Tips and tricks for a zero waste indoor garden.
I have always loved having plants around the home. They give us so much, as well as looking nice and bringing some fresh colour to your living space plants can also help to make the air inside healthier by reducing airborne dust and absorbing pollutants. You can tailor your houseplant collection to be good at repelling insects, increase humidity or lower the ambient temperature. Plants also support mental health by reducing stress levels, and create a calmer environment by reflecting background noise, such as traffic outside your window.
I wanted to share some ideas for sustainable indoor gardening here. There are lots of fun ways you can link your zero waste lifestyle to your plants, whether you're using them for your DIYs or using scraps from the kitchen to feed them.
Caring for your plants.
Before thinking about ways to use your plants for zero waste living, looking after them so they're healthy and happy is a good place to start. They don’t need anything special, expensive or chemically to do well. You can have thriving plant life in your home using a few simple, often completely free tips and tricks.
If you have an outdoor garden to care for, collecting rainwater is a great way of making your green space more sustainable. Collecting over the winter months means you’ll have a good store ready for the hot summer so you can rely less on mains water supply. You can use rainwater for your green space indoors as well, but if this isn’t possible, there are a few ways to collect waste water from inside the home.
Cooled cooking water can be beneficial in two ways. Firstly, saving the water from being wasted and secondly, it will carry mineral nutrients that boils off the food you cooked in it which will be passed on to your plants. Water from boiling vegetables may contain potassium, phosphorous or nitrogen, while water from cooking eggs will have some calcium in it. One thing to remember if you’re going to save your cooking water is don’t put salt in it as this can kill your plants.
Another way to gather water for your plants both indoors and outdoors is to bring a bucket into the shower with you. The aim isn’t to collect lots of soapy water, although a little soap shouldn’t do your plants any harm. The bucket is there to collect the water when you’re not standing under it. This might be while the shower is warming up, or if you step out of the stream you can stop it going down the drain and being lost.
2. Feed and fertiliser.
If you have a composter in your garden, you’ll likely already be using your scraps to feed your plants. In a small living space this isn’t always easy, but there are a few ways you can still make this work.
Save your tea leaves and coffee grounds as both can be used to fertilise potted plants. Gently dig around the top layer of the soil and bury a few tablespoons of either. As well as providing nutrients, they can both help with moisture retention.
You can also use banana peels to make fertiliser. The peels are rich in potassium, calcium and phosphorous. You can use them in a few ways. Of course the easiest way is to just bury the peels in the soil and let it rot down but this might not go too well in potted plants. If you would like to make a liquid fertiliser, you can put the peels in a jar and cover them with water. Seal the jar and let it sit for a 2 or 3 days. The nutrients will have leached into the water which you can then use on your plants.
Another way to use the peels would be to dehydrate them, either slowly in a warm oven or using a dehydrator. The dry peels can then be chopped or blitzed to create a powder fertiliser that will last longer in storage.
3. Plant cleaning.
Indoor plants don’t have the benefit of wind and rain to keep them clean and dust free. Ones with big leaves will show up the dust most quickly but you don’t need to use a chemically plant cleaning spray on them. A damp cloth will be enough. If your plants have small leaves or spikes where dust collects, you can repurpose old makeup brushes, paint brushes or an old toothbrush to get in those hard to reach places.
If your plant is in trouble, perhaps it’s developed mildew spots or bugs, you can add a little bit of mild soap or washing up liquid to a spray bottle of water and clean them with this. Another very useful tip I discovered is to mix a little cayenne pepper in the water as a natural pesticide.
Useful plants for your zero waste home.
Everything that you invest in caring for your plants, they will give back to you. You don’t necessarily need to have ‘useful’ plants as they are all good, but if you're looking for a little inspiration, this short list of 5 plants and their uses might help. For me, it is just a good excuse to adopt some more members into the green family.
Aloe Vera - It is well respected for it's skin and hair benefits and can be used direct from the plant. The juice can also be taken to ease digestive issues and increase immunity. As a houseplant, it is good at purifying the air from formaldehyde and benzene, which are two chemicals commonly found in standard cleaning products.
Rosemary - Rosemary can be added to vinegar to create a scented cleaning solution with anti fungal benefits. Rosemary is also good at repelling bugs, especially the dreaded mosquito and the smell of rosemary can help improve memory.
Lavender - French lavender survives the best indoors and can be placed on a bedroom window for improved sleep and relaxation. Like Rosemary, it can be used in cleaning DIYs, but is also great for beauty and healing as it is anti-inflammatory and soothing for skin.
Areca Palm - This plant is renowned for air purification and like Aloe Vera, it absorbs harmful formaldehyde and benzene from cleaning products. It is also one of the few plants that releases oxygen at night, so you may like to keep it in the bedroom to improve your sleep quality.
Golden Pothos - Studies by NASA have shown it is an excellent air purifier and has been considered for use in space stations to increase air quality. It is a very easy maintenance plant for indoors as it can survive in environments that other plants might struggle in, such as shade, cool temperatures, poor soil and dry conditions.
You can also try growing food on your windowsill! Lettuce, celery and spring onions are just a few of the vegetables that can be re-grown from their scraps.
I hope that I've inspired you a little to go and look at the wonders of plants and how to look after them without waste. Sourcing plants sustainably is another thing to consider and so I'm really excited to be setting up and running a plant swap in the shop window over the next week - Tuesday 10 to Sunday 15 August. Being involved in a plant swap is a great way of gaining new plants and giving a second life to ones you have outgrown.
There are a few rules to taking part in the Earthian Plant Swap.
Please don't bring any plants that have diseases or that you suspect are dying, not only is this not in the spirit of a swap but it risks passing the illness to other plants at the shop.
Ensure that the outside of the plant pot is clean and dry.
If known, please label the pot with what plant is inside to help it's new owner find the right care instructions.
The swap is free and works on an honour system. We kindly ask that you bring a plant to take a plant so that there is always enough for everyone who visits.
Finally, please check with us that the plant you want to take is in the plant swap. We do have a lot of plants that are just shop decoration so they won't all be available for swapping. I'm sorry!
That's all, drop off your plant with us and take home something new! I've got a few that I'll put out next week to start us off with but I hope we'll see a beautiful variety over the next week.
If you have any questions about the plant swap, please do get in touch. I look forward to seeing your green fingers in the shop soon!