Stimulating Sustainability

by Mark and Ben Cullen

A new year: a clean slate. Gardeners appreciate clean air and want to make the world a better place. After all, we are in the business of producing oxygen every time we nurture a plant.

We are here with stories that will make you think outside of your box and stimulate ideas that might just help you make your corner of the world more liveable.

30 Days of Wild

The Wildlife Trusts, a coalition of 47 land trusts dedicated to “nature’s recovery” in the United Kingdom, created a program that is designed to encourage people to take the time to connect with nature. The Waitrose Weekend newspaper reports that nearly 30,000 people and organizations signed up online to take part in the campaign last year. “Thousands of people carried out 1.8 million random acts of wildness during 30 Day of Wild,” says The Wildlife Trusts’ Lucy McRobert.

What are ‘random acts of wildness’? Anything that connects us with nature. The newspaper lists three ways to do this:

  1. Channel your inner poet. Write some verses about your favourite wild place.
  2. Relax in Nature. Pull a hat over your eyes, cross your hands behind your head and chill out in a meadow. In Canada, a toque.
  3. Admire a sunset. In the summer, bats might be spotted overhead (and we need more bats). In a Canadian winter, the silence can be deafening, in an amazing way.
  4. Go Wild at Work. If you have an open or disused space near your work, encourage colleagues to create a wild space there. Native plants might factor into your plan.

30 days of Wild sounds like such a clever idea, we think that Canada should have a month of “Wild” also. After all, we have more “wild” per capita than any other country.

Who would like to launch the concept?

Cow Burps

Many of our climate change problems revolve around the production of carbon and the slow erosion of the ozone layer. According to Food and Agriculture at the UN, 9.5% of the greenhouse gasses (GHG) produced by human activity is the result of cows producing methane gas. They burp like crazy. Hazardous burps.

While vegetarians will suggest that we simply stop eating beef, there is another solution: breed cows that burp less. According to The Scotsman Newspaper in Edinburgh, a new breed of cow is in development and may be on a farm near you within a few years. The newspaper reports that, “Researchers from Scotland’s Rural College, the University of Edinburg’s Roslin Institute and the University of Aberdeen have identified a link between an animal’s genetic make-up, the bacteria in its digestive system and the amount of methane it produces.” The newspaper quotes a news release from the University, “Our Green Cow research has allowed us to identify a number of things that will help to reduce global methane emissions.”

In time, the Green Cow project could help agriculture cut its carbon footprint worldwide.

We note that burpless cucumbers have existed for generations. Isn’t it about time someone developed a burpless cow?

Free Food

While visiting Strathcona, Alberta a couple of years ago, we saw signs posted in large containers of vegetables growing in open, public spaces. The signs welcomed passersby to harvest food for their own consumption. We were surprised to learn that the privilege of self-harvesting was not abused.

Free Fish

In Pincher Creek, Alberta, a small, man-made pond in the centre of town provides opportunities for free fish. A sign reads, “Senior citizens fish for free. Limit two fish per day.” What a wonderful way to say thank you to the seniors in their community.

Ideas that are sustainable and green are all around us. As the garden sleeps through a Canadian winter, we can dream about what each of us can do to play to protect the environment.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and holds the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.