Green spaces and climate change
The importance of green spaces
Both the rotting and burning of wood or other plant material are classed as carbon neutral. The amount of CO2 released is the same as the amount absorbed in growing.
Even better than this, by planting new trees or vegetation in areas where there were previously none, CO2 can be locked away. So long as these trees or plants are left in place permanently or replaced when they die or are harvested, this reduction in CO2 will be long lasting and will help to combat climate change. However, it’s important that native tree species are planted as these will best support the native animals and fungi that will ultimately carry out the rotting of the dead wood.
However, buying sustainably produced timber products can help ensure that properly managed forests have a future. Look for the FSC logo on furniture, flooring and garden products.
The smart location of trees in urban areas can create wind breaks in the winter, helping to reduce heating bills. Likewise, carefully placed trees can help to create shade in the summer, while cooling the air further through the transpiration of water through their leaves. Due to these effects, urban trees have been estimated to bring about a reduction of 25% in net cooling and heating, according to a study in California (Akbari, 2001).
Growing food locally
In the UK, food miles account for around 18 million tonnes worth of CO2 emissions each year. This is the equivalent to travelling over 100,000,000 miles by plane - the same distance as to the moon and back 200 times!
A lot of this mileage can be avoided by buying locally produced food. Farmers markets and organic box schemes are great ways to do this. Look out for place of origin labels on food items in the shops. For the ultimate in local food, grow your own in your garden or on an allotment, or arm yourself with a guide book and go foraging!
The majority of agriculture’s contribution to climate change comes from the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. This generates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas over 300 times more potent than CO2. Organic farming avoids these fertilisers and uses less energy too.
Replacing fossil fuels
Careful management of our waterways and water catchment areas can help to reduce flooding, reducing the CO2 emissions involved in cleaning them up. By planting trees in the upland areas that feed into our rivers and alongside riverbanks, more of the heavy rainwater is absorbed, helping to stop floods from occurring.
Information from Marches Energy Agency updated June 2010: www.mea.org.uk
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