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What exactly is a carbon sink? It’s not a sink made of carbon, but rather a natural environment that is able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Nature’s largest carbon sinks are plants, the ocean, and soil.
Of the three, of course the only ones that we can harness are plants and soil.
The good thing is, you can create your very own carbon sink right in your backyard (or balcony!).
The very main goal is to lock up carbon in the soil instead of having carbon dioxide float about in the air trapping in heat.
There are very simple ways to make sure your garden is doing its best to store carbon:
1. No fertilizers and pesticides
Synthetic fertilizers, particularly nitrogen-rich ones, and pesticides, require fossil fuel energy to manufacture and release greenhouse gases in the process.
There are many non-toxic alternatives to keeping your plants healthy and pest-free, such as a hydrogen peroxide spray, which eliminates most pests and give plants an extra boost of growth.
2. No naked soil
This basically means that if you have a plot of empty land, just grow stuff on it. It doesn’t matter what you grow, as long as the soil is not “naked”. Even grass helps!
Naked soil is vulnerable to erosion from rain or wind and causes carbon loss! So, just let the grass do its thing or toss a few seeds into the ground for more excitement.
3. Bigger plants absorb more carbon dioxide
Trees and shrubs absorb more carbon dioxide into their trunks and branches. While trees are perhaps not super practical for those with small garden spaces, mid-sized shrubs are great too.
Of course, small plants also absorb carbon dioxide, but they would not be able to hold as much carbon dioxide as bigger plants.
4. Let your garden return to nature
We don’t need carefully trimmed and perfectly maintained lawns that often use a lot of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Instead, let nature do its work and grow on its own, with help and guidance from you, of course!
If your plants are outdoors, you won’t even have to water them as the rain will be good enough. Of course, this works best for plants suited to the Malaysian weather, but generally plants don’t really require a lot of attention.
5. Compost organic food waste
A huge contributor to global warming is actual food waste, which releases methane when its not able to decompose properly in landfills. Composting, however, will ensure that the carbon-based organic matter can decompose properly and keep the carbon in our soil.
A lot of people draw the line at composting out of fear that their house will be smelly, dirty, or attract pests. The truth is, compost really just smells like dirt.
There are plenty of options for composting even if you live in an apartment!
A key thing to note to minimize smell and pests is to cover your organic waste. Organic waste means things that can rot and decompose (food scraps are perfect, but meat and bones tend to be smellier).
If you have an outdoor garden, dig a deep hole in a corner. Toss your food waste into the hole and cover with a layer of soil. After you’ve filled up the hole, you can wait around 4-6 months for fresh, nutrient-packed soil.
If you don’t have an outdoor garden, you basically need to build your own “hole”. Get a large rubbish bin (preferably the kind that can lock) and a lot of soil. First, line the bottom of the bin with soil about 2cm thick. Then, just add your organic waste to the bin and cover with soil as needed.
It’s really that easy to help capture carbon dioxide from the air and put it back into the soil. Plus, you get clean fresh air filtered from your lovely garden. What’s not to love?
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.