'Fair Share' Is a Principle to Garden and Live By

Think about what resources the planet can provide and how best to share those.

little girl eating raspberries from a bush

Raquel Lonas / Getty Images

Most of us were taught about the importance of sharing as children. So, why do so many forget about the fundamental principle of fair share in daily life?

Modern life is all too often about getting what we can—about acquisition, consumption, accumulation. But when we truly spend the time to think about what "fair share" is and what it really means, it can help us to reorient ourselves on the right track, to do the right thing for humanity and for the world around us.

When I help people live in a greener and more ethical way through my consultancy work, I often talk about fair share. I encourage my clients to think about how they can employ this ethical principle in their gardens and homes and, more broadly, in their lives.

The True Meaning of Fair Share

When we start to think about this topic, the first thing we should think about is what we really mean by fair share.

Generally speaking, this means thinking about what our planet is able to provide, and whether the amount of those resources that we consume causes others, both human and nonhuman, to miss out.

But taking only our fair share of our planet's resources is not just about dividing what is available between all members of the global population. We need to think forward in time, since all too often what we take today steals from future generations. Taking no more than our fair share also means thinking about whether the resources used are finite and, if renewable, how quickly they can regenerate.

Taking only our fair share means finding that sweet spot between the lowest level of comfort, contentment and health, and the limits imposed by our situation and the planet on which we live. Fair share is not about denial. It is not about stinting ourselves or skimping, but rather, about ensuring abundance—not only for ourselves and our own families, but for all.

This cannot be achieved through consideration of primary resource consumption alone. We must also think about how we can reciprocate and give back, how we can return surplus to the system.

Fair Share in the Home and Garden

Thinking about fair share in the home and garden involves thinking about:

  • Everything we buy—namely, reducing our consumption;
  • Energy use—choosing renewables and thinking about how to reduce our needs;
  • Water use—where it comes from and how to conserve it wherever we live;
  • Waste—eliminating it wherever possible and aiming for circularity in systems;
  • Regeneration—how we can avoid an extractive mindset and not only consume but create, recreate, adapt, and grow in every sense of the word.

The last point is key, since fair share is not just about taking only our allotment, but also thinking about how that share can be harnessed to create abundance—for others as well as for ourselves. 

Last weekend, I was out picking some wild raspberries growing on my property. The story here illustrates in one small way how adhering to the ethic of fair share can foster abundance in a garden. The wild raspberries are not cultivated. They were brought here by birds who eat the berries and spread the seeds. But I have nurtured these "gifts" from nature and mulched around them with organic matter from elsewhere on the site. 

I harvested several kilograms of berries from these wild plants. But I also made sure that I left plenty for the birds, who not only spread the seeds creating new plants, but also fertilize the garden and help keep pest numbers down and keep the ecosystem in balance. I then took those raspberries I had harvested and shared them with friends and family.

Over time, I have increased the number of wild raspberries (and plenty of other edible plants) growing where we live, and am working toward a point where we have even more to share with our local community.

Everything is connected, and thinking about fair share means thinking not only about ourselves, but about the role we play within natural and social systems. 

Reaching Out: Promoting Fair Share in Our Communities and the Wider World

We live in an increasingly unequal world, shaped by the global systems around us. But as individuals, we have more opportunity to make a difference than we often imagine. Through our personal actions, we can work in small ways to reduce injustices and inequalities wherever they are found. 

A key component in fair share is the ability to look beyond our own selfish needs and desires, and obtain what we truly need while having empathy and caring for others—be they humans, animals, plants, other organisms, or whole ecosystems beyond ourselves.

Sharing is caring, and this is something we all need to re-learn how to do.