Peat Moss Isn't Great for the Planet—but There's a More Sustainable Option

Farmer and TikTok creator Jules Giuliano developed Rosy Soil to take the agricultural world one step closer to becoming eco-friendly.

Jules Giuliano knows it's ironic that gardening—something inherently good for the planet—often uses some materials that actually hurt the environment. So he set out to change that: In April 2022, Giuliano launched Rosy Soil, a carbon-negative indoor potting mix. Along with a team of scientists, Giuliano has worked as lead researcher to create a soil with all-natural, sustainable ingredients that deliver nutrients and promote drainage—all while combating greenhouse gasses.

Made up of carbon-negative biochar, vegan compost, and root-boosting mycorrhizae, Rosy Soil doesn't rely on peat moss, the main ingredient in commercial potting mixes. While peat lands make up less than 3% of the Earth's landmass, they sequester more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem. When these lands are mined for peat moss, this carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

"Essentially, we're using one of our most vital natural resources for sinking carbon as a potting mix," Giuliano says. "I don't think it's about being like, 'Oh, you didn't know this' because I didn't know until recently. [At Rosy Soil] we're hopefully trying to educate folks and push the business side toward, 'Hey, let's stop using peat moss and start using biochar instead.'"

Jules Giuliano testing Rosy Soil
Courtesy of Rosy Soil

Giuliano didn't go to college for anything related to agriculture (his degree is in sociology), but about five years ago he made a career switch. Since then, he's expanded his soil knowledge through a variety of farming experiences: harvesting crops at a K-12 school garden in Chicago, winning second place in a Cannabis Cup competition for best indica, working on a research farm at the Rodale Institute in Georgia, managing an organic urban farm in Atlanta. Now, at Rosy Soil, Giuliano has spent the last six months analyzing, formulating, and mixing new soils to create the best mix. At a greenhouse an hour south of Atlanta, he spends days running tests and plant trials, reading up on existing research, and testing soils made with peat moss against those made with biochar—the standout ingredient in Rosy Soil.

Created by heating up organic agricultural waste (like decomposing corn stock or wood), biochar acts as a healthy soil amendment that also stores carbon. According to the Rosy Soil website, ​​for every ton of biochar produced, three tons of carbon dioxide are removed from the carbon cycle. "By opting for biochar, we support an industry that has the potential to sequester ​​2.2-4.4 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2050," reads a report conducted by Rosy Soil to assess the life cycle emissions of the indoor potting mix.

Rosy Soil potting mix on stool with plants
Courtesy of Rosy Soil

The vegan compost and mycorrhizae (a fungi that has a natural relationship with over 90% of land-based plants) in Rosy Soil also contribute to added nutrients plants love without producing any waste or needing added chemicals. The compost also uses only "green or brown waste," accommodating gardeners who prefer to stay away from animal products.

"The compost is awesome," Giuliano says. "It's adding in more microbiology, adding some trace nutrients, minerals that we eat, and also compost of some soil structure. So that's going to help with our drainage or porosity—many other issues that we have with our soil."

Because biochar retains water so well, Giuliano recommends that users water less often (especially because people generally tend to overwater already). Otherwise, the care process doesn't differ from using a commercial mix—but by using a biochar blend instead of peat moss, you're drastically boosting the eco-friendliness of your gardening.

Choosing eco-friendly products isn't the only way to garden sustainably. Giuliano practices growing green by urban composting: collecting leftover food in bins of worms for a month or two before turning them over to his garden or house plants. You can also mulch, plant natives and perennials, save seeds, reuse your soil, and take other small steps to reduce the footprint of your garden.

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