We can all do a little something to help the environment. As humans, we are doing more and more damage to our planet by being wasteful and careless with our resources. But it’s easy to make a few slight changes in our everyday life and our habits to make our home a little less straining on our planet.
1. Limit Your Energy Use
Cut down on electricity by switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. If you’re not a fan of fluorescent light bulbs, switch to using lampshades as your main source of light. It would add ambience to your home without using a lot of energy.
Turn off all unused lights in the house – if you and your housemates are forgetful, install light sensors or automatic timers in each room.
Get unplugged, unplug any electrical appliances that aren’t in use.
Use appliances efficiently such as dryers, heaters, dishwashers and washing machines.
2. Be Mindful Of Your Water Usage
Time your showers and don’t leave taps running when not in use.
Always switch off the tap faucets when handwashing dishes if you’re not rinsing.
Repair and seal all leaks from your home.
3. Grow Plants Indoors
Living plants in your home can act as natural air filters and can absorb harmful pollutants in your home from electronic equipment, furniture and carpets.
Thinking of decorating your workspace? Make sure to consider indoor plants. There are a lot of benefits that come with having greeneries in the office; here are some of them…
A 2014 study at two large commercial offices in the UK and Netherlands found that having more plants at work could increase productivity by 15 per cent. “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity,” said Marlon Nieuwenhuis, lead researcher of the study. Workers who have plants within their eyesight reported higher concentration levels and better workplace satisfaction. Furthermore, a 2010 study in Norway also found that having plants in view is associated with fewer sick leaves.
Having plants at work can improve your wellbeing. A research by University of Technology Sydney discovered that plants in the offices can reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue by up to 60 per cent. The plants were found to increase positive mood states and comfort level. “This study shows that just one plant per work space can provide a very large lift to staff spirits, and so promote wellbeing and performance,” the research concluded.
Cleaning the air
Having plants at working space can help remove carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or petrochemical vapours from paint, furnishings, plastics or electronic equipment. Chronic exposure to these VOCs can increase fatigue, nausea, drowsiness and physical irritability. Recent study suggests than even just three potted plants can do wonder in reducing VOC levels to a minimum at an average-sized office. More plants mean healthier air, and happier you!
The Internet is a great place to look for inspiration and meet like-minded people, including gardeners. They can not only give you tips and tricks on plant-growing, but also soothe your eyes with beautiful, lush greeneries from their own home for you to enjoy and model after. Here are five best Instagram accounts for gardening and urban farming…
The idea of eating fresh fruits straight from your garden is, of course, appealing – but it can be a bit difficult, considering that our living space is getting smaller and smaller. Luckily, some fruit trees can still produce great crops without taking over all your yard space. Here are some of them:
Nectarine’s small tree grows well in cool and warm temperate areas. However, do keep in mind that it requires a great amount of pruning, fertilizing, thinning and watering!
Also known as Faccia Bella, paradise is a mini-sized variety of pear. The tree produces an abundance of small crops, making it perfect for snacking or as a side meal.
Cherry not only takes up little space, but it is also self-pollinating, making it easy to grow and maintain.
Loch Ness Blackberry
The thornless blackberry can be put on top of archway – they indeed require full sun to grow, too.
Feijoa trees can be used as hedges or makeshift partitions, concealing walls or unwanted views. They grow well with full sun exposure and good drainage.
Butterflies not only add colours and beauty to your garden, but they can also help in pollinating your plants. However, attracting butterflies can be a little tricky – it’s not as simple as just putting some greeneries around, but it’s attainable nevertheless. Follow these five tips and have butterflies roaming around your garden in no time:
A lot of pesticides, even the organic ones, could be toxic to butterflies and other pollinating insects. Try to use the safest, least intrusive pest control that you can get access to.
Use Native Plants.
Plants and pollinators have co-evolved throughout the time, depending on each other to survive in the conditions of your geographic area. Using local, native plants will help your garden thrive longer and keep butterflies around.
Because butterflies see on the UV spectrum, they tend to prefer bright-colored flowers, such as red, yellow, orange, white and hot pink. Flowers also act as nectar sources for butterflies to feed on, helping them grow and stay alive.
Keep Nectar and Pollen Sources Available All Year Round.
Following the previous point, it is important to ensure the availability of nectar and pollen sources all year round if you want the butterflies to keep coming. Diverse plants with different blooming periods of the year will enable you to do this – when one stops blooming, another will start.
