Did you know that, as well as reducing our carbon footprint through changing the ways in which we live, there are also a number of highly effective ‘nature-based solutions’ that can be used to combat climate change? From restoring peatlands and recreating wetlands to better protecting our marine environment and implementing mass programmes of reforestation, natural processes that sequester carbon and conserve wildlife can and should be encouraged.
Following the launch of our recent #HowManyTrees campaign, which is designed to visualise the number of new trees needed to offset the UK's annual carbon footprint, we got to thinking - can planting trees at home help save the planet and, if so, which trees should we look to plant?
To answer these questions, here at Viessmann we decided to collaborate with our very own official tree farm partner, Forest Carbon, to provide you with the essential tips you need before planting and growing trees in your own garden. From which trees grow best in your area of the UK, to those which are most effective at absorbing CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), here’s what we came up with...
The good news is that, yes, planting trees at home can indeed help to fight climate change. While our #HowManyTrees campaign illustrates that millions of trees are needed to make a tangible difference, it’s certainly true that every little helps, and encouraging more plantlife to grow in your garden is always a good thing.
When it comes to key things to remember before getting started, our friends at Forest Carbon point out that it’s vital that all trees you plan on growing in your garden should be planted during the autumn or winter months (October through March). By doing this, you’re allowing the tree to gradually spread its roots in search of water and nutrients in a period of dormancy, meaning your newly planted tree will have grown a substantial enough root network in order to thrive come spring and summer.
Aside from the time of year you should look to plant, the type of compost you use is also important. If possible, you should use compost that is peat-free. Incredibly, peatlands are the largest terrestrial carbon store in the UK, and mining them to produce compost to grow plants actually leads to net carbon emissions. This means you could actually be doing more harm than good in reducing your carbon footprint if you don't use peat-free compost.
Woodlands do so much more than just sequester carbon. They protect the soil, provide habitat for wildlife, improve air-quality and filter water. They are also important for our mental health and wellbeing, especially during the current pandemic. However, the UK’s climate is unique, meaning some species of tree will grow much better in your garden that others. Factors such as spoil type, latitude and exposure to weather will all determine if the species you decide to plant thrives. However, to get you started, the native species listed below should all be suitable for the vast majority of UK gardens:
If you are looking for the most effective tree at absorbing CO2e for your garden, of the species listed above, both varieties of oak tree will sequester the most carbon over its lifetime, while the crab apple is likely to absorb the least. However, all of those species are important for wildlife, which is equally as important as their carbon sequestration potential.
Remember, using woodlands to remove carbon from the atmosphere is a crucial tool in our effort to combat climate change. However, this also has to come in tandem with all of us adopting more sustainable lifestyles. Eating meat less often, travelling by foot, bike or train when possible, and improving the energy efficiency of our homes are all examples of vital changes we can make to reduce our own environmental footprint.
Have you planted more trees in your garden to help fight climate change and, if so, what species are your favourite? Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #HowManyTrees.