Perhaps you already consider yourself pretty green-fingered: your house is a veritable jungle of beautiful green plants — a Monstera here, a potted fern there, ivy flowing from hanging baskets.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve always struggled to keep plants alive for more than a week. You wouldn’t be alone.
Wherever you are on the “keeping plants from the green Grim Reaper” scale, there’s no doubt that watching Sir David Attenborough’s brilliant new documentary series, BBC One’s 'The Green Planet', will have inspired fresh appreciation for the plant life all around us.
The five-part series, which aired on Sunday Jan. 9, is a new take on the veteran broadcaster’s usual nature documentary subject matter. This time though, instead of watching fierce hunting encounters between apex animal predators, we’re watching, in incredible detail, the same kinds of battles for survival play out among plants, from the tiniest seedlings to the tallest trees.
It’s another hit show from Attenborough that, like all his latest work as both a presenter and an environmental advocate, serves to highlight the danger the “green planet” is in due to the climate crisis, and underlines just how precious the natural world is. As he remarks in the opening sequence — we literally rely on plants for every gulp of air we breathe, and every bite of food we eat.
If you’re inspired and want to start taking action to help protect plants and the planet, here are a few things you can do.
1. Support a tree-planting project
Growing and conserving trees is one key way to secure a healthy ecosystem for plant life. Forests also come with the added benefit of capturing large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
There are plenty of tree-planting organisations out there you can support including the global reforestation initiative 1t.org . Set up by the World Economics Forum, it aims to conserve, restore, and grow one trillion trees by 2030. You can join in by donating to one of their partner tree-planting organisations, such as Trillion Trees or Plant for the Planet.
If you’re in the UK, then 2022 is shaping up to be a big year for tree-planting too, thanks to an initiative launched in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee called the Queen’s Green Canopy campaign. Everyone is being encouraged to plant a tree either in their garden or on a piece of land with permission. The Woodland Trust is donating three million tree saplings that schools and community organisations can apply for — find out more here.
Another potential way to support the cause is to subscribe to an initiative like Ecologi, an organisation that, for a small monthly donation, funds tree-planting projects and other carbon reduction efforts.
2. Rewild your garden
Sometimes helping plants thrive is about just letting them do their thing. So if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, consider putting away the lawn mower and letting it go wild (even if it’s just a small patch).
There are myriad benefits to rewilding — a conservation strategy which aims to increase biodiversity and revive plant and animal populations in the wilderness. When left to their own devices, wildflowers crop up, which in turn provides more food for bees who then go on to pollinate, meaning more flowers popping up elsewhere.
All around the UK, councils are increasingly opting to allow areas of public parks to become wildflower meadows — essentially stopping excess maintenance and mowing. This is badly needed because, according to conservation charity Plantlife, 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. Adding your own garden wildflower patch will help bee and plant populations recover.
3. Stick to the pathways when out walking in nature
It’s fun to explore — but in some circumstances it might be best to stick to the path when out walking or hiking.
This is what the National Trust, the leading heritage and conservation organisation in Britain, has advised walkers do when out enjoying their nature reserves and parks.
Too many walkers trampling on plant life can damage delicate ecosystems, they explain, and cause soil erosion, which in turn makes it harder for plants to survive.
4. Get more plants!
What better way to help plants than by nurturing some of your own? Plants offer instantly stylish and affordable decor (hence their popularity with millennials), and looking after them has been proven to be good for your wellbeing.
If you have a bit of outside space, like a balcony, you could even grow your own vegetables and herbs — which saves money too!
Alice Vincent, author of ‘Rootbound: Rewilding a life’, argues that tending to plants is a great way to disconnect in a digital world and helps people connect to the issues facing the planet too. She told the BBC: “We're a generation increasingly conscious of the planet we exist upon and in, and how we need to connect and look after it. Gardening is as much part of climate consciousness as using a refillable water bottle.”
There are few things to think about when it comes to ensuring that the house plants you choose are the most sustainable option, according to the botanist James Wong (@BotanyGeek) such as considering the air miles it took to transport them. Luckily, in the UK, most house plants come from the Netherlands or the Canary Islands by boat which is much more low carbon than flying — but it’s still worth checking and thinking about the source.
Wong also recommends not buying novelty plants that are designed to be seasonal and die out like poinsettias, using cuttings from other plants to create new plants instead of buying new every time, and trying to avoid using peat compost.
5. Take action against the climate crisis with Global Citizen
There are many ways you can take action to raise awareness and pressure government and business leaders to act on the climate crisis through Global Citizen — just take a look at our Defend the Planet action page.You could call on leaders to protect 30% of nature by 2030 and provide financing to help low income countries confront climate change, for example.
If you’re based in the UK, one really effective action you can take to help the planet as an individual is to look into how your pensions are invested, and call on pension funds to stop funding the climate crisis by investing in fossil fuels.
This year, Global Citizen UK is partnering with Make Money Matter, an advocacy group leading the fight for green pensions. Did you know that switching to a green pension provider is 21 times more impactful for reducing your carbon footprint than giving up flying, going vegetarian, and switching energy providers? If you’re keen to make a big difference that will protect the planet and plant life by extension, it’s certainly a good place to start!
6. Fight deforestation
Yes, it’s up to big companies and governments to truly sort out their supply chains and ensure their products are not being sourced from illegally deforested lands. But there’s some individual action you can take too.The WWF (the Worldwide Fund for Nature) recommends three main actions: educate yourself about products linked to deforestation, pressure governments to protect forests, and find ways to eat more sustainably.
Greenpeace adds to this list choosing recycled or sustainably sourced wood products, as well as standing up for the rights of indigenous people living in places like the Amazon.
The Green Planet airs on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One. You can also catch the series on BBC iPlayer.