Hand sanitisers, masks, face shields, social distancing, lockdowns, quarantines – the pandemic’s indelible impact on the way we live reflects in the number of precautions we take to minimise the risk of contracting the disease. After all, the outbreak has claimed more than 1 million lives globally since December 2019 and continues to run rampant across the world. However, even as we take stringent measures to check the viral spread, there is a far greater and more insidious environmental threat to which we don’t pay its due attention: air pollution.
Here are some numbers to put the issue in context. Ambient air pollution is one of the leading risk factors for mortality worldwide, causing more than 5 million deaths around the globe in just one year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that a staggering 90% of the world’s population breathes air that contains high levels of pollutants. Developing, low-to-middle income countries such as India are at a heightened risk.
Protecting the environment: How personal initiative to build in-home gardens can have an impact
Our inaction to address this situation is best explained by a question: what can I do to address the environmental crisis? This is understandable; one person cannot change the whole world, and taking on a challenge that has been on the global agenda for decades can be daunting. But if we narrow our perspective to focus on something that we can control – our surroundings – the answer becomes as clear as day: in-home gardens.
Plants are natural air filters. They purify carbon dioxide, toxins, pollutants, chemicals, and harmful pathogens out of the surrounding air, soil, and groundwater. In other words, they create a cleaner local environment. This is why you feel healthier and more refreshed in places with substantial greenery. Building a home garden also has other associated benefits. It can lower stress levels and increase serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone, and also absorb the noise pollution that has become a constant companion for most city-dwellers.
Of equal importance is the impact that an indoor, terrace, or balcony garden can have on your carbon footprint. Creating fruit and vegetable patches at home minimises your dependence. You get to decrease your reliance on grocery-bought fruits and vegetables that are freighted for several hundred miles on pollution-creating modes of transport. The fact that the produce so grown is also fresher, more organic, toxin-free, and healthier to eat is a bonus that you receive for helping the environment.
Today, young urban Indians are exploring ways to live more sustainably. Building an in-home garden is the perfect medium to achieve this objective. After all, just as an ocean is made of millions of individual drops, who’s to say that we won’t take a massive step towards healing the environment. All that we need to do is invite a slice of nature’s splendour into our homes.