This is an area where we can all make an important contribution. Wood derived charcoal is technically carbon neutral. At the moment we import 90% of our charcoal, of which 50% comes from tropical hardwoods. If the whole country bought charcoal that came from coppiced FSC British woodland then more of these forests could be saved and transport emissions would be reduced by 85%. These working forests are one of the few examples of man's industry leaving a beneficial habitat for wildlife and plants. Coppiced woodland is a millennia old tradition where wood is harvested every 7-20 years by cutting trees at ground level prompting the trees to grow multiple stems. This allows light to the forest floor and creates a unique flourishing home to many of our endangered species.
Patio heaters are ridiculously inefficient outdoors, throwing out 7 kilograms of CoČ in just a couple of hours whilst losing 90% of the heat that would be saved if they were put indoors. Firepits and bowls, braziers and chimineas can all be designed to be tidy and practical whilst creating a wonderful atmosphere and a focal point in your garden.
The popularity of patio heaters has increased even further since smoking bans were introduced in restaurants and bars. Here the solution would be to use electric heaters powered by a renewable energy supplier.
There are so many designers and craftsmen pushing the boundaries of what can be done with sustainable wood and recycled materials there really is no need to buy from unethical sources. If buying hardwood outdoor furniture it is advisable to check whether it is FSC certified. Also check the quality of workmanship, as they will have to withstand the elements over the years ahead. Buying second-hand furniture gives a new garden an instant lived in feel and added interest.
Gardens are not particularly dependent on our water resources until times of drought. Normally we use 3% of our water in the garden, but this goes up to 70% in dry summers, when it is likely to coincide with a hosepipe ban. The size of your water reservoir will depend on what plants you have, and the size of your garden. A small shrub can transpire 200ml a day whereas an established birch will need to replace the hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of litres it can transpire in a day. A water butt or two may be sufficient, or you may feel you need to install larger over or underground storage units. These can be filled with rainwater from the roof or even through gaps in specially designed paving under a terrace or front drive. This can then be used for irrigation or as grey water indoors. A water feature or pond in a garden is great for wildlife. There are renewably powered water features and natural water cleaners that mean this does not have to be an environmentally exhaustive option. These ponds could also be reed beds, cleaning the water from indoors for outdoor use.
Natural swimming pools are real alternatives these days; even old pools can be converted. A minimum of 50sq.m. of water is needed for it to be effective and they can look amazing. It is initially more expensive than conventional pools but it recoups this in the long run because annual maintenance costs are significantly lower.
Aesthetically lighting is always more effective when used sparingly. Incredible images can be created with lighting design, but attention needs to be paid to disturbance to neighbours and wildlife.
At the moment Solar panels (PV) aren't really a low-energy solution. They often come under attack from environmentalists because of the amount of energy involved in their manufacture. It is more efficient to run them off the mains with renewable supplier such as www.good-energy.co.uk
Responsible positioning and use will reduce the impact on wildlife. It is known that lighting may distract bats, owls and moths, disturb animal's breeding habits and awake birds and confuse them into singing before dawn
It is normally common practice to have a tidy up in late Autumn to get rid of dead plants. However it is a good idea to use as many herbaceous perennials as possible that have attractive skeletal forms over the winter months and leave them until new shoots start to appear. This is more natural for the plants, sustains much more life that will benefit your garden later on and continues the visual interest in the barer winter months.