Over the past century, the industrial revolution boom has brought some amazing technologies our way.
While technology has certainly created solutions for many of the planet’s problems, it’s also reaped a whole new crop of dilemmas.
For example: how do we feed the world? How do we grow this food in an effective, sustainable way—and that renews the planet’s resources, rather than depletes them?
THE ANSWER: GREENHOUSES
Greenhouses seem like a modern technology. But in truth, they have been in existence for thousands of years, a fact many of us may not realize. What more, they have produced food and crops in a low impact, high-producing, sustainable way for centuries, right under our very noses—at least, in their essential form, without extra accessories or running on too much unsustainable energy.
With the rise of industrial and mechanized agriculture—and the enhancements they offer— joining powers with greenhouses may provide both the technology AND the solutions we need to solve the world’s food problems, all while protecting the planet in the process. Some greenhouse operations, yes, are energy-sucking, high waste-producing powerhouses. But with a new approach and a new angle, they don’t have to be.
Are greenhouses good for the planet? Let’s walk through the facts.
GROW MORE IN LESS SPACE (AND SAVE SPACE)
One of the beauties of greenhouse growing: it streamlines agriculture. Because of the climates these systems create, you’re able to grow a lot more within the same space, while making more money per square foot – and with higher chances for success.
Think of the implications. You save so much space, while keeping more land and wilderness pristine and intact. If greenhouses help you make more money off a lot less space, you’ll have no reason to till all that extra land to achieve the same yields and profits. The takeaway: the more we use greenhouses to grow, the more land we save for natural wildlife and renewable resources.
Even better: the less we have these structures depend on high, unsustainable energy requirements, the more we make greenhouses good for the environment.
GROW MORE FOR LESS – REDUCE INPUTS
Not only will you automatically make more money off any square footage in a greenhouse, but you’ll also find yourself shaving off quite a few operating costs compared to non-greenhouse growing methods. That’s because greenhouses save you on the expenses of various inputs they need to operate. Specifically: fertilizers, machinery, tractors, and more, all of which are needed to achieve the very same quality in plants that these systems produce.
Think about it: it’s not just that product inputs themselves are costly in a financial way. It’s also important to realize that they require quite a bit of resources to produce and manufacture in the first place, which come at a great cost to nature and its resources. But when you grow in a greenhouse, you can ultimately cut out out a lot of these costly inputs, making greenhouses good for the planet in another way.
These resources do have an environmental impact in order to be made and transported. So when you greenhouse grow, you cut your dependence on products that don’t only come at a cost to you, but to the planet as well.
What could be better than reducing costly inputs? Consider reducing outputs as well. Not coincidentally, this is something that greenhouses also naturally achieve, and further makes greenhouses good for the environment.
Because these structures automatically systematize your growing operation into a smaller space (while optimizing profits in the process), they also ultimately cut down on the waste and outputs you produce, some of which may affect environment (think trash, runoff, off-gassing, waste, and more). There couldn’t be a better way to help heal the planet than cutting down on the waste and outputs your business produces.
Even better: there are many ways you can reuse some of the outputs from your greenhouse’s waste stream, when you really think about it.
NO NEED FOR POWER
You can certainly opt for the fanciest, most high-tech greenhouse on the market, with all the latest accessories and gadgets. But you can also just as easily run a greenhouse successfully with absolutely no power at all—the ultimate method making greenhouses good for the planet. Sans any electricity whatsoever, greenhouses are marvels in and of themselves. They retain heat during cold weather, while also boosting temperature up a few degrees to make choice plants truly thrive – and they don’t need power to do this at a very basic level. In short, greenhouse environmental impacts are superb.
If you invest in a great structure, you won’t need to pay a single cent in many cases to achieve the most basic functions of temperature regulation. Plus, everyone knows that if you save on energy and power usage, you save needless harmful impacts on the planet.
NO NEED FOR FOSSIL FUELS
The largest agricultural endeavors tend to be tractor- or mechanically-run. Naturally, such mechanisms to your business require fossil fuels. Not necessarily (or always) so with greenhouse growing.
You can certainly run small farm equipment, tillers, and some tractors under your cover, but the thing is: you don’t need to. At the very least, your greenhouse setup will most certainly minimize the need for such things, which again makes greenhouses good for the environment in this way.
And you know the drill: the more you cut down on fossil fuels, the better for the planet. Chalk up even more beneficial greenhouse environmental impacts.
MORE PLANTS = MORE OXYGEN
When human beings breathe, we inhale oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. But did you know that plants breathe in exactly the opposite way?
That’s right. They breathe in carbon dioxide, and breathe out oxygen. And as many of us know, the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere play a part in global warming and climate change. As such, one of the best ways we can combat climate change is simple: grow more plants. Even better, growing plants in greenhouses funnels and traps more carbon dioxide for the benefit of plants than if you grew them under the open air.
In essence, these structures are carbon-eating machines, another reason why greenhouse environmental impacts are amazing for the planet.
Want a certain plant (or tasty fruit or vegetable) in your life, but which comes from afar? Don’t buy it, where it could have been shipped to your grocery store from thousands of miles away. Instead, grow it yourself—and in a greenhouse!
