April (for most of the country) is when trees and flowers start to bloom again. We here in Florida don’t see the earth renew itself each year like families up north, but we do enjoy nature’s bounties in other ways. Clearwater Beach and the Hillsborough River are just two of the many natural beauties the bay area has to offer.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage for your children and your children’s children.” Teddy truly understood that nature is not a place but our home and it should be preserved and protected for future generations.
Many see this idea of preservation as the catalyst of the green movement. But what does going green really mean? According to the World Watch Institute, going green is about taking steps to minimize your impact on the earth and natural resources by changing how you consume, grow and package.
A nutrient-rich garden depends heavily on the 3 Rs.
- Use the RIGHT SOURCE of fertilizer.
- Plant at the RIGHT TIME for your specific type of plant.
- Place seedlings and plants in the RIGHT PLACE.
Regardless of whether you’re growing a farm’s worth of vegetation or just a simple home garden, the success of your garden will depend heavily on the making sure all plants get adequate amounts of nutrients such as potash and phosphates.
Here in Florida, companies like Mosaic mine and manufacture these natural resources that are essential for plant growth and food production. In fact, these crop nutrients help farmers in the U.S. and across the world produce more food on less land. More than half of the phosphate fertilizer used by farmers to produce more than 40-60 percent of crops in the U.S. is from right here in Florida.
With Florida predicted to have 20 million people next year and the world to have 9 billion people by 2050, the demand for affordable food is increasing. When farmers and home gardeners properly nourish their soil with minerals, it translates into more abundant, affordable and sustainable results for everyone.
When and where you decide to plant your home garden is a very important element for success. Make sure that when purchasing plants or seeds you have the appropriate amount of sunlight that is recommended on the packaging.
If you decide to purchase a plant or seed from a catalog, make sure you take note of your planting zone. Knowing this will help you find plants that will grow in your garden and the time of year to plant.
You may recently have seen signs at your local garden store that say, “Fresh from Florida.” Through a partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service, some retailers are now labeling products that are locally grown. Not only does this support your local economy, it guarantees that the product is native and wasn’t shipped thousands of miles.
Altering our consumption doesn’t just refer to the gas in our cars or the things in our house. It means changing what we eat. Originally published in 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb brought to light the concept that along with population, consumption and food shortage would increase. Many of the book’s date-specific theories never came to pass, but the author’s basic principle was correct. More people equals more food consumption. Because of higher food demands, many farmers have now resorted to treating crops with pesticides to guarantee yields.
One of the gravest concerns regarding food is our prolonged exposure to pesticides. A recent Consumer Report newsletter stressed that consumers should “avoid long-term exposure to pesticide residues.” Circumventing this hazard, according to the USDA, is possible by consuming locally grown, certified organic food and produce. By purchasing food at bay area festivals, like the Tampa Kids Market, you can meet the producer or farmer who grew your in-season food. There are also retail options like Whole Foods Market that establish high standards on food vendors and partnerships with local growers to provide only the best and local produce for customers.
One such local grower is Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Hillsborough County. Established in 1995, the 6-acre farm offers classes, co-ops, festivals, and an educational series on top of providing produce for retailers. Its summer camp teaches kids about the earth and producing sustainable food.
Holistic stores, like Whole Foods Market, go a step further, screening all products for ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and other processed ingredients. This goes a long way for the environment. With more than 75% of all food in your local grocer containing either corn or soy ingredients, according to the documentary film Food, Inc., changing our consumption not only helps the environment it has a huge impact on our health.
In school, every child learns the core to reducing our waste and packaging: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As simple as it sounds, making an effort to incorporate these three principles can drastically change dependence on plastic bottles, paper, water (yes, water) and other resources.
For example, what we decide to purchase at the grocery store and packaging go hand in hand. You can easily reduce the amount by purchasing more whole, unprocessed foods. For items with a short shelf-life (fresh produce), Well Fed World suggest shoppers bring their own bag and prioritize items that are not pre-cut and prepackaged. Although it takes a little longer, you’ll save money and reduce packaging.
The Department of the Interior, which oversees national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands, offers these tips to reducing our impact on the environment.
- Remove your home address from junk mail lists by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s website (www.consumer.ftc.gov).
- Disconnect all chargers and electronics from outlets when not in use. According to the US Department of Energy, products that are switched off consume 75% of all electricity used to power electronics.
- Replace your disposable cup with a stainless steel, BPA-free beverage container. Many stores offer discounts for bringing your own cup.
- Print and photocopy only when necessary. Decrease the amount of paper you use by reusing those that have writing on one side only.
These are all things that can be done with your kids. Getting your kids involved in reducing your family’s impact will not only lighten the load on you but teach them the importance of our natural surroundings. Remember, we must lead by example.
Tampa Bay Parenting is proud to partner with the Mosaic Company for the first Plant a Veggie Contest! Starting April 1, visit TBParenting.com/mosaic and submit a picture of your family working on or planting veggies in the garden. The photo with the most votes will be selected the Grand Prize winner. Learn more at TBParenting.com.
The Mosaic Company is the world’s largest supplier of phosphate and potash. To learn more about their work, visit