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“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,” the old folk song goes. But don’t rush out to fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry—when it comes to your garden, a leaky pail can be just as useful as an intact one.
“We often buy cat litter in plastic pails,” says Tim Jennings, Senior Gardener. “Rather than throwing them out when they’re empty, we drill several holes in the bottom. You can harvest root crops like potatoes and carrots, then rinse them with a hose before you bring them to the kitchen sink.” With most of the dirt and mud removed, indoor cleanup is a breeze.
Supermarkets and restaurants sometimes give away five-gallon buckets for free. But no matter where you get yours, you’ll find seemingly endless ways to use them in your garden. Along with the washing station idea, here are a few other possibilities:
● haul compost from place to place;
● blend planting mix;
● use as pots for tomato plants or other veggies;
● turn bottom-up for an instant seat;
● store dry goods like birdseed in non-leaky buckets with lids.
Clean your buckets thoroughly before you use them in the garden. (Best to avoid pails that were previously used for industrial storage—you can put them to work as tool caddies or something similar, but keep them out of contact with plant material.) Rinse and dry them completely before stacking them gently for storage—pack them down too tightly and you’ll have a hard time getting them apart.
“It’s better to reuse than recycle,” Jennings reminds us. With that good advice, Liza and Henry will be able to sing a different song.
Before an organization can take action to minimize its effect on the environment, it has to know what its current impact is. Making such an assessment is a complex, expensive, and time-consuming process, but for an institution like Longwood Gardens that takes environmental stewardship seriously, it is essential.
“Last year we outlined our sustainability strategy,” says Mark Winnicki, Director of Facilities & Technology. “As we looked at our planning processes and sustainability best practices, we realized that we didn’t have a baseline. We engaged a consultant, Five Winds International, to assist us in defining our eco-footprint.”
The first challenge was deciding whether to focus on major factors or include every last detail. “We went through a long laundry list of items and decided to concentrate on the major contributors,” Winnicki says. “We looked at solid and water waste streams, recyclables, our air emissions, energy consumption, fuels, and our greenhouse gas sinks [how vegetation and soils act as naturally occurring buffers that use up the gases].”
The conclusion was surprising—and sobering. “We thought that our open space, trees, and environmentally friendly processes would offset a lot of our consumption, but it turned out to be a small percentage. Attacking the problem with carbon sinks or carbon credit is not enough. Even though we are doing wonderful things with composting and soil management, the amount of CO2 sequestered is minor compared with the total. The only real way to change our eco-footprint is to reduce consumption.”
The top three targets are Longwood’s boiler/heating system, electricity, and transportation fuels. “Seventy-two percent of our CO2 emissions come from the natural gas that we consume for heat,” Winnicki says, “and the other 4% from fuel oil, with 23% from electricity. That knowledge is really going to help us focus our efforts and resources. We do have glass buildings that we’re heating, and we’re accelerating the process of looking at alternative heating methods, as well as different designs and materials for future buildings.”
Lessons learned will be shared with other horticultural institutions. “One of our goals is to create a sustainability index for public gardens,” says Winnicki. “There is very little standardization and few benchmarks. We want to provide the methodologies and measurement tools so they can measure their performance and reduce their eco-footprint as well. It’s exciting to think of the long-term possibilities.”
For more information about Longwood Gardens’ sustainability practices, visit http://www.longwoodgardens.org/SustainabilityatLongwood.html.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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