People are planting WWI-style victory gardens—even those of us without green thumbs
Annie Reneau

I've never been a gardener. I love the idea, but my history of killing plants isn't terribly inspiring. However, this year is different. I am doggedly determined to grow all the things because I will not allow 2020 to defeat me.

Is there a better symbol of hope than a garden? Planting a seed means you believe the future is imminent. Watching a sprout emerge from the soil and grow into a flourishing plant means life goes on. In addition, reaping the fruits and veggies of your efforts and giving thanks for the bounty that nature provides is perhaps the most basic, fundamental human act I can think of.


During World War I, Americans were encouraged to plant "victory gardens" to provide food during the war—and they undoubtedly came in handy during the pandemic that overlapped with the end of the war. (Side note: Holy cow, those people were tough.) While our food supply has held up so far in this pandemic, we don't know what will happen in the coming year or so before a vaccine becomes available. Growing some extra food seems as prudent as it is poetic.

Not only that, but gardening is good for you. Research from Princeton University has found that gardening at home had a powerful impact on a person's emotional well-being—just like biking, walking or dining out. The benefits crossed racial demographics as well as urban and rural locations. And vegetable gardening in particular had a stronger benefit than ornamental gardening, which provides mainly aesthetic value.

But what if you're not a natural gardener? What if you don't know where to start? What if you don't have any space to garden?

Even if you're short on land and experience, you can still plant your own little victory garden. If you have a patio or balcony, or any bit of outdoor space, you can use containers instead of outdoor garden beds. My family has space in our yard, but decided to use containers anyway because it's a lot easier than tilling the ground, preparing the soil, etc.

The previous owners of our house had left a few plastic planters, but to supplement them we bought a pack of these grow bags. They're basically fabric pots—they almost feel like felted wool—and they're more affordable than plastic or ceramic containers. They also designed for healthy aeration of the soil, which sounds like something fancy gardeners say. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds important.


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You can even choose different sizes of grow bags to accommodate your space and what you want to plant.

One nice thing about container gardening is that you don't have to have a lot of tools. A simple set of small shoveling tools and some gardening glove will suffice. I learned quickly that digging your hands in the dirt without gloves might sound rustic and romantic, but it dries your hands and nails out something fierce.

And yet another advantage of container gardening is that you don't have to figure out how to get your ground soil ready for planting. According to my gardener-by-nature friends, everyone's soil is different, so there's different things you have to add to it and mix into it to get the right balance of minerals— blah blah blah. No thank you. I want to be able to put my seeds or my plant into the dirt and go. With container gardening, you just buy a bag of potting soil (available at any garden center—we got ours at Walmart), dump it in the pot and voila! Ready-to-plant garden.

Lastly, you have to decide what to plant. If you've not gardened before, start with things that are easy and quick to grow, like peas and beans. Look at my beans and peas! I'm doing it! I'm doing it!

Annie Reneau

You also might consider starting with small plants instead of the seeds. They can take a while to germinate, depending on what you're growing and If you don't get an early start indoors, you might find growing from seed frustrating. That also depends on where you live. I live in the north, where we have a limited growing season.

Apparently, beginning gardening books are flying off the virtual shelves as more and more people are using social distancing time to plant a victory garden. But if video is more your speed, I highly recommend the YouTube channel Epic Gardening. Kevin Espiritu used to be like me—a know-nothing, wannabe gardener—and now he helps people learn how to grow stuff. He's delightful and so helpful:

Epic Gardening Channel Trailer www.youtube.com

If nothing else, a garden gives you a way to help life flourish (hopefully) and a place to see progress when it seems like the world is slipping backwards. Good luck, novice gardeners!

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.