The past year has left many of us with the sinking feeling that events have been spinning out of control. Indeed, we are all experiencing unprecedented time, and troubling ones as well. But, when it comes to getting our world under control — even if we cannot do that for a lot of external events evolving around us — our gardens have an uncanny way of putting things into perspective — grounding us in reality. They can offer us a degree of self-determination.

While as gardeners we recognize there are a lot of things we cannot control — the weather for one — we also have the opportunity to exercise a number of decisions. For example, when we grow tomatoes, lettuce or green beans from seed, we have a cornucopia of a variety of choices. Plus, we can decide where and what we want to plant, and we can change the consistency and fertility of the soil in which we plant. We can plan and design our gardens to suit our taste, and to make the most of environmental conditions in which they exist. We can also decide to make our gardens environmentally safe by eschewing the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers as well.

The global news on climate change is not good. There are plenty of reasons to reduce our carbon footprint and give Mother Nature a helping hand. As gardeners we know our immediate environment, and many of us may have already noticed the changes that impact our landscapes and crops. Weather extremes are the first thing that come to mind, and indeed climate change is impacting that. Many of us have already observed these alarming changes in declining bird and butterfly, and even dramatic reductions in insect populations. So, where to begin?

We can start with the lawn. According to the Audubon Society, America’s largest irrigated crop isn’t corn or soy— it’s grass. By eliminating, or drastically reducing turf, the impact is multifold. A simple change can mean less or no water for irrigation, few or no chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used, no need for gas-dependent mowers, edgers and leaf blowers, which means no gasoline, no exhaust and NO noise pollution. Just think about it. To begin with, it drastically reduces the need for expensive maintenance equipment. Ahhh, I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel calmer already.

The most important climate action you can take at any level, but especially at the national one, is to vote for the candidates who are ready to take meaningful steps toward curbing carbon emissions and tackling climate change. Audubon Society says: Our path to a greener future must be one in which everybody has a say — most of all those who are already suffering from a warming planet. Climate change is a crisis, but it can also be an opportunity to create a more just world.

Next step is outdoors. Take time to remember what we are working to save. Get outside in your yard or the woods and take note of the birds. Go often, and remember to leave nothing behind but footsteps, and take nothing but photographs. You are already getting healthier, and you are getting to understand just what is at stake.

Okay, now take a look at your diet. Not an examination of the calories in that doughnut you had for a mid-morning snack, but what you are eating every day. Consider the number of gallons of gas each person would save by swapping beans for a five-ounce steak one day a week for a year — 38 gallons. Or, to put another way, that’s a five-percent decrease in a typical home’s annual electricity use. But, the swap of beans for that steak is also a win-win for your body’s overall health as well. See how this works?

“With your own carbon footprint under control, it’s time to level up your impact by encouraging those around you to take climate actions. But where to start?” asks the Audubon Society.

“Consider the local communities and spaces where you already have connections and influence — your child’s school, say, or a social hub like a coffee shop. By merely showing up and making your case, you can lead others toward climate-friendly policies and practices. It’s not always easy, but it’s often productive — and rewarding. Along the way, you’ll develop new relationships and skills that will help you become an ace climate advocate.”

In the meantime, have a happy New Year, and consider it your opportunity to fashion your own quiet revolution.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.