When we moved to the city, I expected more.  I anticipated that everything we had in Traverse City in terms of an education on sustainable practices and healthier farming methods would be 10 times bigger and better here.  What I discovered was a blow to my confidence in us; the human race.  Although the city has devised a wonderful system of public transit, it feels like we’re in the dark ages as far as everything else goes.  Despite living in an ideal climate for growing food, the organic fruit I buy here is imported from Argentina and New Zealand.  Recycling requires a hike through two buildings and a parking garage.  And those things bad are far too easy:  Trash is just down the hall, food is plentiful and inexpensive, albeit unhealthy and unwise and elevators and escalators carry us everywhere.  I stopped recycling altogether, got depressed, ate the organic produce, but rarely cooked anything and I learned to prefer the elevator over the stairs even when heading to the parking garage one floor down. 

Things would have to change – I couldn’t just run the other way and I had made big promises to friends/family back home that I would learn from this experience.  Instead of moping around Charlotte wishing things were different, I’ve devised a simple solution to my complex mental overload:  Start with the small things.  

I thought about the long haul to recycling and also the amount of plastic we are consuming in bottles of water.  These bottles can be easily recycled, they don’t weigh much and it would make for good exercise to do the walk.  We easily go through three cases of water a week, so this saves a bag of trash per week in disposable bottles. 

That’s a start.  

Next, there’s the food issue.  Okay, I can’t get local produce and I can’t even find the name of a farmer – even on the produce coming from New Zealand, but that doesn’t mean I need to snub cooking altogether.  There is organic produce to be had and the more I buy it and cook it, the more the stores will order.  In 1970, when Oryana opened its doors in Traverse City, few people were considering organic.  Over time, as more and more people shopped, the co-op grew and lives were changed for the better.  This may not be 1970, but we have to start somewhere and it might as well be now.  

Besides shopping at the Home Economist, perhaps I’ll befriend a clerk, so it feels more like home – where everyone knows your name.  And at some point, I could suggest they do away with plastic bags, since plastic bags are so difficult to recycle, even when they make it that far.  Imagine one store getting rid of plastic!  That’s a huge improvement.  

And then there’s exercise.  Not only am I walking my dog, but I’m going to use these walks as an opportunity to get to know the neighborhood – to see what changes are already taking place – to possibly meet like-minded folk who want to make a difference in their corner of the city.  

Every moment is an opportunity for change and even little changes lead to big changes, so don’t be afraid to take the partial road sometimes.  I may not be able to recycle the materials I could back home and I may not know the farmers who grow my food or the cows who make the milk, but somewhere, there are people making these changes and those people inspire people like me who make changes that inspire others.

Changes like seeds that lead to bigger things.

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