The fight against climate change is one of the most important issues the human race faces to date. The only way we can keep the planet healthy is if we make substantial changes to our lives, choosing to live more sustainably. But what does the term sustainable mean? According to the UCLA, sustainability is “the integration of environmental health, social equity, and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for this generation and generations to come.” Sustainability doesn’t simply mean abstaining from certain indulgences, it can also mean adding things to our lives that help the planet.

Setting up a garden is one of the best ways a person can start living a sustainable life. Being able to grow your own fruits and vegetables gives you access to fresh produce, which not only puts less pressure on your finances but also less pressure on the planet. Keeping a garden in your backyard doesn’t just help with sustainability, it can also heal the environment around it. In the modern-day, we have slowly exhausted our ecosystem, getting rid of plants that are vital for the surrounding wildlife. The act of growing plants strengthens the soil, making it easier for other plants to grow. Additionally, it also attracts vital organisms. Pollinators are one of the most essential of the earth’s species, allowing seeds and pollen to spread and allow new plants to grow. This is especially important considering that species like bees are especially threatened by climate change. By planting a garden, you are attracting these pollinators, not only aiding the growth of your garden, but also the surrounding environment.

Another aspect that can not only aid in the health of your garden but also help you to live more sustainably, is composting. Composting is the act of recycling organic, biodegradable matter through the act of creating vital fertilizer. This can be used to maintain the health of the soil, to ensure that your plants grow strongly and healthily. Some examples of things that can be used as compost are food scraps, napkins, coffee grinds or tea bags, organic latex, dead leaves, wood chips, etc. This not only allows you to get free fertilizer for your developing garden, but it also allows you to reduce the waste you accumulate. It’s important to ensure that whatever you put in the compost pile is 100% organic.

Of course, once you start growing produce in your backyard, you’ll inevitably end up attracting pests to your garden. The first thought many people might have is to head to the hardware store to get some pesticides, but that might be counteractive to your main goal. When attempting to garden sustainably, it’s important not to use chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. While this might keep your personal garden healthy, this isn’t doing the environment any favors. Studies show that using pesticides can contaminate the soil and water, as well as killing off beneficial insects, birds, and other plants in the area.

Rather than using chemicals to get rid of harmful insects, it’s a better idea to attract their natural predators to your garden. Insects like ladybugs and praying mantises are invaluable to gardeners. These insects are carnivorous, eating the eggs and larvae of pests attracted to your garden. There’s also another way to naturally kill these pests. By covering the soil ahead of time with either cardboard or black plastic wrap, it will work as an insulator. According to Birds & Blooms, “the heat that builds up underneath it will kill most garden pests and their eggs, weeds, parasites and a host of other harmful microorganisms.” This will ensure that no preexisting eggs will hatch and feast on your garden.

Sometimes adding certain activities to your life can make all the difference when deciding to live sustainably. These small actions can add up, especially if more and more people choose to do it. Gardening is just one of the ways a person can heal the damage that mankind has done to the world. By adding something to the earth, you are giving back to the world, as well as giving back to yourself.