Hobby gardeners, as well as garden centres, often plant in peat soils. Peat is a natural product consisting of composted plants and mosses from peat bogs. Peat mining kills swamps, while swamps are incredibly important for carbon storage. In addition, a dead swamp creates more carbon in the atmosphere. It’s ecological vandalism, says Karin Bodewits from turfvrij.nl on Early Birds.
“We are often annoyed about the shame of cutting down the rainforest, but we don’t care about clearing the moors in our own backyard,” says Karin Bodewits. They are amazed that most Dutch people do not even know that there is a piece of ancient nature in almost every sack of potting soil. And that although there are a great number of alternatives.
She even calls it ecological vandalism: “You can only work sustainably if the bag says peat-free!” In Germany, where Karin Bodewits lived for years, it is already normal in the world for garden centres to offer a large selection of peat-free potting soil. In England, there will even be a ban on the sale of peat compost to gardeners around 2024. But we’re unfortunately not there yet in the Netherlands.
Carbon stored in the swamp
Many people, but also garden centres, plant in potting soil which consists mainly of peat. Peat is a natural product consisting of composted plants and mosses from peat bogs. Such a peat area is drained, and then the peat is chopped. Our moors store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests put together. Nevertheless, it only uses a tenth of the country in comparison to the forests.
In other words, peat areas store 20 times more carbon per square meter than the average forest and much more than the rainforest. The swamp is dying from peat extraction. A dead peat bog then releases its stored carbon into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming. The destruction of moors is responsible for 5 to 7 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than all air traffic worldwide.
Good peat-free alternatives based on coconut, bark, or wood are still hard to find, even though they exist. Karin Bodewits: “So it is up to the consumer to ask about these alternatives and to buy them. Hopefully, the peat areas will be preserved. “
Mans Schepers, Assistant Professor of Landscape History: “It just hurts my eyes when I walk into a garden centre like this, all the peat areas that are dug up there. In one way or another, this problem has remained under the radar here in the Netherlands, even though it is really a major disaster.“
Schepers: “By using peat in potting soil, you are burning your CO2 archives, this peat is now storing a lot of CO2 and you are digging up all of this. It really is a totally outdated and unnecessary use. We are all critical of coal and gas while this is a low hanging fruit so you can buy an alternative. “
Source: NPO Radio 1