Good things may come in small packages, but is the same true for forests and climate? A new Tiny Forest craze is spreading, following what’s become known as the Miyawaki Method (after its creator Dr. Akira Miyawaki) of densely planting three to five species per square meter, and layering low, medium, and tall plant species to create a miniature forest bursting with life.

Neglected spaces like highway shoulders and junkyards can be planted and cultivated into tiny forests, delivering local benefits to people like lower temperatures and cleaner air, and habitat for animals that can take refuge in the miniature ecosystem. And crucially for the climate, these tiny forests mature ten times faster, reaching in just a couple decades the state of carbon-absorbing maturity that a normal forest needs a century to achieve.

All that said, tiny forests are no replacement for the real thing, as they require consistent upkeep from locals and expect a significant mortality rate over the long term as the forest matures. “A Miyawaki forest may be like a drop of rain falling into the ocean,” Dr. Kazue Fujiwara told the New York Times, “but if Miyawaki forests regenerated urban deserts and degraded areas around the world it will create a river. Doing nothing is the most pointless thing.” (New York Times $)