No-cost Or Low Cost Ways to Maintain Your Local Environment
You can’t be a prepper and grow some of your own food if the air and the soil you live in so toxic that nothing will grow properly, or the air is so foul that both children and adults develop asthma and related conditions. Counteracting these trends is a prep! Not a traditional prep, it’s true, but helping provide cleaner air and a living environment is definitely preparing for a better future.
I’m a prepper, absolutely. But I’m also an environmentalist, and the two are potentially clashing less and less as the news of accelerating climate change starts to dominate the news. Prepping isn’t just about stashing tins of beans and packs of bandages; it isn’t even about learning skills such as compass reading or first aid. Prepping starts with knowing what risks you may be exposed to locally and working from there. For instance, these are some of the pre-existing environmental risks in the UK, known about for quite a few years:
- Flooding. Some flooding is predictable: the eastern coast of the UK, London, the Somerset Levels, Cumbria, they all flood regularly.
- Storms. The western coast of Scotland, the North Sea, and Cornwall, are all very exposed to Atlantic or north easterly storms that can be incredibly violent.
- South east England has less and less rainfall, droughts are declared more and more regularly.
- Moorland all over the country is a fire risk, and can create a flood risk for the surrounding towns at other times.
But those are only what to expect. One of the most striking aspects of climate change, that was noticed but not understood at first, is that the unexpected happens all the time, all over the world. Here in the UK, that means that records are broken, places get flooded that have never been flooded before, heatwaves are hotter, new illnesses get a footing here that we haven’t experienced in hundreds of years, the list goes on. And being a prepper in this sort of world means thinking, as clearly as possible, about what’s happening, about what might happen, and what action you can take to keep you and yours safe.
It’s not enough to say “Oh, the Chinese are polluting everything, individual action doesn’t mean anything”. The UK was the country that started industrialisation, remember: we were doing it first, and we were doing it for hundreds of years, ever since our Industrial Revolution, which nearly all of us learn about in school. So it would be good for us to also be among the first couple of dozen countries to get serious about lessening and then even repairing some of the damage.
There’s nowhere better to start than your own community. The environmental effects of climate change will vary from location to location: if your actions can help your immediate area to withstand the effects of global climate change, then why wouldn’t you take action? Especially when it complements your efforts for your immediate family in terms of preparedness. It isn’t even just about cleaner air and better soil: it’s also about helping pollinating insects to survive.
So here’s what I think are a range of options that will help you as a prepper, and help your town, or your county, survive and even prosper in the coming years. The list contains no-cost or low-cost ways of at worst, lessening your contribution to the problem, and at best, increasing your contribution to the solutions. Go for it, please.
1. Reduce, Re use, Recycle – in a different way
Well yes, this is first and foremost, the most basic thing any of us can do. You don’t want rubbish around to increase the rat population; you want to use older materials for your preps, they’re cheaper and often higher quality; you want to use jam and pickle jars from the supermarket to store your dehydrated veg, or at the very least using whatever recycling facilities exist locally. You can use a lot of “waste” material that would otherwise go to landfill, in a multifuel stove. If you don’t have a multifuel, try to find out who does, and make an arrangement to pass it on to them. Mutual favours build community, and this is good prepping, not environmental martyrdom.
2. Lessen the use of artificial chemicals
They’re meant to do all sorts of things, but the most damaging are the killers, of course. They often kill the population they’re targetted at first, but repeated use means the effects spread out to other insects, and eventually some of the effects spread out to us, causing cancer and other deadly or disabling diseases. Use water in pump sprays, use mulch made from natural materials, use hoes, use natural predators (like nematodes) of our pests (like aphids). Find out about how to make your own cleaning materials: they may still be pretty toxic, but less so; you’ll have an identifiable skill, and you won’t be contributing to the profits of multinational companies who really, really don’t care about your community.
