Perhaps you already consider yourself green-fingered: your home is a veritable jungle of beautiful green plants – a Monstera here, a potted fern there, ivy dripping from hanging baskets.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve always struggled to keep plants alive for more than a week. You would not 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 a new appreciation of the plant life around us.
The five-episode series, which airs Sunday, Jan. 9, is a fresh take on the veteran broadcaster’s usual subject matter for nature documentaries. This time though, instead of watching ferocious hunting encounters between apex animal predators, we watch, in incredible detail, the same kinds of battles for survival that take place among plants, from the smallest seedlings to tallest trees.
It’s another hit show from Attenborough which, like all of his latest work as a presenter and conservationist, serves to highlight the danger to the ‘green planet’ due to the climate crisis, and highlights how precious the natural world is. As he points out in the opening sequence, we literally rely on plants for every sip 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 some things you can do.
1. Support a tree planting project
Growing and conserving trees is a key way to ensure a healthy ecosystem for plant life. Forests also have the added benefit of capturing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
There are many tree-planting organizations you can support, including the 1t.org global reforestation initiative. Set up by the World Economic Forum, it aims to conserve, restore and grow a trillion trees by 2030. You can participate by donating to one of their partner tree planting organizations, such as than Trillion Trees or Plant for the Planet.
If you’re in the UK, 2022 is also shaping up to be a big year for tree planting, thanks to an initiative launched in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee called the Queen’s Green Canopy campaign. Everyone is encouraged to plant a tree either in their garden or on land with permission. The Woodland Trust is donating three million saplings that schools and community organizations can request – find out more here.
Another potential way to support the cause is to subscribe to an initiative like Ecologi, an organization that, for a small monthly donation, funds tree planting projects and other carbon reduction efforts.
2. Revive your garden
Sometimes helping plants thrive is just letting them do their thing. So if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, consider putting the lawn mower away and letting it go wild (even if it’s just a small patch).
Rewilding has myriad benefits – a conservation strategy that aims to increase biodiversity and revive plant and animal populations in the wild. When left to their own devices, wildflowers spring up, which in turn provides more food for bees who then pollinate, meaning more flowers appear elsewhere.
Councils across the UK are increasingly opting to allow areas of public parkland to become wildflower meadows, essentially stopping excessive maintenance and mowing. This is badly needed as, according to conservation charity Plantlife, 97% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. Adding your own patch of wildflowers to the garden will help people of bees and plants to recover.
3. Stay on the trails when hiking in nature
It’s fun to explore, but in some circumstances it may be best to stay out of the way when taking a walk or hike.
This is what the National Trust, Britain’s leading heritage and conservation organisation, has advised walkers to do when enjoying their nature reserves and parks.
Too many walkers trampling plant life can damage delicate ecosystems, they explain, and cause soil erosion, making it harder for plants to survive.
4. Get more plants!
What better way to help plants than by taking care of some of your own? Plants provide instantly stylish and affordable decor (hence their popularity with millennials), and tending to them has proven to be good for your well-being.
If you have some outdoor space, like a balcony, you can even grow your own vegetables and herbs, which also saves money!
Alice Vincent, author of “Rootbound: Rewilding a life,” says caring for plants is a great way to disconnect in a digital world and also helps people connect to the issues facing the planet. She told the BBC: “We are a generation that is increasingly aware of the planet we exist on and need to connect to and care for. Gardening is as much a part of climate awareness as using a refillable water bottle.
According to botanist James Wong (@BotanyGeek), there’s little to think about when it comes to making sure the houseplants you choose are the most sustainable option, such as considering air miles it took to transport them. Luckily in the UK most houseplants come from the Netherlands or the Canary Islands by boat which is much more low carbon than flying – but still worth checking and thinking about to the source.
Wong also recommends not buying fancy plants that are designed to be seasonal and die off like poinsettias, using cuttings from other plants to create new plants instead of buying new ones each time and trying. avoid using peat compost.
5. Take action against the climate crisis with Global Citizen
There are many ways to take action to raise awareness and pressure governments and business leaders to act on the climate crisis through Global Citizen – just take a look at our Defend the Planet action page . You can call on leaders to protect 30% of nature by 2030 and provide funding to help low-income countries deal with 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 at 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 fund has 21 times more impact on reducing your carbon footprint than ditching the plane, going vegetarian and switching energy providers? If you want to make a big difference that will protect the planet and plant life by extension, this is definitely a good place to start!
6. Fight deforestation
Yes, it is up to big companies and governments to really sort out their supply chains and make sure their products don’t come from illegally deforested land. But you can also take individual measures. WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature) recommends three main actions: informing you about the products linked to deforestation, pressuring governments to protect forests and finding ways to eat more sustainably.
Greenpeace adds to this list the choice of recycled or sustainably sourced wood products, as well as the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples living in places like the Amazon.
The Green Planet airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on BBC One. You can also watch the series on BBC iPlayer.