By Brian Barth
1. Grow from Seeds, Not Starts
A six-pack of lettuce seedlings costs anywhere from $3 to $6, while a pack of 500 lettuce seeds costs no more than $3. There's no reason to be intimidated: it's a bit more work to start seeds in flats indoors, which gives you a head start on the growing season, but sowing seeds directly in the garden bed takes no more time than planting seedlings.
2. Go to a Seed Swap
Shopping for seeds is fun, and you can find some real bargains if you're scrupulous enough. But going to a seed swap—a party where everyone shows up ready to trade seeds they've saved from the year before—is arguably even more fun and will save you money, too. Which brings about another point—save your seeds in the fall! As long as they're not patented, saving seed doesn't cost a thing.
3. Take Cuttings
You're probably thinking: saving seed is fine for vegetables, but who really grows blueberries or dogwood trees from seed? That's true. Lots of things are hard to grow from seed, or don't grow "true" from seed because they are propagated asexually (meaning they're genetic clones). The good news is virtually all perennials, most shrubs and vines, and many trees are easily propagated by cuttings. Find a neighbor or a friend with the desired plant, cut off a few pencil-size sticks, pot them up in moist perlite, and within a few weeks or months, depending on the plant, you should start to see roots and leaves emerging.
4. Repurpose and Upcycle
Plants are costly enough, but planters, pavers, arbors, and other hardscape materials are where the budget quickly enters the four-figure range. But one man's junk pile is another man's goldmine, right? Planters can be fashioned out of everything from an old bathtub to used wooden pallets. I've seen arbors made from a repurposed satellite dish mounted on a pole and trellises built from ancient bedsprings. Instead of expensive flagstone, try broken concrete—some people lovingly refer to it as urbanite and dye the surface for a more attractive finish. But exercise restraint: When you go overboard, upcycling can make you feel like you have a yard full of junk.
5. Forage for Your Gardening Supplies
Nature also offers free materials to help you get the most mileage from your gardening dollar. Bamboo poles at a garden center, which are used for everything from tomato stakes to building beautiful oriental fences and arbors, run from $1 to $10 (or more) a piece, depending on the size. But lots of folks have a yard full of bamboo and would be happy for you to come take some of it off their hands. There are many other examples like this—any time you think, oh I wish I had the money to buy that for the garden, rack your brain for a free, locally harvestable alternative.
6. Design It Yourself
Professional garden design can run several thousand dollars, even for a small yard. There are reasons for that (i.e. years of training and experience), but with a bit of patient effort you'll be surprised at what you can come up with. Start at the library, where there are volumes upon volumes of garden design books and references that will tell you exactly what conditions are preferred by every plant in the known universe and how to build patios, fences, raised beds, gazebos, waterfalls, and anything else you can dream up. Then map out your yard on paper, as accurately as you can, and start penciling in ideas. Give yourself a full year to come up with a design, making careful observations through the seasons and taking the time to visualize your ideas in detail before you start building.
7. Make Your Own Soil Amendments
Buying bags of compost and all-natural fertilizers can really add up, but if you think about what is actually in those products—mostly animal by-products (like bat guano, feather meal, and bone meal) and various forms of organic matter (shredded bark, coco husks, etc)—it seems a pity to pay. If you don't have your own chickens or other livestock as a manure source, you can certainly find a friend or local farmer who will let you clean out their barn. Mix the manure with wood shavings, grass clippings, leaves—any form of organic matter you can get your hands on will do—and then pile it up and let it stew for a few months into a rich black compost. For extra nutrients, save your eggshells and crush them into the compost (adds calcium and phosphorus) and, if you live near the beach, harvest some seaweed for a boost of micronutrients—just be sure to rinse the seaweed thoroughly in fresh water to get rid of the salt.
8. Avail Yourself to Free Compost and Mulch
Tree-cutting companies often have big piles of mulch on hand that they give away for free. And many municipalities convert their citizens' green waste into compost and mulch, which they then give away for free at the landfill or sell for a nominal cost. These freebies aren't always the greatest quality—they may contain shredded trash or seeds of invasive species, for example—so use at your own risk.
9. Become a "Free List" Specialist
Craigslist has a "Free Stuff" section that is often a goldmine for everything from live plants to pots to piles of compost, and many other classified services have their own "Free Lists" or barter sections. Many communities have a local "Buy Nothing" Facebook group, or a neighborhood-centric "virtual garage sale" where most items are priced-to-move. Beyond total freebies, scouring flea markets and garage sales is a great way to find gently used gardening tools at a fraction of the cost of buying them new.
10. Grow Organic
Sticking with all-natural methods does have its financial benefits. Chemical pesticides always cost money, for example, but attracting beneficial insects to the garden (good bugs that eat the bad bugs) is surprisingly easy and totally free. Same with herbicides: You can manually remove pesky weeds, smother them to death under black plastic or layers of cardboard and woodchips, or even borrow a couple of goats to munch through particularly heavy vegetation (they love eating things like kudzu, poison ivy and thorny briars). In addition to composting, you can use living plants, called cover crops, to return nutrients to your soil the all-natural, and inexpensive, way.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.