Population growth and inequitable resource distribution are intensifying the need to reduce water usage in agriculture. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the agricultural industry accounts for 80% of the United States' water use, a number that could easily be mitigated by incorporating more sustainable methods.
Reducing agricultural water use preserves natural resources, prevents unnecessary waste and improves the cost-effectiveness of cultivating various crops. Farmers who rely on water-intensive agriculture must spend thousands of dollars on infrastructure, but the benefits may not justify the investment.
A sustainable solution to reduce agricultural water use goes beyond utilizing more efficient watering methods. Helping farmers build healthy soil so less water is needed is a great place to start. Incorporating cover crops to retain moisture and choosing location-specific plant species also plays a role in a farm's water management plan.
Perhaps most importantly, harvesting and storing water from other resources is of the utmost importance. Instead of relying on groundwater and stormwater, many farmers invest in infrastructure that enables them to capture extra water. Collecting rainwater and maintaining a reliable water supply backup contribute to the overall resilience of the farm.
1. Build Healthy Soil
Issues such as soil runoff, which pollutes waterways and removes vital topsoil, could easily be mitigated by supporting healthy soil. If you are growing an annual crop like soybeans in soil that is devoid of any real nutrient value, it is much more likely that soil will be easily washed away in a major storm. Not only does the lack of nutrients affect the health and production of the plant, but it also contributes to unnecessary water waste.
2. Utilize Cover Crops
Cover cropping is the process of planting a crop to protect the soil before and after harvesting cash crops. Cover crops can include wheat, barley or radishes, and help to absorb valuable nutrients like nitrate-nitrogen and prevent runoff. By maintaining a strong root structure in the soil, they help keep water in fields instead of waterways.
3. Use Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation is the practice of using a system of tubes to deliver water directly to plant roots. By watering plants at their base instead of overhead, farmers can save water and time, ultimately leading to healthier plants. Overhead watering is especially wasteful, since most of the water only reaches the plant foliage and doesn't impact the soil.
4. Capture and Store Water
Irrigation from rainwater is an efficient solution for conserving water. Most of the water used in agricultural systems comes from groundwater. However, this supply is extremely vulnerable, and it is important to be conscious of how quickly a farm depletes groundwater sources.
Many farmers are building infrastructure to capture and store water so that they can increase the amount of usable water they have available. Storing water also reduces pressure on groundwater supplies, specifically in areas that are vulnerable to water shortages.
5. Incorporate Drought-Resistant Plants
More and more farmers realize that a huge step in reducing water usage is changing up their crop rotation. Moreover, in many parts of the world, crops are grown that would not traditionally thrive in that environment. For example, California produces over 80% of the world's almond supply. However, a single almond uses a gallon of water, making them an extremely water-intensive crop. Shifting the food system in a more water-conscious direction and incorporating drought-resistant plants, we can reduce agricultural water usage.
Sustainable Water Use
Agricultural is a huge player in depleting groundwater supplies and contributing to extensive droughts. Especially with changes in temperature and weather patterns due to climate change, conserving water is more important than ever. Agricultural water usage must be reduced in order to continue producing food at a sustainable level.
Many farmers are incorporating sustainable methods to conserve water. Building up nutrients in the soil, using the right plants, installing efficient irrigation systems and storing water are just a few ways farmers can reduce their water usage. Using practices like drip tape and rainwater irrigation can make farms more resilient in the face of water insecurity.
Emily Folk is passionate about environmental sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for her latest updates.
We Dig Ohio is an annual, one-day summit exploring urban agriculture and community gardening in the Ohio region, and an opportunity to expand your gardening expertise through panels of experts, educational sessions and hands-on workshops.
This year's We Dig Ohio Summit will have a strong emphasis on young gardeners, with the keynote presentation delivered by a panel of four accomplished young agriculturists ages 10-21. Continuing this theme, lunch will be prepared and served by the local youth gardening and culinary program, OSU Urban GEMS. The event also includes a sneak peek of the newly constructed Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden (opening to the public May 2018).
In addition to the wide representation of Ohio gardeners, the summit will also feature nationally renowned leaders in the industry. These presentations will discuss the latest research, best practices, innovations and trends -- in not only community gardens and school gardens, but urban agriculture at large. Register now to reserve your place at the table. For details or to register: https://www.fpconservatory.org/events/we-dig-ohio-urban-agriculture-community-garden-summit/
Many things can be done around the home to make it more environmentally friendly. Mother Earth is good to us and it's only fair we give something back by looking after her better. Living in a more environmentally friendly way doesn't mean we have to start growing all our own food or slapping solar panels on the roof, (although these will really help!), even small improvements make a big difference when they're all added up.
One of the simplest, yet most effective ways of reducing energy use in the home, is by improving insulation. Cold drafts enter the home through gaps by windows and doors, and warm air escapes by the same route. Older houses are the biggest culprits in the war against cold drafts, but cheap and effective solutions exist that will soon have the place warming up nicely. Double glazing is an unbeatable way of slashing heat loss at windows, but sadly it isn't the budget option. For home insulation at a more modest price, take a trip to the DIY store for insulating tape to seal up all the gaps in window frames and above and below doorways – the difference will be felt almost immediately. The most attractive insulation fix is installing a new window treatment. Whether it's sleek custom shutters fitted to the interior of the frame or heavy drapes to block out the cold, both options will provide effective insulation.
The heat of the moment
Get into the habit of turning the heating thermostat down slightly in cold weather. A matter of one or two degrees is hardly perceptible to inhabitants, but it shaves a load off energy bills. Programmable thermostats take the guesswork out of it and make all the adjustments; so it is well worth the investment in terms of energy saved. If the heating comes from a furnace, ensure the filter is cleaned out monthly for optimum performance. Today, furnace technology has advanced enormously so if a replacement is planned, check out what's on offer as there could be savings of around 25 percent to fuel bills.
