Can One Gardener Really Make a Difference?

For some people, there comes a point when gardening becomes more than a hobby — it becomes a symbol of making a difference.

Meet Shawna Coronado: green lifestyle evangelist, gardening author and blogger and social change agent. Geobunga’s very own Andrew Dedrick met her last week at the Farwest Trade Show in Portland.


Shawna lives by the motto, “one person can make a difference.” And how does she do this? It all started several years ago in Shawna’s Chicago neighborhood when she decided to add some color and beauty to the public easements.

She single-handedly planted this 200 ft. garden behind her back yard on the public easement:

The garden not only transformed the aesthetic of the neighborhood, it also created food and brought people together.

It didn’t take long before Shawna’s neighbors approached her with thanks and hugs. “Sweet neighbors left me gifts and ‘love letters’ telling me stories of their lives and thanking me,” she wrote.

Trouble ensued a few years later. The city of Chicago decided to single out Shawna and fine her a hefty “garden tax” for planting in public right-of-ways. Fed up with bureaucracy and determined to take a stand, Shawna took her story to the Internet and TV.


Her story was picked up on radio stations and featured on WGN News national TV (see the video above), earning her the accidental title of “Guerrilla Gardener.” She eventually filed the necessary paperwork, paid a modest fee and avoided the fines — but the frustration over this type of “gardening tax” — which is prevalent in communities nationwide — still remains.

A different view of Shawna’s guerrilla garden


Thankfully, the public attention and support Shawna received from her taking a stand helped boost her career. Today she shares her message, recipes and “casual gardener” expertise around the world through her blog, books and popular YouTube channel.

In Shawna’s TED talk, she says her guerrilla garden really opened her eyes to how one person really can make a difference, even at the community level.


A garden is not just a garden. It’s about feeding the hungry, reducing crime, making a difference in your community, beautifying your community and economic feasibility.

For Shawna, it all started with a little community spirit and the desire to make her neighborhood more beautiful.

Do you have any community projects you’re working on or ideas you’d like to see come to life in your neighborhood?

Image credits: ShawnaCoronado.com

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