Welcome to the Garden Tips edition of our Zero Waste Household Guide.
These are the solutions we’ve come up with for our own families over the past few years. We’re working our way around a typical house, room-by-room. You can see our list of basic zero waste living first steps here. If you’re just starting the shift towards zero waste living, we recommend picking just one step. Make one change, and make it your own. Once that has become second nature, move on to a second step. Move at a pace that works for you, grant yourself amnesty for the times when you fall short of your own goals, and remember that your own goals are the ones that matter – Leave the judging and competitive eco-sainthood race behind. Make one change that brings you more joy with less waste, and we promise you’ll be motivated to try another, and another…
Without further ado, here are our garden tips. Please let us know what you’ve done to move your own garden towards zero waste. We’d love to add your suggestions to this list!
- Whether you have a single container on a windowsill or a backyard farm, you can reduce your use of water – When you run the tub spout to heat things up for a bath or shower, catch that water in a bucket for your plants. Save leftover black tea and coffee for your fuchsias, roses, rhododendrons, and other acid-loving plants. All plants love cooled water from hard-boiled eggs (it offers a welcome hit of calcium).
- If you have a non-toxic roof, catch your rainwater for your garden. Many cities offer rebates on rain barrels, and many rain barrels are made from reused materials such as olive oil kegs. Look into your area’s greywater regulations, and harness as much of yours as allowed – Greywater Action is a helpful online resource for the basics about greywater and simple systems for its reuse.
- Reuse what you’ve got or what you can rescue from your neighbors’ trash and recycle bin: Metal gelatin molds from thrift stores and garage sales can adorn a garden wall or fence and come down from their nails to double as plastic-free beach toys in the summer.
- Plastic produce boxes make perfect mini greenhouses.
- Campaign signs hold up well as building material for chicken coops and tractors.
- Cracked plates, bowls, and mugs can funk up your vegetable beds and provide habitat for beneficial insects (or be filled with beer to become beautifully deadly slug traps).
- Plastic mesh berry and tomato containers become seedling guards, and that’s just for starters…
- For a wealth of other reuse ideas and garden design inspiration, visit our Garden Thrift and Reuse board at Pinterest – You’ll never want to buy new plastic garden implements again once you discover all the ways you can reuse household items in your garden.
- Plant seeds in soil blocks instead of buying starts in single-use plastic pots.
- When you’re in need of a new garden tool, invest in metal and wood items. They’ll last longer, saving you money in the end and creating less waste all along the way.
- Do you have the magic touch with greens, but don’t so well with beans? It’s likely someone near you has a complementary situation. Start a local barter group to grow your local gift economy and to encourage people to grow what does well in their own beds. Bainbridge Barter holds a free Garden Potluck in the Park every Saturday morning from spring through fall, so that neighbors can bring what their excess produce to share and come home with things they can’t grow well. Read more about it here – The founders are more than happy to share their tips to help you start your own group.
- Have a flock of chickens? Partner with a local school to reduce their organic waste and your own feed costs. Set up a chicken bucket brigade so that students can put their food waste into a pail that you can pick up and feed to your backyard hens.
- Looking for more low impact gardening inspiration? Please visit our Trash Backwards app, where we have hundreds of ideas to help make your gardening even greener. Here’s a sampling of what’s there:
As always, we’d love your input! This is just a sampling of the many zero waste garden tips out there – Please share your solutions with us below so we can grow this as a resource for everyone.