Restoring the land now will guarantee future generations have the resources they need for survival. Humans have had a huge impact on this planet. Our advances in technology and agriculture have made it possible to develop cities and conveniences that make life easier, but those come with a price—and the environment often pays a hefty sum.
To ensure that our planet can continue to sustain and feed a growing population of people, we have to undo some of the damage we’ve caused. Technology has developed numerous ways to combat some of the environmental impacts to the planet, but there are also other eco-friendly land restoration ideas that depend on nature.
When it comes to manufacturing, mining and agriculture, one of the biggest impacts these industries have on the planet is soil and water pollution. If given enough time, both the soil and the groundwater can filter out these poisons, but we often need the process to happen sooner for our health and survival. One solution to this problem is bioremediation.
Bioremediation is the process of using naturally occurring organisms to ingest these toxic chemicals and turn them into less harmful substances. Bioremediation has a quick turnaround to restoring land, and it uses nature to fix nature. Chemicals and other technological processes can be used to reduce the amount of toxins in the soil and groundwater, but bioremediation reduces the amount of chemicals inclusively — and that is beneficial to the environment and humanity.
A huge threat to the environment is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. While this gas is important for life on earth, especially for plants that need it to survive, it also contributes to global warming and has a negative impact. The earth has a natural way of ridding normal levels of CO2 from the environment by storing it in soil and by plants converting it to oxygen, but if there’s too much, these elements can’t get rid of it all.
One solution to this problem that has been proposed is biochar. All biomass waste releases carbon when it decomposes. However, by burning the waste using an airless burning technique and then putting it back in the ground reduces the emissions that get into the atmosphere. This process also helps put nutrients back into the soil, so it is healthier to grow crops.
Biochar was first introduced and used by ancient South American civilizations. Unlike natural carbon sequestration from plants or trees, which hold CO2 for 15 to 20 years, biochar can hold CO2 in the ground for approximately 100 years. Reducing our agricultural and forestry waste in this way is an eco-friendly way to help the environment.
3. Forest Restoration
Forests around the globe are being cut down to make room for croplands and pastures so that we can feed and shelter a growing human population. This practice has detrimental effects on the environment because it rids the planet its natural way to rid the atmosphere of emissions, including CO2. In addition, destroying forested areas leads to land degradation, which can impact the soil and our ability to produce food. Deforestation also displaces and destroys habitats for a variety of different species.
One way to mitigate these issues is to restore forest areas. Restoring a forest requires bringing it back to its original state, including the diversity of plant and animals species that called it home. The benefits of this include carbon sequestration, which mitigates climate change, forest productivity and socio and economic benefits for communities that depend on the forest for their livelihood.
4. Ocean Fertilization
It’s no secret that the world’s oceans have become a cesspool of pollution. Approximately 1.4 billion pounds of garbage finds its way to the ocean, which then can wash up on other shores and impact sea life. Not only do the oceans provide us with food and fun, but they also play a role in carbon sequestration—and we have already explained that excessive CO2 in the environment is bad for the entire planet.
It has been proposed that the world’s ocean be fertilized with iron dust to encourage algae blooms, which will then soak up the excess carbon. After the algae die, they sink to the seafloor where the carbon is sequestered. The iron can be obtained from iron and titanium smelters, and it’s often a byproduct, so this process would help get rid of two environmental issues in a beneficial way.
5. Urban Gardens
With the population of humans growing steadily, the amount of urban areas will also increase. With land availability dwindling but the desire for healthy, chemical-free food increasing, developing an urban garden could be an eco-friendly restoration idea. Again, since all plants are natural absorbers of CO2, having more around will improve air quality.
Vertical farming is also being developed as a way to produce foods in an urban environment and reduce the impacts on land degradation. While this process still needs refinement and a reduced price tag to be viable for all urban environments, it has promise to be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to restore the land.
6. Plastic-eating Enzymes
It’s no secret that the amount of plastic waste plaguing this planet has a major impact on the environment. It takes up valuable land space and gets into the ocean. When plastic decomposes, it leeches harmful chemicals into the soil and water supply, which then has an impact on humans and the array of creatures we share the planet with.
This enzyme will not only reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment, but it will also reduce the need to mine more oil to develop these products. The enzymes can break down plastic into its essential elements, then we can build them back up into new products. It’s a sustainable solution to the plastic problem.
7. Reduce Consumerism by Renting Instead of Buying
Our world is one of stuff — lots and lots of stuff — and we like our stuff. The amount of stuff we possess is often tied to status symbols and how we are viewed socially. However, all of that stuff impacts our world in negative ways. When we get tired of something, we often throw it away instead of finding a different use for it. This contributes to full landfills that leech harmful chemicals into the soil and water sources, which then impacts us.
To reduce the amount of waste that gets into our landfills, we can reduce the amount of stuff we possess. Instead of buying everything you need, consider renting. Not only does this allow you to be more environmentally friendly, but it encourages business and manufacturers to do the same because they have to develop sustainable ways to recycle and reuse their products. No longer can it be tossed aside. It has to be repurposed or recycled to be valuable to the users.
Renting products instead of buying them makes both consumers and manufacturers responsible for the welfare of the planet. By working together, we can develop sustainable and eco-friendly ways to protect the environment and reduce our impact on the land.
8. Buy Local
There are some things in this world that can’t be rented, including food for survival, but one way to reduce the impact your food has on the land is to buy local.
When you buy food or products from large chain stores, it is often shipped from distant places, which means emissions are pumped into the environment from trucks. Produce is often also treated with chemicals so that they remain fresh and looking good for purchase, and those can be harmful to your health. The benefits of buying local means you will be getting fresh products that are probably not covered in chemicals, you will be supporting the local economy and you will help reduce carbon emissions.
9. Conservation Easements
To combat land degradation and other environmental issues, landowners may choose to place their land into a conservation easement. This process limits the amount of development that can occur on a tract of land in perpetuity. In the U.S., a conservation easement is an agreement entered into by the landowner and government entities, so it has a lasting impact.
In addition to knowing that future generations will have protected land, landowners may also qualify for tax breaks. Because of the limited development that can occur on a conservation easement, the land can remain in pristine condition and contribute to eco-friendly land restoration practices.
10. Economical Driving
Driving economically isn’t only about getting an electric car or one with low gas emissions (although these traits help), it’s also about taking care of your vehicle and improving fuel efficiency. This can be accomplished by reducing your driving speed, making sure your tire pressure is correct and not constantly idling your engine.
Restoring land from the damage we have inflicted on it will require everyone doing their part. The task is large and daunting, but the rewards are priceless. Without land, we won’t survive, and we don’t have another place to move to. Finding eco-friendly land restoration ideas benefits everyone.
Emily Folk is a freelance writer and blogger on conservation and sustainability. To see her latest posts, check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter, @emilysfolk!