A Year of Drops: Start a Garden

by Katie LaFond

Step 8: Start a Garden

Your own yard is the most local food possible!

  • Inside: put containers (pots, window boxes) in your southern facing windows. Herbs and small things like carrots and bush beans work well.
  • Your local garden center can help you learn how to care for your plants. Consider your soil and make sure it has enough drainage.
  • Outside you have a lot of options. You can make your garden as complicated or simple as
    Photo by Irene Kightley, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Irene Kightley, used under a Creative Commons License

    you’d like. Start small, add to it each year, educate yourself, read lots of books and ask for help.

  • You can have your soil tested for contaminants cheaply, usually through your local university extension center.  In Massachusetts, UMass does this.
  • Container gardens can be a great option for those in condos or apartments. These can be in or outside, and depending on the size of your container, can be as simple or complex as you’d like.
  • Rooftop gardens are quickly catching on in the city. Community gardens are also popular.
  • Start with easy to grow items: beans, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and squash like zucchini and butternut.
  • Plant bee- and butterfly-friendly plants like milkweed, bee balm, black-eyed susans and sunflowers to keep your local bee populations fed and healthy
  • Buyer beware: pesticides are sometimes present in plants you can buy. Last year I was dismayed to learn that there were plants for purchase at a large popular store that kill bees when they visit them. Visit a local garden center where you can talk to an expert and get ideas. It might be a little more expensive in the moment, but well worth it in the long run.


This is part nine in Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local).

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A Year of Drops: Buy Local

by Katie LaFond

Step 7: Buy Local

Where do your things come from? Try to source as many of the things you use within a 100 mile radius of your home, and choose options that are in line with your values

  • Candles are often made of paraffin, which comes from fossil fuels; look for beeswax instead.
  • Buy what you can locally. Not only does it stimulate the local economy, it means that items aren’t being shipped cross-country to your home, which burns fossil fuels.
  • Large companies have the benefit of established infrastructure to efficiently move
    Photo by Richard Walker, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Richard Walker, used under a Creative Commons License

    materials, but they are often moving them long distances, burning fossil fuels. If your item is not available at smaller, local shops, check freecycle, craigslist, and your circle of friends before buying an item that is being shipped long distances.

  • Support your local artisans! Many old arts (soap making, candle making, cider pressing, and more) are being reclaimed, and each time we choose to buy locally, we’re supporting the kind of communities we want to live in.
  • Do you often have items shipped to your house? While it is convenient for our busy lifestyles, it means that fossil fuels are being burned to ship things to your house. Try to combine shipped purchases into larger orders to reduce the number of trips being made to your house. Currently, I’m working hard at this, as I struggle with my love of Amazon Prime and Groupon.

This is part eight of Katie’s thirteen-part series on walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food).