It would be easy to think otherwise, but I believe 2007 has been a very good year for the environment. Climate change is finally being recognized as THE environmental priority of the 21st century. Consider this: a Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for raising global consciousness about this critical issue; earlier this month more than 190 countries came together in Bali to develop steps toward a new international climate change treaty; and a myriad of other significant initiatives are also underway throughout the world.
As gardeners, we’ve been seeing the effects of climate change for a decade or more: trees blooming earlier, frosts coming later, more severe storms, pollinators dying off, and droughts that last for years, not months. These changes cause all sorts of problems in our own gardens, but we also know they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Water conservation, composting, and other organic gardening practices give each of us an opportunity to address global warming in our own backyards. As a company, Gardener's Supply has recently installed new, high efficiency lighting and heating systems that have already cut our energy consumption by 30%. Further changes will get us to a 50% reduction over the next 2 years. We have also launched a comprehensive assessment of our “carbon footprint,” and in January we will begin implementing the first set of action steps to significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
But can a small, Vermont-based business have a meaningful impact on a problem of such global scale? I believe the answer is “yes”.
Two thousand miles to the south of us, in Central and South America, is the world’s largest concentration of tropical rainforest. These forests play a critical role in balancing the earth’s climate and atmospheric gases. We are also discovering that they affect global weather patterns by altering wind and ocean currents, and they have a dramatic effect on rainfall distribution and air temperatures. Tropical rainforests are also responsible for absorbing billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.
Deforestation – a byproduct of abusive agriculture, logging and development practices – has already claimed 50% of the world’s tropical rainforests. Conservation International estimates that the cutting and burning of rainforests itself, produces more than twice the emissions of all the cars and trucks in the world. Halting tropical deforestation and encouraging reforestation presents a significant opportunity for us to slow climate change and quite possibly even reverse it.
Gardener’s Supply is actively involved in supporting a number of tropical reforestation initiatives. In Costa Rica, I have founded a company called Reforest Teak to design and manufacture FSC-certified reforested teak products for export to the US. In Honduras, we are supporting a unique model reforestation project that’s restoring forest health, rebuilding rural communities and protecting biodiversity in a surrounding national park. And to help offset our company’s carbon emissions, we have begun purchasing carbon credits from this project in Honduras, thus helping to reestablish tropical forests on land once cleared for grazing cattle.
During this season of reflection and hope, let’s not underestimate the valuable role each of us can play in honoring and protecting the natural world. Every garden we tend, every tree we plant, every effort we make to protect green spaces and help restore abused lands, is a positive move toward a greener future.
Best wishes for a “green” holiday season and a fruitful New Year,