Towards a world where People and Planet are put first.
The coronavirus lockdown has forced us to Slow down, Reflect and Reconsider the environmental options that have been around us all along but which we ignored in the hectic pace of modern life. The global pandemic has meant a rethink about every aspect of our lives including what we eat, what company we keep and how we entertain ourselves.
Even though the UK government has assured us there is enough food for all in the supply chain, there are concerns about empty shelves in supermarkets and the lack of our most basic nutrient-rich foodstuffs vital for our health. Moreover, with some economists predicting dire supply line consequences due to business shutdown and workers ordered to stay at home we cannot foresee what may happen a few months from now. It’s no time to sit and wait.
SO USE YOUR GARDEN!
Photo credit – Marcus Spiske
Grow Your Own
Those of us packed into the larger towns and cities do not have the expansive greenery of the suburbs and rural areas but a decent patch of garden can be transformed into a mini-farm with a bit of hard work and in a few weeks you will be eating organic, chemical-free veg that you have produced carefully by hand.
No second-guessing what has been sprayed or injected into them and also the satisfaction of being in amongst all the greenery and getting your hands in the earth. That, in itself, has some proven wellness benefits. So all you budding urban farmers sort out those neglected shovels and rakes rusting in the garden shed and get planting during lockdown.
The dual benefits of home-grown produce can be seen in this kale that I have grown. Not only is it a nutritious addition to my diet but the flowering kale attracts pollinators such as bees which are an essential part of our ecosystem.
If potted plants in offices can lift productivity and positivity by 15% then your potential spinach, kale, broccoli and cabbage harvests will give you even more of a green bounce! Oxygen-emitting and aesthetically pleasing plants and trees are proven stress relievers.
Their effects are even more pronounced in the increasingly detached digital, electronic and online world we live in which has separated us from the green living things which we have more in common with. Shared DNA for a start! Humans have 70% of the same DNA as bananas and 40% the same as apples. Time to reconnect with our green and leafy cousins!
If you want further evidence, a 1991 study by Roger S. Ulrich shows that hospital patients with garden or greenery views required less medication compared to those with only views of brick walls. It’s generally recognised that people prefer views of vegetation and water to urban scenery but his studies on patients recovering from surgery provided the stats to back this up.
It seems that nature has a calming and almost sedative effect on us and eases feelings of fear and anxiety. If you’ve got your own garden you’ll have even more powerful benefits than those blessed with only a garden view.
You can go one step further by growing plants and herbs with proven calming qualities such as lavender, valerian and camomile. Medical research shows lavender can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression by calming fear circuits in the brain and stimulating the GABA neurotransmitter which increases relaxation.
Scientists have compared it with a low dosage of the sedative drug Ativan (lorazepam) in effectively reducing anxiety. Sweet-smelling perennial lavender also attracts pollinators such as bees which make an invaluable contribution to our eco-system. So step into your garden to reap the benefits of a purpose-made medicine cabinet from the Earth.
Air quality is a big issue in our increasingly congested towns and cities. The lockdown exposed this when global air pollution levels fell sharply when we were all forced to stay indoors and leave our carbon-spewing cars at home and even planes were grounded.
Notably, a few years ago UK tourist spot Oxford Street was found to have world-ranking pollution levels until the alarm was raised and the government took action. But there is still foot-dragging on the issue and the government was sued by environmental justice lawyers Client Earth because of ongoing air pollution concerns. Once it gets to the stage where the High Court sides with campaigners then you know it’s an urgent problem.
Even indoor air is stuffy and high in toxins such as nitrogen dioxide. Electronic equipment, fibres from furniture and chemicals from varnishes and household paint can fill a room with invisible micro-pollutants. Not so good for your health in a lockdown.
However, plants and trees in your garden give off oxygen. The result is stronger immune systems and better recovery from colds, coughs and minor ailments. So get oxygenated! There’s no better time – with air pollution levels at a record low (for a while) and with a back garden full of oxygen-emitting plants.
With all the gyms closed, there are fears about the nation’s obesity problems during lockdown when we’re tempted to nap and eat all day. I won’t encourage you to nip to the park during lockdown but you can grab whatever’s around in your garden and have a 15-minute workout once a day.
If you’re super fit you could even attempt a back garden marathon like this runner on the Running Channel. She’s also raising money for the World Health Organisation’s research into the Covid-19 outbreak.
If your garden is too small for exercise or you don’t have one, we are officially allowed out for 1 hour of exercise. As long as you practice social distancing you can find a secluded green area or park. But remember to respect government guidelines and train alone – definitely not in groups. And keep it short. Respect not just your own health needs but those of your community, nation and wider world.
In later posts, I will go into more detail about Garden Farms and Exercise at Home.
Article author Eddie Saint-Jean