The 'Attenborough Effect': Make Your Garden Sustainable

The 'Attenborough Effect': Make Your Garden Sustainable

July 01, 2019

Our planet is in crisis, and with more shocking programmes and documentaries being made to show us the scale of these problems, the human race is now becoming much more conscious of their impact, especially with regards to their own gardens. At the forefront of this change is natural historian, David Attenborough, and his "Attenborough effect". Here, Nicky Roeber, the Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres explains what this phenomenon is and how you can use it to make your garden a more sustainable place.

It's no secret that there is a global plastic crisis, with SAS reporting that there is approximately 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic in the ocean currently. But, with more and more documentaries uncovering the truth about the soon-to-be irreversible damage we're doing to our planet, it's not surprising that the human race is desperately seeking ways of living more sustainably.

One main driver of this change is natural historian David Attenborough. Famed for his thrilling Blue Planet and Our Planet series, he has documented some of the shocking things he's learned about the state of our planet. This seems to have kick-started a positive change for the planet, with a 53%  decrease in single-use plastic over the last 12 months already being credited to "The Attenborough Effect" (Global Web Index).

Given the above, it's clear that it's time to start making a change and one good place to start is with your garden. Here, I will be explaining what the Attenborough effect is and how you can incorporate this into your outdoor space.

What is the Attenborough effect?
Named after everybody's favourite natural historian, David Attenborough, the "Attenborough effect" is used to describe the positive impact that his popular Blue Planet documentary series is having on the Earth. Since the airing of his most recent series, there has been a noticeable shift in the way consumers are going about their everyday lives, from using significantly less single-use plastic to encouraging more people to volunteer in beach clean ups. 

The Attenborough effect is reaching everybody from homeowners looking to reduce their waste, to large national events like the Chelsea Flower Show which had a big focus on sustainability for gardening this year. So, what better time than now to join in? Below, I will be sharing my tips for how you can garden in a more sustainable way.

Choose native plants and encourage native wildlife
If gardening trends from recent years are anything to go by, we've been led to believe that the more exotic and rare a plant is, the more important it is for you to have it in your garden. But, with the Attenborough effect shedding light on the decline of native wildlife, it seems as though British homeowners are turning to traditional plants like hydrangeas and lavender.

Planting British blooms will support native wildlife and pollinators so that our environment can improve and thrive. There are plenty of British flowers and plants that will still add interesting touches to your garden, many of them boasting bright pops of colour. Foxgloves, common bluebell and red campion are all native wildflowers which will be easy to grow and maintain, plus they are great at attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Trees are also helpful for attracting wildlife like birds and squirrels, so don't forget about these! Berry trees, like cherry trees, are appealing to these animals, so ensuring you have at least one in your garden could be a good idea.

To further encourage native wildlife, I would recommend building homes for them to use. Bug hotels are simple to make and can attract many different species to your garden — this tutorial from the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives shows how easy it can be. You can also check it from Happy DIY Home in their step-by-step guide.

Recycle and re-use
Recycling has certainly become the norm with UK statistics on waste showing that the recycling rate had increased from 45.2% in 2016 to 45.7% in 2017. With this in mind, why not begin transforming your household waste into helpful garden resources?

Old crates and drawers can be cleaned out and transformed into planters, while food waste can be turned into compost to naturally enrich your soil. Not only will it prevent you from buying compost, which is usually packaged in plastic, but it'll ensure you don't let useful scraps of food go to waste. We have a handy guide to composting to help you get started.

If you do have to buy resources, make sure you're buying materials and products that have already been recycled. Many gardening suppliers have already made this move so finding recycled wood and plastic products shouldn't be too difficult.

Save water
Saving water in your garden is easy — especially given the famous British rainfalls! I recommend collecting rainwater for later use or finding a way to divert it over your plants and flowers. This will be a particularly effective way of cutting down on the amount of water you use. So much so, that the Save the Rain campaign estimates that each household could cut down on their usage of treated water by between 30%—50% if they collect and reuse rainwater.

When it rains, water is mostly collected in your gutters which is a waste. To get around this, divert the downspout from your roof towards your garden so that it can be used. Alternatively, you can place rain barrels and buckets around your garden to collect it and use it to water your plants. You can even use this collected rainwater in a birdbath or a pond to attract wildlife like birds and frogs.

The Attenborough effect is sending the population into a frenzy, with more people thinking about how their actions will affect the planet. Join the revolution and create a sustainable and environmentally-friendly space in your very own garden with my top tips. Happy gardening!



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