Growing Sustainability in Your Own Backyard

I typically write about high level energy policy, climate policy, or leadership in sustainability. Today though, I would like to focus on a local action that we can all take to be more sustainable.

This past week, I spent my free time after work building raised beds and planting vegetable starts. While I might be getting a late start for the prime growing season, I realized that it’s never too late to start growing your own food. It can be a healthy, fun, and family-friendly activity. Growing your own food not only provides you with fresh fruits and vegetables, but also helps you reconnect with the seasonal variation of food and reduces the energy required to cultivate, process and transport food all over the world.

COMM PA Blog Garden 2016 07 1While growing your own food can take an investment of time and/or money up front, it is an investment that pays back throughout the year with nutritious and fresh produce every week. Who wouldn’t love a salad where all of the ingredients can be picked freshly from the garden? Butter lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes, shaved radish and snap peas sounds pretty good to me, plus no trip to the store!

Growing your own food can also help reconnect all of us to the natural seasons. When are asparagus in season anyway? Spring, summer, fall or winter? I don’t know about you, but they always seem to be there when I go to the store. If you have ever had the opportunity to go out to your backyard and break off a fresh asparagus shoot to nibble on, you would know that the sweet and slightly nutty asparagus is a spring crop. They are delicious raw though you would never know if you have only ever purchased them from a grocery store.

If everyone grew some of their own food, we wouldn’t just have healthier and more seasonally aware neighbors, we would be able to significantly reduce the energy required to maintain our industrial agriculture system. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 14-15% of the energy in the U.S. is used in our food system. That’s quite a bit of energy required to grow, process, store and transport foods that we can often grow ourselves. It’s just one more way we can do our part to make our communities more sustainable.

And if this is all old news to you and you’ve been growing your own fruits and veggies for ages, I’d love to hear your tips in the comments section!