Create Conducive Environment for Butterflies to Grow.
Ensure that your garden (and nectar sources) has enough sun exposure – butterflies feed, rest and warm their wings in the sun. Don’t forget to prepare flat stones or chairs in the sun-exposed area for butterflies to rest on as well. Finally, butterflies love puddling or hanging out in wet sand/mud to drink and extract minerals. You can create a puddling space by mixing some coarse sand with water in a shallow pan and placing it on the ground.
Gardeners face the same changing conditions. If you look at the back of a seed packet, there is often a map showing the regions where these particular plants thrive. But with a rapidly changing climate, these regions are shifting.
In the future we will need to be more thoughtful about what we plant where. This will require more dynamic information and recommendations for gardeners.
The shifting climate
Changes in altitude significantly affect the temperature. As you walk up a hill, for every 100 metres of altitude you gain, the temperature drops by an average of 0.8℃.
Changes in latitude obviously have a bearing on the temperature too. It gets cooler as you move towards the poles and away from the Equator. An accurate rule of thumb is difficult to derive, because of the number of interacting and confounding factors. But generally speaking, a shift of 300 km north or south at sea level equates to roughly a 1℃ reduction in average temperature.
This means that due to warming over the past century or so, Adelaide now experiences the climate previously found in Port Pirie, whereas Sydney’s climate is now roughly what was previously found halfway to Coffs Harbour. The temperature difference is equivalent to a northward shift of approximately 250 km or drop in altitude of 100 m.
At current climate change trajectories, these shifts are set to continue and accelerate.
We have also seen some major shifts in the distribution of animal and plant communities over the past 50 years. Some of the most responsive species are small mobile insects like butterflies, but we have also seen changes among plants.
But while entire populations may be migrating or adapting, plants that grow in isolated conditions, such as fragmented bush remnants or even gardens, may not have this option. This problem is perhaps most acute for long-lived species like trees, many of which germinated hundreds of years ago under different climatic conditions. The climate conditions to which these old plants were best adapted have now changed significantly – a “climate lag”.
Using such old trees as a source of seed to grow new plants in the local area can potentially risk establishing maladapted plants. But it’s not just established varieties that run this risk.
Gardeners can typically ameliorate some of the more extreme influences of global warming. They can, for example, provide extra water or shade on extremely hot days. Such strategies can allow plants to thrive in gardens well outside their natural climatic envelope, and have been practised by gardeners around the world for centuries.
But with water bills rising and the need to become more sustainable, we should think more carefully about the seeds and seedlings we plant in our gardens. The climate envelope we mentioned earlier is shifting rapidly.
We will need to start using seeds that are better adapted to cope with warmer and, in many cases, drier conditions. Typically, these plants have thinner leaves or fewer pores. This requires more information on the location and properties of the seeds’ origin, and a more detailed matching of diverse seed sources to planting location.
But these resources are often aimed at expert or scientific audiences and need to be made more accessible for guiding gardening principles and plant selection for the public. The information needs to be intuitive and easy to understand. For example, we should produce lists of species that are likely to decline or benefit under future climate conditions in Australia’s major cities and towns, along with future growing areas suitable for some of our most popular garden species.
This won’t just be useful for a backyard gardener, either. Many exciting new gardening initiatives are being proposed, including rooftop gardens, which promote species conservation, carbon sequestration and heat conservation, and future city designs, which incorporate large-scale plantings and gardens for therapeutic benefits. All of these activities need to take the shifting climate into account, as well as the need to change practices to keep up with it.
Gardens naturally attract more animals, but how do you differentiate between those who are great for your plants and those who are just pests? Here’s a quick and simple guide.
There are two types of garden animals that can help your garden thrive: pollinators and predators. Attracting pollinators is good for your garden, as they encourage biodiversity and help your plants produce fruits or nuts. Pollinating animals include bees, flies, beetles, butterflies, wasps, mosquitoes, ants and moths.
On the other hand, predators can eat and eliminate pests. Garden predators such as praying mantis, ladybugs, lacewings and minute pirate bugs will consume pests like aphids, mites, mealybugs, grasshoppers and leaf hoppers.
Some animals, such as birds and bats, are both pollinators and predators.
You can attract these useful animals by having certain plants in your garden, such as coriander, dill, daisy, mint, rosemary and more – or simply by ordering predatory insects online.
By keeping these beneficial garden animals, you can opt out of using pesticides and other chemical products in your garden; however, keep in mind that they take longer in making an impact to your plants’ wellbeing.
