According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions is Energy from heating and cooling our homes and offices.
Therefore, it would behoove us to reduce our reliance on the addictive thermostats hanging on the walls of our homes.
The region I live in experiences four distinct seasons, with spring and autumn providing the most comfortable temperatures, arid winters being mild to harsh, ranging from the negative to 35F° (wind gusts can plummet those numbers), and summers that are usually very hot and arid with at least 6+ weeks of 90-115F° temperatures. Homes in this region have furnaces and air conditioners built in. We use our heat in the winter and AC in the summer and we are looking for ways to reduce their use.
What are some methods we can utilize to reduce our reliance on energy to heat and cool our homes?
1. Grow trees and plants, like a food forest, to create a cooler micro climate around your home. The bonus is that a food forest also increases carbon sequestering as suggested by plant biologist and Professor, Bernhard Schmidt,
“With increased species richness, more carbon is stored both above and below ground – in trunks, roots, deadwood, mould and soil. You can roughly say that a diverse forest stores twice the amount of carbon as the average monoculture.”
Which means having diversity in your trees, not an orchard of a single species. Therefore, a food forest makes perfect sense. Trees not only provide cooling shade, they also aid with evapotranspiration which can help remove significant heat from around your home, especially if you have a lot of exposed concrete. You could see a reduction in temps by 2% to 9%F, and shading a home’s wall could see reductions of 9%-36%.
2. Keep the soil covered with natural mulches like leaves, straw, or wood shavings. Mulching covers the soil not allowing the sun to dry it out (or cook the life out of it.) It keeps the soil, plants, and all the microbial life cool and enables the soil to thrive. Think of it as a living organism. Natural ‘ Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon. But it isn’t just the manufacturing of plastics that is concerning, recent studies have shown that degrading plastics are continuing to emit these gases. I will not use it around my garden or food.
3. Plant trees on the west, east, and North sides of the house. Shading the house’s walls, exposed windows, and surrounding sidewalks will minimize heat absorption allowing the AC to run less.
4. Plant species that do well in your climate. It is not helpful to have plants that are diseased or stressed, which invites pests, taking up space in your micro climate. Do your research. Contact your local extension office and find plants that like direct sun, partial sun, and shade. Start with trees, then work on the understory. Use vines, bushes, and a variety of perennials and annuals. You should have them all if you are layering a food forest.
To find out more about starting a food forest, check out these two you tube channels; Geoff Lawton: Permacuture Online and The Gardening Channel with James Prigioni. Both contain a great number of videos about this subject.
Arbor Day Foundation. How to Plant Trees to Conserve Energy For Summer Shade. https://www.arborday.org/trees/climatechange/summershade.cfm
Daisy Dunne. Planting a Mix of Tree Species could Double Forest Carbon Storage. Plants and Forests. August 22, 2018. https://www.carbonbrief.org/planting-a-mix-of-tree-species-could-double-forest-carbon-storage
Global Emissions. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (World Resources Institute, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.c2es.org/content/international-emissions/
Shannon Waters. New Study shows Plastics Release Greenhouse Gases, Contributing to Climate Change. Surfrider Foundation. August 10, 2018. https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/new-study-shows-plastic-as-source-of-greenhouse-gases-potentially-contribut