Blog April 18, 2012
Natural plant species are naturally healthy
By Melissa Lem
Imagine a backyard or garden that thrived without watering, fertilizer or pesticides, and improved ecosystem and human health to boot. This may sound like a futuristic dream, but there is a surprisingly low-tech answer—sowing native plant species!
Statistics Canada estimates that 151 million litres of fuel are burned each year by gas-powered lawn equipment alone, filling the air with 80,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases and smog-forming emissions. Natural landscapes, on the other hand, require no mowing and actively filter away atmospheric pollutants. Also, courtesy of deeper root systems, established native ground cover is particularly effective at reducing soil erosion and storing moisture, keeping our water supply clean and abundant.
Five Canadian provinces recently banned home cosmetic pesticide use due to concerns over links between man-made pesticides and cancers, reproductive issues and neurological disorders. Because native plants are already well-adapted to their local habitat and predators, they rarely need an extra boost from man-made chemicals to stay green.
Naturescapes are also good for our mental health. Minimal time spent mowing the lawn means more quality time for family and friends, enjoying your green space and less stress-inducing noise pollution. A recent study in Wisconsin also showed that maintenance costs for one acre of natural prairie or wetland were just one seventh of non-native turf grasses. Who wouldn’t be happier with a little more money in the bank?
So get your shovel in gear and participate in a local planting activity this Earth Day and in the upcoming months. Or better yet, choose native plants for your own beautifully low-maintenance and health-friendly yard at home, and show your love for the Earth all year long.
A member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Melissa Lem is a Toronto family doctor who also works in rural and remote communities across Canada.