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How to Be More Sustainable in Your Gardening Habits: Top Tips

This is part of a series with Perfect Earth ProjectEdwina von Gal’s nonprofit dedicated to toxic-free, nature-based gardening—on how you can be more sustainable in your landscapes at home.  

According to a recent National Gardening Survey, a third of people are now choosing plants to support wildlife and a quarter of them are specifically seeking out native plants. That’s cause for celebration. But we can do more. Let’s bid adieu to outdated gardening norms and forge a green path to a healthy and sustainable future. Here are seven easy things we can all do: 

1. Replace brights lights with mood lighting.

Outdoor lights should warm-hued and point downward. Photograph via Royal Botania, from Hardscaping \10\1: Outdoor Wall Lights.
Above: Outdoor lights should warm-hued and point downward. Photograph via Royal Botania, from Hardscaping 101: Outdoor Wall Lights.

Set mood lighting . . . for insects and other nocturnal wildlife like fireflies, migrating birds, and moths, that is. These beloved creatures are all negatively impacted by bright artificial lights. Fireflies, in particular, are suffering great declines. According to Xerces’s guidebook Conserving the Jewels of the Night, artificial lights can “obscure natural bioluminescence,” which makes it hard to find mates and avoid predators. (Consider joining a community science project like Firefly Atlas to help protect them.) Instead of lighting up your yard like a sports arena all night long, opt for warm LED lights only (avoid short-waved blue lights) in areas when you need illumination for safety. Make sure bulbs point downward and install a motion sensor so they only go on when needed. Learn more at Dark Sky International.

2. Replace spic and span with natural and wild.

Edwina von Gal adds order to a looser planting style, packed with native varieties, in her home garden by plotting her design into graphic, geometric beds. Photograph by Melissa Ozawa.
Above: Edwina von Gal adds order to a looser planting style, packed with native varieties, in her home garden by plotting her design into graphic, geometric beds. Photograph by Melissa Ozawa.

Free your garden! Why be a fashion victim when you could be the queen of eco chic? Just because your neighbors have a manicured lawn and tightly clipped hedges, doesn’t mean you should. Nature doesn’t want to be controlled – nor should it be. As landscape designer and Perfect Earth Project’s founder Edwina von Gal says, “Get your garden out of shapewear!” Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Be the Joneses. Do something so fabulous in your yard, everyone wants to emulate you. Plant an abundant biodiverse yard.

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