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Growing Your Own

Most people know that driving generates carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming. However, not everyone is aware of the impact that our current food system has on the environment. A UK study conducted in 2001 found that while a typical family’s year of driving generates around 4.4 tons of CO2, producing, processing, packaging, and distributing that family’s food generates 8 tons of CO2.

Our current food system is unsustainable. While traditional agricultural methods require the equivalent of half a calorie of energy to produce a calorie of food, the modern system typically requires around 10 fossil fuel energy calories for each calorie of food energy produced.

Many of the negative environmental impacts of our current food system come from packaging, shipping, and the processing that strips whole foods of important nutrients and adds artificial ingredients. One of the best things you can do for the environment and your health is to grow some or all of your own produce.

Growing produce doesn’t require a huge yard. Most things grow well in containers that can be placed on porches, decks, balconies, and driveways. Some foods, such as leafy green vegetables, herbs, and onions, don’t even require very deep containers.

If you’re just starting out, choose things that tend to grow easily, such as tomatoes, leafy greens, herbs, radishes, strawberries, peas, and beans. If your space is very limited, you can grow cherry tomatoes (which require less room), microgreens (baby leafy greens), and kitchen herbs (many of which can be grown on sunny windowsills year-round). If you have plenty of space but no yard, you can still grow most things – there are even dwarf fruit trees that can do well in large containers.

Have fun with your kitchen garden – experiment to find out which plants work best for you.


Haase, J., From Seed to Table: A Practical Guide to Eating and Growing Green, Insomniac Press, 2009.

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