The peat bogs of the British Isles contain more carbon than all the forests of France and Germany combined. It is vital that we keep them in a healthy state to keep all that carbon locked away so that it does not contribute to climate change. As long as they are wet and growing, they act as carbon sinks but if they are allowed to dry out or to be dug up, they become a major source of carbon emissions. There are some easy things we can all do to help stop that happening and there are some more challenging things.
The easiest thing is to stop buying peat based compost for the garden. There are plenty of peat free composts on the market. They look and behave a little differently but perform the same function. So step one is:
INSIST ON PEAT FREE COMPOST.
If it doesn’t say it is peat free on the label don’t buy it.
The horticultural industry keeps saying it will phase out peat voluntarily, but it keeps missing its own targets. The government does not seem willing to legislate so it needs us to pressure garden centres and other shops to stop selling peat-based composts. The Coop has already done so, and we need the other retailers to follow suit. So, step two is:
TALK OR WRITE TO YOUR RETAILER TO ASK THEM TO STOP SELLING PEAT BASED COMPOST.
This is a little harder, but they won’t bite if you tell them you would like to see more peat free alternatives. They want your business. Remember it is not just the bags of compost but the the pots of plants are probably also being grown in peat based compost.
Relatively little horticultural peat comes from the UK as most of it is imported from Ireland but there is still a lot we can do to preserve our peat. Here in the Dark Peak, Moors for the Future has planted thousands of hectares of sphagnum moss on old eroded peat and has successfully restored many of our upland peat bogs to being active carbon sinks. The government has bought out the extraction rights for some of our lowland peat bogs so they are no longer dug up and can be restored. We need to see lots more of this good work. Step three is:
CAMPAIGN FOR THE RESTORATION AND PROTECTION OF OUR PEAT BOGS.
Garden Organic is leading a campaign to protect our peat and they need your help. Do sign their petitions and contribute to their campaigns. www.forpeatssake.org.uk. Write to your MP and local councillors about the issue. Ask if the council is still using peat and when it plans to stop.