Friday, January 1, 2016

A greener 2016 and into the future

Outdoor activities should be a regular part of a kid's upbringing.

Reflection on 2015

As the year comes to an end, many people look back to see what went well and what could have gone better. Spending some time with my 13-month-old granddaughter this past week has caused more reflection than normal.

Why do I do it?

When I was on my 35-event, 11-week-long book tour this fall, a couple of people asked me why I worked so hard when I'm supposed to be retired. My husband sometimes asks the same thing. The quick answer is that I think my Florida gardening books, other writing projects, and outreach help people be more successful in creating more eco-friendly landscapes or to help them grow vegetables successfully. All of this is good for the environment.
A poster created for my 3 events in one week in SW Florida.

This was my 3rd book tour and was by far the most successful in reaching people and selling books. I appreciate all the help and support I had from members of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) who created and organized events. Also October was declared to be the first ever Florida's Native Plant Month, which fell right in the middle of my tour dates. Several chapters arranged for special workshops, plant sales, and more to celebrate the month and to get out the word. I was pleased that I was available to help. (I limit my speaking to specific tour dates, otherwise nothing else would get done.)

I enjoy the speaking and I've heard from many people over the years, that my plain, common-sense approach to gardening is what they want to hear. So that's good. If gardeners have good and useful information, they are likely to be more successful and once this happens they'll continue their activities instead of giving up and saying that they have black thumbs.

Let's do the numbers: 35 events with an average of 40 to 50 people attending the meetings and many more at other events. So that means that I reached more than 1,500 people directly. Maybe half of them have started to change their landscaping practices already and maybe another third of them are planning to change. Maybe some of them have joined FNPS and maybe some of their neighbors get good ideas from my direct contacts. You can see where this is going...

Planting native seed helps to restore authenticity
to your landscape. 
Every person who starts using more native plants and begins to use more sustainable landscaping practices is making a difference for the health of his or her local ecosystem and when this is multiplied by my 1,000 gardeners, the total effect is enormous. While it's possible that I could have a similar outcome by just staying home and using social media to spread the word, I think the person-to-person, face-to-face contact is much stronger. At a live event, questions can be answered and knowledge can be demonstrated first hand.

Each person that I convince to be kind to Mother Nature means that our only planet will be that much healthier.

One more note on this book tour compared to the first two, is that people seemed to be much more impressed that I've written three books, which have all been beautifully crafted by University Press of Florida. Thanks again to my wonderful publisher. Of course, I'm now working on a fourth book and a couple of others are not far behind. Stay tuned.

I spoke to FNPS's newest chapter at The Villages and to many other chapters at meetings and at events.
(I was adjusting the microphone box when the photographer snapped the picture.)
Week after week our garbage pick-up is just one small bag.
We don't buy much and recycle everything possible.
The  kitchen scraps go directly into the garden or compost. 

Ways to be greener...

In addition to writing about greener gardening topics, I've also worked to green up my own lifestyle in many ways. I wrote this in my preface to "Sustainable Gardening for Florida", which lists some of the items we work toward:

" If I may get up on my soapbox for a moment. . .
The environment is not something that is separate from us. We are all participants in it. Our actions, lifestyles, consumption are all part of the mix. We won't make much progress if we just talk about "the environment" or if we fund yet another study.  No matter how much we pay for it, talk is cheap. There are many other lifestyle changes that we may make, outside of the scope of this book, that will further reduce our footprints on Florida:
- Recycle more. Fill up the curbside recycling bins with aluminum cans, bottles, and paper; reduce what you throw away. Recycle your old computers. Donate old cars, used clothing, and other usable items to charities.
- Handle hazardous material correctly, and report anyone pouring hazardous waste into the streets or storm drains. Clear debris from the storm drains in your neighborhood, so less organic material enters our waterways.
- Drive less and drive fuel-efficient cars. Walk or ride your bikes more, and lobby for bike paths and village centers so people can find more of what they need close to home.
- Eat lower in the food chain. Eat more vegetables and fruits and less meat—it's better for your health and the health of our environment and reduces the amount of energy required to put food on your table. Of course, if you raise some of your own vegetables and fruit, you're using even less manufactured energy to sustain you and your family.
- Drink filtered (not bottled) water, if tap water offends your taste buds. This will reduce the amount of plastic waste that goes into our landfills and especially into our waterways.

