By Robert Burgess
New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill staff

News about climate change – 2017 was particularly hot – can seem daunting, even hopeless at times. What can one person really do to make a difference? A lot, actually. We challenge you to try a new kind of diet in 2018. The Carbon Diet. Much like Weight Watchers, the Carbon Diet is all about portion sizes. Except, in this case, we’re not talking about just what’s on the dinner plate, but what’s in your life. Using less fossil fuels, eating less processed food, giving more to green charities, and increasing the portion of plants in your life … these are practical steps you can take. The cumulative effect could change – and save – the world.


1) Start a vegetable garden. If you’re new to gardening, start with a four foot by eight foot raised bed, made from untreated wood from your local lumber store. Pick a sunny spot in your yard, fill it will bags of organic compost, and you’re off!

Visit New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill’s annual plant sale or buy some seedlings at your local nursery to get started: Nearly foolproof veggies include cherry tomatoes, summer squash, Swiss chard, and bush beans.

If you don’t have space for a garden bed, you could see if there are any Community Gardens in your area that would lease you a spot for the growing season. New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill has classes for you to hone your skills and a wonderful vegetable garden that’s worth the visit for inspiration alone. Square Foot Gardening is a solid book to start with and your gardening friends will have other great suggestions.

Already have a kitchen garden? Maybe it’s time to expand! Your garden will reduce the number of food miles your dinner has to travel, thus reducing the amount of fossil fuel needed to ship produce across the country, and in some cases across the Americas. If we all had one four by eight veggie garden and a compost pile to go with it, the positive effects would add up. In addition, nothing will get you as in tune with the earth’s natural cycles like tending a garden.

2) Think about your yard as a potential edible landscape. Maybe start with planting one edible item each spring. Consider bushes like blueberry, hazelnut, and high bush cranberry, brambles like raspberry and blackberry, trees like heirloom apple and pear varieties, and vines like grapes and arctic kiwis.

Do you need your lawn for a practical reason (kid sports, barbecues, etc.) or does it exist for aesthetic reasons? If it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to start transitioning that space into an attractive, low maintenance pollinator meadow or food forest. You’d be reducing your food miles, you’d be reducing the fossil fuels needed to produce food on an industrial scale, and you would be planting perhaps the best means of sequestering ca