If you opt for a greenhouse, you have the power to grow anything you want: tomatoes, tropical flowers, even bananas and pineapples are possible with the right accessories. Your plants will come straight from your own hard work and resources rather than the fossil fuels and energy needed to pack and ship these plants to you, which are harmful to the environment.
With greenhouses, you don’t just get to choose what you grow. You also get to choose where you grow – and the possibilities are endless.
Combine the ability to grow anything with growing anywhere, and you can bring any plant, food, fruit, or herb to any region in the world at a local level. Again, this saves a lot of carbon output on the long-distance shipping that is a problematic part of our current food system, and which adversely affects the planet.
FOCUS ON LOCAL PRODUCTION
Essentially, growing anything and being able to grow it anywhere can lend amazing power and potential to local food production. Whatever food a community needs can be grown right nearby with the use of a greenhouse. And it doesn’t have to be limited to what can be grown in the region’s specific climate – greenhouses make anything possible. With these growing structures, you can diversify the local food economy more than any other growing tool.
Why globalize food production at the expense of the planet’s health, when we can bring pockets of small-scale, diverse food production to local communities? Not only is this much more ideal for the environment and the earth in the long run, this also brings an added benefit to local communities and businesses. The more localized food systems are, the more dollars that stay in the community – while communities thrive as a result.
EASIER TO GROW ORGANIC
If you want to grow organically in a greenhouse – a method of farming and gardening that is kinder on the environment than conventional methods – then greenhouses are the perfect medium for that. It’s all the better if you adopt organic greenhouse pest prevention methods.
Greenhouses have a way of protecting your plants from a great deal of nature’s pests, especially the larger ones. If you play your cards right, they’re excellent at repelling the smaller ones too without the use of chemicals. Last but not least, the marriage of organic farming and greenhouses is a match made in heaven: to make organic production competitive price- and production-wise with conventional methods, greenhouses are the perfect tools to give organic methods the leading edge they need.
USE RECYCLED MATERIALS
Growing in a greenhouse brings out the greatest ingenuity in all sorts of growers. But among the most ingenious, this can even bring out the most ingenious greenhouses, such as those constructed from DIY materials.
Ultimately, you’re creating a carbon-chugging, plant producing wonder that cuts down on input, output, and costs (environmental and financial). But if you make this masterpiece out of recycled materials, you’re doing even more to cut down on your footprint and heal the planet! Tons of DIY, recycled material greenhouse designs abound: including some made from old windows, plastic bottles, even aluminum cans (find more ideas at Mother Earth News).
YOU’RE GROWING HEALTHY FOOD
Here’s the bigger picture reason why greenhouses help heal the planet: they have the potential to grow healthy food. It’s not just about how greenhouses work, how they run, the energy they save, and the materials they’re made of. It’s about what they produce, too. And ultimately, our planet is in the need of fresh, healthy food — one of the most important healers for the planet and its denizens.
YOU’RE GROWING NATURAL RESOURCES
You’re not just limited to growing food, as wonderful as that is on its own. You can also grow all sorts of plants for a whole variety of reasons, and in a natural way that is ecologically sound and responsible. This includes flowers, cannabis, even bamboo and many other very profitable crops. Beyond food, greenhouses are able to produce a wide variety of natural resources that come from plants, the ultimate renewable materials (always have been, always will be).
YOU CAN MAKE THE MOST OF ENERGY USE
It must be said: not all greenhouses are good for the planet. Just because you invest in a greenhouse – and without looking at how it’s run or the details for its energy use – doesn’t mean you are automatically reducing your carbon footprint. In fact, in some cases you may be doing exactly the opposite.
Greenhouses that require a lot of climate control to keep the plants within them alive are energy suckers. There’s no other way to say it. Especially if you need to suddenly vent your greenhouse on a hot day and release all that climate controlled air, you are literally watching your money float away into the atmosphere. You also just churned through quite a bit of energy just to release all of it to meet momentary needs.
But here’s the thing: according to the Scientific American, greenhouses are ripe for streamlining to be more energy-efficient structures, even the larger and more energy-sucking ones. This includes greenhouses that absorb the sun’s rays to actually create energy, thanks to solar technology. So while you don’t necessary heal the planet the moment you start greenhouse growing, these structures still hold a lot of promise: both in the ways you can make them more energy-conserving, as well as the ways that modern technology is currently looking to make them more efficient in general.
And of course, you have no need to worry about energy use in a completely passive hoop house setup with no power accessories – non-powered greenhouses have no need to square up with mother earth.
YOU’RE WORKING WITH NATURE, NOT AGAINST IT.
The bottom line: greenhouses are magnificent technologies that can utilize the powers of nature rather than bringing harm to nature itself, unlike many mainstream agricultural methods. In forms both simple and complex, greenhouses grow amazing crops with minimal effects on the environment, especially if you combine them with the right practices.
What more, you can diversify local production, make organic farming easier, cut down on production costs, streamline energy use, and grow anything you want – anywhere you want. So what’s not to love?
If you truly want to adopt a growing method that reduces negative impacts on the planet, make sure to consider an energy efficient greenhouse as an integral part of it – you won’t regret it, and the earth will thank you.