3. Helping birds and insects
There are dozens of ways you can do this – helping steady and protect the local environment, which means your crops won’t be eaten by plagues of one species or another, the worms that aerate your soil will carry on doing it, your chickens will be able to scratch around and dust-bathe to their hearts’ content, giving you more eggs, happy chickens and probably kids who are healthier and happier too:
- nest boxes
- shelter sites
- bee hotels. Most bees are solitary, not belonging to a hive.
- shallow watering spaces (more below, item 6 in the list).
- holding off on autumn pruning until early spring, to provide cover over winter
- setting up leaf composting, as well as normal composting, to re-use local resources in situ.
- letting go of a monoculture lawn. I don’t believe many people who identify as preppers still have the fantasy of “the immaculate lawn”, but I’m listing it here in case there are. Mow it less often, as well.
- using local varieties of plants when you can – they’re better adapted to local conditions, so they’ll need less input from you, and local varieties of insects will be better adapted to using them. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, actually – some plants, and some pest predators, are imported from other parts of the world and prove a real boon. Do your research.
You need fencing, of course you do. When you need to extend or replace it, consider buying an amalgam that uses recycled plastic. The reasoning is simple: all that recycled plastic has to be made into new goods if it’s going to be economically worthwhile for big firms to invest in the plant and machinery to do it, and it would be much better for all of us if the products they made were useful – like fencing – rather than useless – like more ornaments.
Fences can also be adapted to help local wildlife like hedgehogs – rather than being a flat, impermeable barrier, they can have small holes at ground level to let the little ‘hogs through.
Classic prep literature describes thorny plants as good for hedges at the boundaries of a property, and I can’t deny that that’s true. But they can fulfil other functions too: as well as thorny blackberries, check out thorny quinces. I have a quince in my back garden, and it’s loud, really loud, with bees. The flowers bloom early in the year too, which helps the bees even more.
5. Flowering plants
Quinces in the hedges leads me on naturally to flowers in the garden, as well as other plants that are loved by insects of all sorts. Other flowers are popular with insects too: ivy is another great early plant, and provides ground cover or privacy, depending on where it’s trained. Marigolds and nasturtiums are good companion plants. Poppies drive some insects crazy and later on give us their edible seeds.
6. Ponds and drinking stations
Almost every animal and bird you see needs some form of open water – birds need to bathe their feathers, frogs need to spawn and let their tadpoles mature, and almost everything needs to drink (usually feral cats don’t drink, as they get all the necessary moisture from their prey, but they’re a very small exception to the general rule). Use whatever shallow container you’ve got, like in my picture, and put a few stones in, enough to help out anything that falls in. Don’t forget that if you use tap water, you should let it stand for at least 24 hours. Rainwater is fine whenever you use it.
Using the right mulch is great in the garden: it gradually improves the quality of your soil, it enables you to get rid of weeds very easily because they don’t take root in the soil, it reduces evaporation from the soil so that your plants need less water from you, and it provides a home for all sorts of little insects creeping about in your garden, all of which live in harmony with your plants and you, if you give them a chance.
8. Household chemicals
We mostly use chemicals as part of our cleaning routines, I think. It’s become obvious from recent research that we use chemicals too often, in greater quantities than we need, and that the chemicals themselves are much harsher than they need to be. I’m a novice at this part of things, so I need to research and that will mean another post, but I know it can be done. If anyone has pointers to authoritative websites, let us know in the comments section.
PS about feeding sugar to bees. I was going to include that in the list above under No 3, ways of helping insects. It’s a much more complex issue than it might first appear (what isn’t …) so it gets it’s own post in due course.
So there we are: eight routes to helping your local environment, dozens of possible actions, all of which will help matters locally, physically and socially. I’m sure that most of them are being done by the majority of UK preppers, including me, but I know I don’t do all of them. So let’s build some resilience into our local landscape, as well as into our lives and our property, because they’re all interdependent, and a win-win is good for all of us.