Go Peat-Free To Protect The Planet! by Josie Parr

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Winter ice coats Lochan na h-Achlaise lake on the vast peat bog moorland of Rannoch Moor, with the snow-capped Black Mountains in the distance. Joe Dunckley. Shutterstock

Peat has been a major ingredient of the compost used in gardening for many years. This peat is dug out of wild places, damaging some of the last remaining peatlands in the UK and overseas. This process also releases carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change. Sadly, about 94% of the UK’s lowland peat bogs have been destroyed or damaged, and a wealth of wildlife has disappeared along with it. This vital habitat isn’t easily replaced. 

Peat-free growing media, including compost and soil conditioners, are increasingly available: however, many products still use peat as their organic ingredient. Even ‘low peat’ products, those that claim to be from ‘sustainable sources’ and the soil in potted plants, can still contain a high proportion of peat.

Top tips on going peat free

  • Check all purchases – specifically labelled peat free compost is available, you may need to shop around to find it. However peat’s not just in the bagged soil that we buy. It’s also used for many of our potted plants and shrubs, or the soil ‘plugs’ or ‘pellets’ that often come in gift boxes or similar, that you add water to to hydrate. Check labels for peat-based materials, and make sure that peat is not a component of potted house plants or indoor potting mix too.
  • Be vocal – the more we ask for peat-free options, the more likely stores will stock it. Help demonstrate consumer demand for peat free options by asking your local retailer what’s available.
  • Use alternatives – there are a number of peat-free alternatives; all providing different conditions for growing. The best thing to use will depend on what you want to grow and the existing soil you have in your garden. You may want to research and experiment with
    • – Bark chippings
    • – Coir
    • – Wood fibre
    • – Composting.

Bogology – the Science of Peatlands and past Climate Change

Shutterstock

Whilst peatlands cover just 3% of the world’s surface, they contain nearly a third of all organic carbon on earth.

In fact, they’re second only to ocean deposits as the world’s most important stores of carbon. It might also surprise you to know that they contain twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests put together! It is remarkable then, that peatlands have until fairly recently received relatively little attention in the discussion of how best to tackle the issue of future climate change.

Peatlands are very efficient at absorbing carbon from the carbon cycle and locking it away – a process called sequestration. In fact, in their natural state, most peat bogs function as carbon ‘sinks’ meaning that they absorb and store more carbon than they release. This is important as it prevents this carbon from entering the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, two of the major greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and contributors to climate change.

from ‘Bogology – The Future’

RSPB Scotland are campaigning for the Scottish government to restore bog habitats:

Peatlands have the potential to be a natural solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They hold a vast stock of carbon in their soils and can add more by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. But this natural carbon capture and storage ability can only happen if peatland habitats are healthy and functioning. To get to that state many areas of degraded and damaged peatland, which are currently losing carbon, need to be restored. RSPB Scotland has called for peatland restoration for many years, recognising them as a fantastic habitat for some of our rarest wildlife.

In addition to knowledge, money and political commitment the right policies need to be in place to make restoration happen.

The National Trust has an almost jargon-free pdf on the importance of peat

Peat is of great importance to our planet:

  • as a carbon store – peat holds more carbon than the combined forests of Britain, France and Germany
  • for wildlife – many scarce species inhabit peatlands
  • for water management – peat holds up to 20 times its own weight in water
  • for archaeology – peat preserves a record of past vegetation, landscapes and people
Shutterstock

Call To Action

Finally, at home and in your garden, please help The Wildlife Trusts to keep peat in the ground where it belongs:

Ban the use of peat in horticulture and all growing media by 2023.

Peat bogs and moors are extremely important in the fight against the climate emergency; sequestering carbon better than many natural landscapes, reducing flooding and are great for biodiversity.The plan to stop peat use by 2030 is too late, and needs to be brought forward. Peat imports should cease.

Peat bogs and moors are extremely important in the fight against the climate emergency; sequestering carbon better than many natural landscapes, reducing flooding and are great for biodiversity.The plan to stop peat use by 2030 is too late, and needs to be brought forward. Peat imports should cease.

Please consider signing this petition to Parliament, with an URGENT deadline of 3 June 2021
Josie Parr is on twitter at @JosieParr1, with the above image and the strapline: “Bad things happen when good people do nothing”.

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