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Researcher David Cleveland of UC Santa Barbara calculated the environmental impact of home vegetable gardens in California by looking at a range of factors: He considered how much energy would be saved by replacing supermarket produce with homegrown veggies, as well as the impact of composting organic waste and using gray water for garden irrigation.

His findings were encouraging, with a few caveats: According to Cleveland, vegetable gardens can help lower greenhouse gas emissions, but only if they’re properly managed. Home farmers need to make sure they’re composting properly or else their organic waste could actually end up emitting, rather than reducing, greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide and methane. However, with care, Cleveland estimates that vegetable gardens could help the state of California meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goals, contributing up to 7.8 percent of its target.

While vegetable gardens aren’t for everyone, Cleveland claims they can have plenty of benefits for people willing to put in the effort. "In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are other potential environmental, social, psychological, and nutritional advantages to growing food yourself, whether in a household, community or school garden," Cleveland explains. "However, the degree to which those benefits are realized can depend on small things. Our hope is that this research helps motivate households, communities and policymakers to support vegetable gardens that can contribute to mitigating climate change."

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