What is Sustainability?
In the 1980s, the term ‘sustainability’ began to be applied to ‘environmental sustainability’. This refers to ‘the degree to which a process or enterprise is able to be maintained or continued while avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources’ (OED).
“Wherever possible the Botanic Garden works to reduce the materials used, to limit the chemical inputs and to recycle as much as possible.”
Why is Sustainability important? The Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (July 1995/2), stated: ‘Sustainability in the management of both individual wild species and ecosystems … is critical to human welfare.’
Sustainability in the Garden
The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is committed to practicing sustainable holistic horticulture. This holistic approach includes limiting the amounts of chemicals used, recycling where possible and encouraging natural pest control in the garden. It is the Botanic Garden’s policy to encourage wildlife, Biodiversity, to use natural pest control, to recycle waste and to avoid the need to water. Read more about the Garden’s A sustainable approach.
One of the most visible demonstrations of a sustainable approach in the Botanic Garden is the Dry Garden developed in 1997.
The Dry Garden
Rising to the challenge to concerns about the unreliability of annual rainfall and its effect on water supplies in Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, a Dry Garden was developed with a small grant from Cambridgeshire Water Company in 1997. Its creators, Peter Orriss and Norman Villis selected a range of attractive native British plants along with Mediterranean plants to create an ‘average’ local garden. Their aim was to produce an attractive, colourful year-round garden with drought-tolerant plants that require little or no watering. The Dry Garden includes paving, planted terracotta pots and hedges which have never been watered.
Composting is the reuse and recycling of green waste within the Garden. Green waste refers to plant matter – twigs, branches, leaves, grass cuttings – that can be shredded into small particles and allowed to compost for a period of time. The process of composting allows natural micro-oganisms – bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes – to break down the organic waste. Macro-organisms, or insects – including slugs, worms and flies – aid composting by breaking the organic matter down further into microscopic pieces.