Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, shares his insight into the Attenborough effect and how we can create more eco-friendly gardens.
Gardening is not only very trendy right now, but it is a great way to become more eco-friendly, particularly if you grow your own fruits and vegetables rather than buying them from a supermarket. It’s also a great way to support wildlife, providing food and shelter for various animals, insects and birds. But, a lot of gardening products come with or in unfriendly packaging such as polystyrene and plastic bags that only contribute to the worldwide plastic problem.
According to a study of 3,833 consumers by Global Web Index, it was found that the ‘Attenborough effect’ has led to a 53% reduction in single-use plastic over a 12-month period (Tree Hugger). This is fantastic news for anyone concerned about the future of our planet and the damage that plastic production has caused. But what exactly is the Attenborough effect, and how can we reduce our plastic use when gardening?
Popular documentaries fronted by Sir David Attenborough, such as BBC’s Blue Planet and Netflix’s Our Planet, have led to an increase in sustainable shopping and a drastic reduction in the amount of plastic we buy. It’s a rare case of celebrity power being used for good and having a huge positive effect on consumer habits, partly because it’s seen as ‘cool’ but also because of rising awareness about the extent of our pollution.
Choosing native plants is most beneficial to the ecosystem in the area, including wildlife that has depended on local flora for a very long time. Some exotic plants look very exciting, but they often bring with them new diseases and pests. They also take up valuable space in your garden that could be filled with plants that support local bees, bugs, birds, and animals instead.
Native plants are also easier to grow. Growing British plants in your garden is the best way to ensure big, beautiful blooms and healthy-looking leaves as they are accustomed to our unpredictable weather and the type of soil you have in your region.
Some of the best plants you can grow to attract more bees and other insects include buddleia “butterfly” bushes, cornflowers, and lavender. Having more bugs in your garden means more birds and animals that eat insects, such as hedgehogs, will appear. It’s also worth growing plants that bear fruit in winter, such as holly and ivy, to make sure there’s foot and shelter all year round for these visitors.
Once you become aware of it, it might surprise you how many little bits of plastic we use when gardening. There are plenty of small changes we can make to cut it out, however, such as using ice lolly sticks or wooden plant labels instead of plastic. You could also swap out your plastic wrap for cardboard or untreated burlap, which is compostable. In general, try to purchase items that are biodegradable or recyclable, including their packaging, to limit the amount of waste going to landfill.
Spend a few extra pennies on non-plastic pots and bedding containers, including hanging baskets and window boxes, that are either biodegradable or made from natural materials like wood, metal, and terracotta. Repurpose your containers when you’re done with them instead of buying new ones each time: not only will it save you money, but it can reduce the amount of pollution used in manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of more containers.
The tips in this guide can help you embrace the Attenborough effect and reduce the amount of plastic and other waste you produce at home, starting with your gardening.