When someone asks if greenhouses are environmentally friendly, we usually think of the little, glass shed we have at the bottom of our garden. This is hothousing on the smallest possible scale and surely can’t have any negative impact on the environment. However, those huge industrial models – the ones used to produce cut roses on Valentines Day and year-round cucumbers – they don’t seem environmentally friendly at all. Be that as it may, new technologies from these behemoth relatives can help garden greenhouse designers put the green back into the greenhouse. And there maybe be ways we can offset the small damage that individual greenhouses create while using our greenhouses more.
Green Where it Counts
The Netherlands recently made headlines when it announced it would soon be able to power all its public transport by wind power. You would think this amazing feat would put the Netherlands at the top of the most eco-friendly countries until you consider that 80% of their agricultural energy usage is used by greenhouses. There’s a good reason for this. The Netherlands is a prolific producer of fruit and veg and due to its northerly location, most of this occurs under glass. However, the Dutch are not content with this statistic and have been working hard to reduce the impact of greenhouses on the environment.
Piet Sonneveld, of Wageningen University, is the name behind the push to develop new technologies. He and his team designed an 80 microns thick film that contains hundreds of coatings of synthetic polymers. This film, when used on greenhouse glass, filters out heat-producing infrared light while at the same time allowing plant nourishing light to enter. In addition, he has backed the use of photovoltaic cells, which produce the electricity needed to heat the greenhouses in the winter, and made these highly efficient by developing curved greenhouse roofs, which magnify the light 30 times.
Bring These Advantages Home
Naturally, designers are eager to incorporate these new technologies into their designs. However, cost and practicality are still a factor. Can a small gardener really be expected to pay for so much high-tech equipment when his greenhouse is being used to raise a few tomato and cucumber plants?
Offset the Damage
However counter-intuitive it may seem, the best way to make your home greenhouse as environmentally friendly as possible is to use it to its full capacity. Food waste and food miles are two subjects we in the UK hear about often. Much of our year-round salad vegetables come from Europe and they are also the food we are most likely to throw away. This is because lettuce and soft fruits, like cucumber, spoil easily. But if you have use of a greenhouse you can reduce both your food miles and your wastage by growing your own and picking when needed. This in itself makes greenhouse gardening a very environmentally friendly choice.