How is growing your own food better for the environment?

Growing your own food is better for the environment and for your family. You can enjoy fresh food without plastic packing, safe in the knowledge that your food has not emitted tonnes of carbon emissions on the way. Growing your own food allows you to choose what fertilisers and pesticides to use, so you can be sure the food is safe. 

Avoid plastic packaging in the supermarket

The best reason for growing your own food has to be plastic packaging. Fruit and vegetables in our supermarkets are often wrapped unnecessarily to make storing, stacking on shelves and shopping more convenient. 

Wrap has been campaigning against plastic in supermarkets and recent research suggests that common vegetables (apples, bananas, broccoli, cucumber and potatoes) could be sold loose. They estimate this would save more than 10,300 tonnes of plastic. 

It would save on food waste too, as consumers could choose the right quantity for their requirements. They also recommend removing sell by dates so that people can make their own judgements on when to discard food, rather than relying on a sell by date. 

Avoid carbon emissions when food is transported

The UK imported £44.3bn worth of food in 2021, of which £4bn was fruit and £2.5bn was vegetables. In the summer, the UK can provide much of the requirement for fruit & veg, but in the winter we import more than half our food (Food & Drink Federation, PDF). 

We grow 70,000 tonnes of tomatoes and 150,000 tonnes of broccoli and cauliflower locally, but we also import 390,000 tonnes of tomatoes and 120,000 tonnes of broccoli and cauliflower. And our self sufficiency has been dropping year on year (FreshPlaza). 

120,000 tonnes is 4,800 trucks carrying 25 tonnes each. They are travelling thousands of miles. In addition, most fruit (85%) is imported. A small proportion of fruit also travels by air (1.5%) as sea freight is too slow (The Caterer). 

Choose organic fertilisers and pest control

Growing your own fruit and vegetables means that you are in control of any fertilisers and pesticides that are used. You can be sure that your produce is organic and toxin free. Products like Glyphosate are widely used against weeds and have the potential for long term health issues in humans and animals. 

Garden Organic has a wide range of resources for gardeners who want to learn how to grow their own, including managing your soil and how to handle pests and diseases organically. One of our members, the Biodynamic Association, also has resources and a membership club for those who want to take organic to the next level. They teach ‘slow gardening’ where time is taken to appreciate and reflect in the garden. 

Gardening is good for you

Gardening gets you out of the house and into the sunshine. More than that, a King’s Fund report included studies that found it was good for mental health and social functioning (RHS). Growing your own fruit and vegetables may also encourage you and your family to eat more of them, which is also good for your health. 

Even if you do not have a large space for gardening, studies have found that even interacting with indoor plants is good for your health. And plants have the potential to remove VOCs from the air around us (Healthline). Gardening know-how has a whole section on urban gardens with articles on how to create a vertical garden, grow your own on a balcony and indoor edible gardening.

Read about some of our own gardening efforts.

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.