Geek Trivia

A Canadian Environmental Group Encouraged People To Bury What In Their Gardens To Test Soil Quality?

#2 Pencils
Cutting Boards
Phone Books
The First Animal To Circle The Moon Was?

Answer: Underwear

When your job is to promote awareness of a very important but very unglamorous topic, you’ve got to get creative. That’s exactly the position the Soil Conservation Council of Canada found themselves in when getting ready to promote their spring “National Soil Conservation Week”, intended to raise awareness about serious issues related to soil like erosion, nutrient depletion, and how the loss of soil health can impact everyone. That’s important, of course, but not exactly a grab-you-by-the-lapels sort of affair.

To draw attention to the awareness week, the council took a tongue-in-cheek approach and ran a “Soil Your Undies” ad campaign encouraging people to go bury their underwear out in their yards. The ad campaign wasn’t just a play on words, however, but based on hard science. The goal of the test, as explained in the ad, was to assess the health of the soil in your yard. By burying a pair of undyed 100 percent cotton underwear in the soil and returning two months later to retrieve the now “soiled” undies, people could see how healthy or unhealthy the soil in their yards was based on what the underwear looked like upon retrieval.

If the underwear looked dirty but intact, that would indicate the soil’s health was low since there weren’t enough organisms in the soil to break down the cotton fabric. If all that was left, on the other hand, was the elastic waistband, then that indicated the soil was teeming with microbes and other organisms that had happily feasted on the cotton.

Image courtesy of Soil Conservation Council of Canada.