Peat-free campaign launches to save our peatlands and fight climate change

We have been hard at work restoring Little Woolden Moss, allowing cotton grass to 'bloom' again

Gardeners are being told to go peat-free as the climate and wildlife crisis lands in our flower beds and hanging baskets.

Three million litres of peat are used by the UK horticulture industry every year, and The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is calling on everyone to go peat-free in their gardens and window boxes and help save our remaining peatlands.

Little Woolden Moss on the border of Salford and Warrington was being commercially extracted for peat until as recently as 2017. This left it a black, desiccated, desolate wasteland, releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. All to fill cheap bags of garden compost and grow the plants that you buy in the garden centre.

Yellow digger extracts black peat against desolate background

Little Woolden Moss during commercial peat extraction for use in the horticultural industry

The Wildlife Trust, which owns the moss, is telling gardeners that this must change and that change begins with everyone taking more care when buying compost and plants for their homes and gardens, and to sign up to the peat-free pledge.

Sarah Johnson, Lancashire Peatlands Initiative Project Manager, said, “Switching to 100 per cent peat-free compost and buying plants from dedicated peat-free growers is one of the simplest and most effective ways that anyone can help to fight climate change and our looming biodiversity crisis.”

Switching to 100 per cent peat-free ... is one of the simplest and most effective ways that anyone can help to fight climate change
Yellow and blue peat-free logo

The peat-free campaign is also asking our supporters to help spread the peat-free message using #PeatFree on social media and making a point of asking for peat-free products when in the garden centre. People could even take the ‘Peat-free garden centre challenge’, seeing how easy/hard it is to find peat-free products when visiting your local garden centre or shopping online, and sharing their experiences using the hashtag.

The government have set a target of phasing out the use of peat in horticulture by 2030, but we hope that with the support of consumer action and market pressures this could be achieved much sooner.

White cotton grass against brown and green background vegetation

We have been hard at work restoring Little Woolden Moss, allowing cotton grass to 'bloom' again

Sarah continues, “Peatlands are a vital natural resource in the fight against climate change, being able to absorb and store twice as much carbon from the atmosphere than forests – but only when they are in a healthy condition. As soon as they are damaged this carbon is released contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, carbon emissions from peatlands account for 5% of the UK’s annual GHG releases.”

Carbon emissions from peatlands account for 5% of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas releases
Source: IUCN

Peatlands also provide homes for lots of rare and specialised wildlife, including the large heath butterfly which was reintroduced to Astley Moss in Greater Manchester for the first time in nearly 150 years in 2020, after habitat destruction made it locally extinct. They also absorb water in storm events, releasing it slowly downstream, providing natural flood mitigation.

Large heath butterfly at Astley Moss

One of the first large heath butterflies to fly on Astley Moss in over 100 years! By Andy Hankinson

Yet globally they are still being destroyed and the peat literally dug out of the ground for use in horticulture.

Many of our most recognisable names have already made the switch to peat-free growing, including Monty Don, who describes using peat in the garden as ‘environmental vandalism’. And with many peat-free composts outperforming their peat-based counterparts in consumer testing, there is really no excuse not to make one small #PeatFree change that could make one big difference.

Sign our petition to ban sales of peat now!