When most people imagine a greenhouse, they imagine a modestly sized glass shed in a backyard. You might think that these small greenhouses can’t have any major impact on the environment, right?
But these small hobby greenhouses aren’t the only kinds out there. There are large, commercial greenhouses used by big farms to supply countries with produce.
When you factor in all the types of greenhouses out there, the question of if greenhouses help the environment gets a little more complex.
In this post, we’ll do our best to unravel the question for you so you have a clear understanding of the answer.
Quick Answer: Do Greenhouses Help the Environment?
Maybe. Small greenhouses provide a lot of benefits for the environment, such as allowing people to grow their own food and using less water.
But huge, commercial-scale greenhouses can use a lot of heating and cooling, which consumes large amounts of energy.
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How Greenhouses can Help the Environment
Greenhouses can still, like their names, be pretty green. There are undeniably some real environmentally friendly advantages to them, including the following:
- Reduced water consumption.
- Allowing people to grow their own food.
- Use of ethical and sustainable building materials.
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They use less water than open-air gardens.
One of the greatest gifts greenhouses have for the environment is water conservation. We’ve discussed it more deeply here, but we’ll cover the bases again briefly.
In short, greenhouses don’t need as much water as gardens outside. There’s a combination of factors behind it, but the main one is that the water used to water your plants does not evaporate as quickly in a greenhouse.
You can grow your own food in them.
Greenhouses make it possible for the average person to grow some of their own food. Growing your own food cuts down on the energy and waste produced by transporting produce to stores.
Additionally, you have way more control over what goes into growing your own produce. You can choose not to use chemical sprays or pesticides, but you can’t always guarantee this is the case with produce from a grocery store.
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Their materials can be ethically and sustainably sourced.
Many greenhouses can be made from recyclable and sustainable materials. For instance, wood is a common material for greenhouse frames, and it can be sourced ethically.
Aluminum greenhouses also dominate the market. There is a bit of trouble with these, as aluminum itself needs a lot of energy to be made. The good side to aluminum, though, is that it lasts for a long time and can be recycled when it reaches the end of its lifespan.
The panels themselves are another point of green possibility. Many are made from glass, which is another recyclable material.
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Improving the Eco-Friendliness of Greenhouses
Earlier, we mentioned that commercial greenhouses can consume jaw-dropping amounts of energy. This is especially the case if they’re situated in countries that go through cold winters, because those greenhouses need to have comprehensive heating.
Fortunately, strides have been made in the Netherlands to reduce the amount of energy used by commercial greenhouses. An agricultural engineer named Piet Sonneveld has designed a new kind of greenhouse that helps ensure the ideal growing climate for crops, even in the at-times cold Dutch countryside.
The downside to this innovative new design is that it’s currently far more expensive than making a traditional greenhouse. In time, though, we may see the costs of this new greenhouse prototype decrease, making it more feasible to use all around the world.
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Like many other things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to using greenhouses. A small, personal greenhouse can do a lot for the environment, while larger ones can use a stunning amount of energy just to keep themselves heated or cooled.
The good news is that people are innovative, and new designs are being worked on to improve the environmental friendliness of greenhouses.