Avoiding Extractive Industry as a Gardener

One key thing for those who want to live a more sustainable way of life is moving from an extractive to a regenerative mindset. We need to think about using and valuing renewable resources rather than continuing to take and take finite resources.

Even gardeners who try to avoid an extractive mindset in their gardens may still sometimes fall back into practices which involve extractive industry.

Unfortunately, I do not think it is possible for most of us to avoid extractive industry altogether – I am sitting here typing on a laptop which relies on a number of metals, minerals and rare earth elements, for example, and though some were recycled, there was still at least some extraction involved. We can put pressure on companies to increase recycling, choosing the most sustainable options available, and keeping our devices in use for as long as possible, but most us cannot avoid these things altogether.

However, in a garden, there are certain products of extractive industry which we can aim to avoid. And where there are alternatives available, of course we should always strive to take them.

One example is peat – peat is technically a renewable resource, but extraction far outpaces the speed of its renewal. Using peat in your garden means that you are supporting and therefore condoning this extractive industry.

Another example is using products like lime. Liming acidic soil to raise pH is a common practice. But the lime is a product of mining or quarrying limestone, another extractive industry. So it is very important to consider whether liming is really required (often, it is best to embrace and plant for the soil you have), and also whether you might be able to find an alternative.

I believe there was a study that found that pulverised eggshells can actually be more effective in reducing acidity and improving low-calcium soils than agricultural/ garden lime, for example. So while lime is certainly not the worst extractive product, there could be other options more in keeping with a regenerative mindset.

Other extractive products to consider replacing with more regenerative minded alternatives are perlite and vermiculite. They might not be the worst things to use in your garden, but they certainly do come at a cost, and that is worth bearing in mind.

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