- Install solar panels to augment or replace your hot water heater or to generate some of your own electricity. Use solar powered outside lights, too. Install fluorescent bulbs or LED (light-emitting diode) lights all around.  Cut back on extraneous outdoor lighting--it's better for plants and wildlife to experience darkness at night.
- Insulate your house, use double-glazed windows, install ceiling fans, and then set the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. You may find that 82 or 83 degrees is quite tolerable in the summer if you use fans to move the air. In the winter, set the thermostat lower and dress warmly. Encourage businesses to turn up their air conditioning—it's ridiculous that we have to carry sweaters in the summer.- Consume less and buy items with the least amount of packaging.
- Get involved in neighborhood and local politics to change unsustainable policies concerning lawns, community lands, development, and other environmental issues. Support and vote for public officials who will make greener choices for Florida and the country.

This book is a call to action on a wide assortment of sustainable practices and techniques to use in your gardens and landscapes. But I suspect that you (like most folks) will start with just a few items that make the most sense for your situation. This is fine because when you find that you're saving time and money, you'll include a few more sustainable landscaping practices each season--it's better for the environment and it's addictive. And while you're at it, pass the word. Involve youth groups, community associations, and local governments in sustainable landscape management, and see if you can get the local press interested."
We grow enough produce to reduce our food bill by 15%

Walking the talk...

As an example, I grow enough vegetables so we save 15% on our food bill. The garden has changed our eating and cooking habits. We included many recipes, especially for unusual vegetables in "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida" to help readers get comfortable with cooking to the heir harvest.

50% of the royalties for "Sustainable Gardening for Florida" is automatically paid to The Nature Conservancy for Florida.

Also 50% of the royalties for "The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape" will be automatically donated to the Florida Native Plant Society.

My donations to these and other green, action-oriented organizations makes a difference as well. Walking the talk is the only way to make progress. If you see something that needs doing, don't whine about, just take action yourself. An example of people taking action is a group called Sea Angels who clean up beaches. This year I vow to do even more to help Mother Nature.

The future generations will inherit what we leave

Rainbow carrots for Christmas dinner. Watching butterflies in the garden...
I think it's important that kids understand where food comes from and eating directly from the family garden is better for their health as well. After spending time with my granddaughter this past week, I was reminded that kids are incredibly observant. Even at this age when her vocabulary is extremely limited, she notices everything from the birds and butterflies to the falling leaves and so much more. I hope she retains her curiosity and interest. Too many older kids and adults do not pay attention to their natural surroundings--nature blindness. If they don't notice the natural world, how will they know to protect it?
Sowing green gardening ideas & hoping that many of them take hold in new places and spread from there. As my daughter and granddaughter move into the future, I want to leave the best possible world for them.
For more reading, here are links to some of my articles that cover some more on this topic:
A look back to find lessons for the future
Getting Started with Native Plants in Florida
Why I Love the Florida Native Plant Society!
Eco-activists: a few people can make a real difference
Supporting wildlife beyond your garden gate 

Thanks for reading Green Gardening Matters and I wish you a happy & greener 2016.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


  1. How do you find out more info for installing solar panels?

    1. Good question, Cody. My husband has been the doer on the solar panels and the technology is changing rapidly, so I don't have a good answer for you. Look for a local contractor who can install them for you.

    2. Dear Ginny, I have solar panels. First I got info by finding out what's available in my area. Look in Google. Go from there... "" or ""