Are there a lot of old, creaking appliances in the home that should be retired? Electrical appliances generate about 18 percent of a home’s energy bill. If those appliances are ancient models functioning on less than 100 percent efficiency, then that is just a waste of money and energy. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends any appliances over 10 years old should be replaced with new models bearing Energy Star ratings.
Sweat the small stuff
Many small changes of behavior can make big differences in greening up the home. Try some of these for starters: Don't buy food contained in excessive packaging, use environmentally friendly cleaning products, switch to low energy light bulbs, share baths or even better take a shower, fit aerators on all faucets, reduce trash by composting organic matter, recycle as much packaging as possible – and that's just the beginning!
A truly modern household should be embracing all of the lessons we have learned about protecting the environment. The good news is, it is not just the environment that's protected; in the long run we'll all save money.
As international concerns over climate change grow, the number of eco-friendly homes is increasing. Eco-friendly homes have now become more than just a trend. In the future, eco-friendly homes are likely to be essential, as more and more people strive to protect the environment. More environmentally friendly methods are being incorporated into the design of homes, with designers using sustainable materials. Many homeowners are also taking steps to transform their home into an eco-friendly environment.
Eco-friendly homes are becoming more popular, as more homeowners begin to understand the importance of them. These types of homes not only help the environment but also enable you to save money. Many homeowners are now making changes to their home, such as using low-energy light bulbs, in order to lower their bills and make their home more energy efficient.
Eco-friendly homes are not only better for the environment but also provide a healthier living environment for the homeowner. The materials used to construct an eco-friendly home are recycled and are less likely to emit any harmful gases or chemicals. An eco-friendly home is also less likely to experience problems that a regular home often experiences, such as damp or mold. This is due to an eco-friendly home containing more green materials and making better use of sunlight and water.
Eco-friendly homes also have better air circulation and with features such as carbon monoxide alarms being installed to warn of boiler problems, these types of homes offer a much safer living environment.
An eco-friendly home enables you to cut down on spending due to it being far more energy efficient. In addition to low-energy light bulbs, other energy-saving methods are being introduced. Solar panels are becoming a popular choice for homeowners, as they enable you to lower your energy bills. An eco-friendly home will also require less money to be spent on maintaining it thanks to the durable materials used in its construction.
In America, communities are working hard to create more eco-friendly homes. Many areas in America now offer new eco-friendly homes to buy. In Denver, Colorado, the former airport site of Stapleton was transformed into public parks and now includes a residential area with Energy Star certified homes, some of which have been fitted with solar panels. New homes in Grand County are also designed to help you save money on your energy bills. In Salem, Oregon, the Pringle Creek community is one of the greenest in the country, with restored historic buildings and geothermal heating in over 60 homes.
The increase in popularity of eco-friendly homes highlights their importance for the future. More and more homeowners are now choosing to focus on how eco-friendly a home is rather than just its overall appearance. An eco-friendly home has much more to offer and with more people taking an interest in green living, ever increasing numbers of sustainable buildings are likely to be created in the future.
We are presented with so many choices when we furnish our homes; sometimes it's hard not to be overwhelmed. Exercised by questions of color, style and whether or not it will complement the existing decor all take up time, brain space and energy. And that's before the environmental credentials of a piece of furniture have even been assessed!
Increasingly, the question of furniture’s provenance is the first one that consumers ask. As concern for the environment and an awareness of green issues grows, people want to know that the furniture they enjoy using every day doesn't have any dirty environmental secrets.
Those who buy furniture that carries the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label can feel confident that the wood used to make their purchase is responsibly sourced from sustainable origins. The FSC is an international, non-profit organization set up to ensure adherence to best environmental practices in timber sourcing, tracing its journey from the forest, through processing and manufacturing right through to the showroom.
To earn FSC certification, landowners and timber producers have to satisfy rigorous conditions and prove that the forestry methods they practice do not impact negatively on the environment. FSC certification is also dependent on timber suppliers acting in socially responsible ways that address local economic accountability issues. Extensive over-logging of forests results in environmental damage as well as depriving local communities of incomes, thus forcing already struggling economies into a downward spiral of decline. Do we really want all that guilt laid on us when furniture buying?
Avoid such wrestling with the conscience when on a retail trip by simply opting for FSC certified furniture. That way you can feel confident the new dining table, for example, has been created using wood from a sustainable and ethically bulletproof source that won't leave a bitter taste in your mouth every time it's used.
As we become more and more concerned about global environmental health, the everyday choices we make change. These days we use environmentally friendly products each day without really thinking about it – low energy light bulbs, eco-friendly detergents and toiletries – now it's just as straightforward to find furniture that's earth-friendly. Look out for the FSC label on sofas, tables, shelving units, anything made from wood products should sport the label – and if it doesn't? Just move on.
The more aware larger furniture stores have woken up to the fact that consumer decisions are based upon an evolving set of criteria that value eco-credentials highly. To this end, a stroll around large furniture showrooms reveals a huge amount of attractive, well designed furniture bearing the FSC stamp of approval – and this can only be a good thing.
Furnishing a home can be expensive and there may be times when the cheaper option might be something created within a less responsible environmental and commercial structure. Before paying out for uncertified wood products, be reminded of the damage done by over-logging, unregulated use of hazardous pesticides and the exploitation of the land of indigenous peoples – is it really worth saving a few dollars for that? By opting for FSC certified furniture, we can have fun improving our domestic habitat without damaging the natural one... surely that has to be a good thing?