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How We Can Grow Our Way to a More Resilient Future

It is impossible to ignore that our climate is changing. Record breaking temperatures, wildfires, large coastal storms, flooding, droughts, and a shifting natural world are becoming our everyday reality. 

It can be hard to face a problem like climate change and not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, it is easy to recoil and feel discouraged about taking action. Even trying your best to avoid single use plastics, fossil fuels, and other environmentally harmful products can quickly become a source of anxiety and guilt when we fall short of “perfect”.  We often end up feeling discouraged and powerless, wondering if our personal actions make a difference in comparison to the decisions being made by governments and multinational corporations. 

So what can we do to really make a difference and not get discouraged? 

We can change our perspective toward our role towards relieving the climate emergency by changing the habits and impacts within our own personal control. We can turn to nature - a resilient, interconnected system that is shaped by cycles and patterns much larger than any one individual. 

Growing an Ocean Friendly Garden is a part of the nature-based solutions revolution. The Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program promotes strategies that prevent water pollution, build biodiversity, and create climate resilience with the help of home and community gardeners. Gardens can restore our connection to nature as we support a living network that can heal itself when given the chance. We all have the ability to help restore balance in the environment, to take control of our future with resilient systems that have existed for as long as life itself. 

While global leaders, grassroots activists, and organizations like Surfrider work together to negotiate long term, far reaching solutions to the climate crisis, we can all start today by growing a better future at home and in our communities. Instead of being overwhelmed by what we can’t do or what we can’t give up, we can instead devote our yards, containers, community gardens, and neglected public spaces to make a positive impact. Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program is approaching the climate problem with nature on our side by creating and stewarding green spaces that mimic natural watersheds, planting lush arrays of native plants, and encouraging people to opt out of harmful chemicals.


How do Ocean Friendly Gardens help reduce the impacts of climate change? 

Ocean Friendly Gardens retain and filter rainwater, preventing ocean-bound stormwater pollution while creating healthy soils that store carbon long term. By avoiding climate-intensive maintenance and creating native plant habitat, we are nurturing networks of nature and cooling our communities.

Reduce urban heat

Surfaces like streets, sidewalks, and buildings make hotter temperatures even more unbearable in our cities and neighborhoods. Gardens and plants in urban areas can reduce nearby temperatures by 7° F, which can make a big difference on a hot summer day.

Increase biodiversity

The world has seen an average 68% drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian populations since 1970. While many animals face new challenges driven by climate change and habitat loss, we can ease their struggles with native plants that offer familiar food, shelter, and dependability in a changing environment. Every yard is an opportunity to restore local habitat and boost biodiversity. 

Absorb & store carbon in healthy soils

Soil is one of the largest pools of carbon on the planet, storing more carbon than living plants and animals on land. Deep rooted plants, mulch, and compost can all help support healthier soils that sequester carbon for the future.

Reduce runoff & rehydrate watersheds

Small-scale rain gardens and curb cuts can reduce the amount of runoff from a neighborhood by 90%. A single established tree can prevent over 1600 gallons of urban runoff from polluting the ocean. Simple contours and bioswales can redirect rainfall into the ground, while rain barrels and cisterns prevent runoff and provide irrigation. 

Conserve water

Grass lawns cover 40 million acres in the U.S., over three times the area of any irrigated crop. About a third of the water used in our homes is devoted to watering lawns and gardens, which can be greatly reduced by using native and climate appropriate plants that thrive without wasting water. 


Reduce the carbon footprint of your yard

Gas powered lawn mowers, blowers, trimmers, and hedgers in the U.S. release over 20 million tons of carbon dioxide and 6 million tons of toxic air pollution every year, and gardeners spill 17 million gallons of fuel a year just in refueling these tools. By mowing less frequently, switching to electric, or swapping out high maintenance turf and hedges for better suited plants, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint. 

Rethink fertilizer use

Gardeners in the U.S. use 840 million pounds of chemical fertilizers a year with an impact of between 3 to 10 tons of carbon emissions per 1 ton of fertilizer. These potent nutrients fuel harmful algal blooms and high levels of bacteria, often making waterways and beaches unsafe for humans and wildlife after it rains. Compost and mulch can provide organic nutrients that are less likely to wash away, and native plants are adapted to thrive without chemical fertilizers. 


Keep organics out of landfills

Food scraps and yard trimmings make up 33% of our total waste production and produce 20 times more methane in landfills than when they are composted. For every 1 pound of food waste composted, the equivalent of over ½ pound of CO2 pollution is prevented

Support personal & community well-being

The amount of plant cover and the abundance of birds has been linked to less depression, anxiety, and stress in people dwelling in cities, promoting positive mental health. Ocean Friendly Gardens can help inspire environmental stewardship while creating equitable access to connect with nature. 


We have the potential to tackle climate change in multiple ways by simply gardening better. To plant a plant and watch it grow through the seasons is a powerful and inspiring source of hope, a reminder that we can positively change our surroundings and be a force of good. 

Every rain garden, every pollinator plant, every gallon of pollution prevented with watershed-friendly landscaping makes our coastlines and communities more resilient and adaptable to climate change while while we work toward large scale, long term solutions. Get growing with Ocean Friendly Gardens, and let’s create a greener future together! 

Learn more about Climate Solutions in Ocean Friendly Gardens on Beachapedia.