One effect of global warming is that we can now grow more plants than we used to be able to in the northern hemisphere. And many of us are doing just that by adding plants to our balcony spaces that are bright and cheerful.
Unfortunately, what many people don’t know is that these plants may be damaging to the environment and aren’t at all sustainable.
The Environmental Issues With Balcony Plants And What’s Being Done About It
There are quite a few issues that are caused by balcony plants that aren’t carefully and thoughtfully selected.
They Travel A Long Way
Many of these commercial plants are brought in from developing nations such as Costa Rica, Kenya or Ethiopia.
The climates of these countries make growing easy, but it means that before you can buy them, the plants must be flown to the United States releasing a ton of greenhouse gases as they fly.
And, there are often ethical questions about the treatment of the workforce in developing nations too.
Banned Pesticides Are Not Uncommon
The west has made great progress at limiting the use of pesticides in agriculture because it is understood that they may threaten our health and the environment.
Less progress has been made in the rest of the world and it’s possible that your new plants have been doused in pesticides that will trash your local insect population and cause problems throughout the food chain.
Environmental Certification Is Not Always Meaningful For Plants
There is no global standard for “environmentally friendly plants” and while some producers are being certified by reputable bodies, others are just making things up as they go along.
So, you need to research any given certification scheme thoroughly before you can be sure that the plant it’s attached to is as eco-friendly as you might think at first glance.
Environmental Certification Is Not Always Comparable For Plants
Take two of the more popular certification schemes, GGN and MPS, they’re both well-reputed and well used but neither of them offers any ecological guidelines regarding the use of chemicals or the use of peat for growing.
By contrast, the Fairtrade seal, which is meant to ensure ethical labour practices, does examine pesticide use and while not perfect, items bearing the seal haven’t been drenched in the worst pesticides.
Organic Certification May Be The Future
The emerging world of “organic” certification may be what the industry needs to examine its environmentally friendly policies properly.
Certainly, these programs have an emphasis on eliminating pesticides and even chemical fertilizer from the environment.
But Alternatives Are Needed For Peat
The big challenge, however, is that we will need to find an alternative for peat which is what most “organic” growers tend to prefer for soil.
Sadly, the demand for peat is so high that the world’s peat bogs are under threat and as they are drained, they release a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, that’s not at all eco-friendly.
The Real Solution For Now, Buying Local Summer Plants
This means that, for now at least, if you want to buy balcony plants the best source is likely to be much closer to home.
Why summer? Because these plants tend to have the best carbon footprint because they don’t require additional heating.
Final Thoughts On How Environmentally Friendly Are Balcony Plants?
It’s often a surprise how good intentions can lead to unforeseen harms.
Plants are a good thing, they consume carbon dioxide and make the world a nicer place but if you use imported plants for your balcony, they may be doing more harm than they are good.