Succulent terrariums are not only beautiful, but they also fit well in your work desk. You can also put more than one kind in the same container – it’s like a garden in a pot! But if you’re worried about the possibility of accidentally killing them, you’ve come to the right place. Succulent terrariums are pretty easy to make and maintain – the key is to know the secrets. Here’s some information to get you started.
Making your own succulent terrariums
Following this guide, you will need the following things:
Containers (could be anything – a simple pot, a mason jar, or even a tin)
Small pebble rocks
Succulents of your choice (e.g. cacti, Crassulaceae)
Put the materials into the containers in the following order: pebbles, charcoal, moss and soil. Then, plant your succulents. That’s it! You can also add rocks or marbles for decoration.
Maintaining your succulent terrariums
For the first week, hold your desire to overwater the succulents – just dampening the soil is enough. If the plant looks plump and healthy, you can hold off watering until the next week. If the leaves look shriveled and unhealthy, try watering deeper rather than more. For succulents, using spray bottle to water might be better to ensure the moderate amount of hydration.
While succulents can be kept indoors, they still require a lot of bright lights. If you put the terrarium outdoors, move it to a more shaded place as prolonged exposure to direct sunlight is bad for succulents’ well-being. Do not put succulents in direct sunlight for more than four hours at a time.
That’s your 101 guide to succulents terrarium. Will you try this soon?
Looking for a place to eat can be quite a journey for hungry vegans and vegetarians. With very little vegetarian items on the menu, it can be quite hard when the options are so limiting. Thankfully, we’ve hunted down a handful of delicious Sydney restaurants who cater to all ethical vegheads.
Yellow, 57 Macleay Street, Potts Point, 02 9332 2344, yellowsydney.com.au
If you’re after an all-vegetarian bistro, Yellow has a vegetarian OR vegan tasting menu focused on delivering contemporary meals created with locally grown produce. Located inside the Yellow Building in Potts Point, they do brunch and dinners. Try their fermented pumpkin with persimmon and blood plum sorbet! Yum!
Two Chaps, 122 Chapel Street, Marrickville, 02 9572 8858, twochaps.com.au
Combining creativity and freshness, Two Chaps marries the contemporary nature of their dishes with a more ethical mindset with all respect to food production and food consumption. Their “ever-changing” produce menu reflects this philosophy by engaging with the community and using locally home grown ingredients. Expect your bread and handmade pastas to be crafted using organic Australian flour.
Loving Hut, Shop 6, 18-20 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown, 02 9709 4396; also locations in Cabramatta and Canley Heights, lovinghut.com/au. For new transitioning vegans living off fake meat, you might appreciate an Asian-vegetarian vegan chain like Loving Hut. Their most popular options are their Viet-Style “Chicken” Salad, vegetarian pho noodle soups and sweet and sour “fish”.
Soul Burger, 49 Perouse Road, Randwick, 02 9398 7496, soulburger.com.au Burgers are not what usually comes to mind when you think of vegetarian food. They can be just as filling. Soul Burger is known for curating wholesome, delicious, plant-based burgers. Dig your chompers into their mint falafel burger, thick herbed fries and coconut oil shakes.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardener, reading more books can help grow your skills (and plants, too). Here are the best five books for gardening fans to read…
A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Royal Horticultural Society (edited by Christopher Brickell)
In its fourth edition, the RHS encyclopedia continues to be the most reliable book for garden reference. The book features over 6,000 photographs and artworks, an introduction to various plants and flowers’ types and problems, as well as detailed growing advice for every plant.
Your Backyard Herb Garden by Miranda Smith
If you’re interested in organic gardening, this book is a good starting point. The book provides comprehensive information on the most popular herbs, including how to grow, care, harvest and use them.
Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces by Michelle Slatalla
Containing pictures of 12 lushy gardens, planting guides based on climates and color palettes, design ideas and DIY projects, Gardenista will provide you with motivation and guidance to work on your landscapes.
Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell
Limited space should not limit your gardening activities – that’s what the author argues in this book. With tips on growing varieties of vegetables, flowers, and fruits in space-saving vertical gardens, you will gain a new perspective.
Sabrina’s Dirty Deeds by Sabrina Hahn
Renowned Australian gardening expert Sabrina Hahn gives an in-depth guide to grow plants all year rounds, complete with information on chores for different climate zones.
Which one will you pick up at the bookstore this week?