For individuals and for businesses, a polytunnel can help greatly in the transition to a greener and more sustainable way of life. Analysing the environmental reasons for choosing a polytunnel can help inform our gardening practices or determine how else we might use a polytunnel to further an eco-friendly agenda. Are polytunnels environmentally friendly? Yes. Here’s why:
Polytunnels Reduce Our Carbon Footprints
A polytunnel can make it possible to reduce the carbon footprints of our homes and businesses in a range of different ways. Owning a polytunnel can make it easier to grow your own food, which is one of the best steps an individual can take the reduce his or her carbon footprint. Of course, a polytunnel will have a carbon cost at the point of manufacture, and there will also be a carbon cost associated with transporting the polytunnel to your site. This carbon cost, however, is offset by the carbon reduction represented over the lifetime of the structure.
By allowing you to grow food throughout the whole year, by increasing yields of produce, and by reducing losses to pests, disease or inclement weather, a polytunnel can allow individuals to reduce, or even eliminate, the need to buy food. The food we eat accounts for a huge proportion of our individual carbon footprints. Fossil fuels are used to grow much of the food available to buy in supermarkets, and additional carbon costs are involved in transporting food around the world.
We can reduce the carbon cost of the food we buy significantly by choosing organic, seasonal, locally grown produce. But the best way to reduce the carbon cost of the food we eat is to grow as much as possible on our own properties. A polytunnel not only makes it easier to do this, for more of the year, it also makes it possible to grow foods that it would not be possible to grow outdoors where we live – thereby reducing our desire for exotic foods grown in geographically distant locations.
Polytunnels Reduce Other Forms of Environmental Pollution
Carbon, and other greenhouse gases, are not the only form of environmental pollution that we should be concerned about in the modern world. Nor are they the only forms of pollution that buying a polytunnel can help you to reduce.
Modern mono-crop agriculture is one of the greatest polluters on our planet – a problem that most of us are complicit in creating. Pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilisers used on crops make their way into the water courses and degrade the planet’s fragile topsoils. They make their way into food chains and disrupt the world’s ecosystems and cycles.
By making it easier for individuals, communities and businesses to grow their own food locally and organically, a polytunnel can allow you to ‘opt out’ of the damaging systems of mass agriculture and thereby help to reduce these other forms of environmental pollution.
Polytunnels Are Environmentally Friendly Because They Help Us Reduce Waste
Plastic ends up in our oceans and waterways, damaging vital ecosystems which we rely on for our very existence on this planet. Food waste and other items that end up in landfill are causing a problem that will endure for generations to come. Excessive consumption of goods and resources, and a lack of foresight about the waste we generate as a society, are creating a major issue for humanity and for our planet as a whole.
For this reason, many people think twice before buying a polytunnel, as they are concerned about the plastic used. The good news is that the plastic from a polytunnel can be recycled, and the benefits to the environment during the lifetime of the structure outweigh the negatives of the materials used.
As individuals, we must all take responsibility for the waste we generate, and do our best to reduce waste as much as possible – ideally transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle. A polytunnel can help us immeasurably in achieving that goal.
First of all, growing organic food in a polytunnel allows us to reduce the amount of food that we have to buy in supermarkets and other major shops. This means that we can reduce our need for, and in some cases eliminate our support for, the world of mass agriculture, which generates huge quantities of waste each year. What is more, since we will not have to buy as much food, a polytunnel can allow us to reduce the amount of plastic packaging that we bring into our homes each year.
Secondly, owning a polytunnel allows you to implement organic gardening practices (which you will learn more about later in this guide) which will make it easier to reduce the amount of waste for which you are responsible even further. Polytunnel gardeners and farmers can use compost food scraps and other organic waste to improve yield and to reduce waste leaving the property. Waste such as plastic food packaging can also be put to use in your polytunnel and there are a range of innovative ways in which you can reclaim and re-use items in a polytunnel which would otherwise end up in landfill.
A well-used polytunnel can be an environmentally friendly option for green gardeners. Learn more about eco-friendly practice in a polytunnel by reading out series of blog posts and guides.
Originally posted 2010-01-15 16:38:36.
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK