Turns out it is easy being green
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Across the country, more and more Americans are embracing “green living” in new and creative ways. Over the past decade, there has been growing concern about environmental issues such as increased use of fossil fuels, as well as endless speculation—and debate—about global warming. Regardless of one's personal beliefs, it's hard to argue with the principles behind green living, which primarily focus on the three R's—reduce, reuse, and recycle. In recent years, more Oklahomans than ever are getting on board with eco-friendly living, and more businesses are going green as well.
Ian and Deanna Norris of Edmond are the parents of three children. For the past few years, they have worked to instill the importance of being environmentally responsible to their kids, largely by setting a good example. Weather permitting, Deanna would ride her bicycle to work. They opened windows and used fans until the heat became unbearable during the summer. They planned a kitchen garden and shopped Urban Agrarian and the local farmers market. When Ian spotted their neighbors having an old tree removed, he even walked over and asked the workers if they would leave him the tree to cut up for firewood.
While most would agree that the family was already going above and beyond, their efforts were redoubled when Deanna found out she was pregnant with their youngest son, Harvest, now 18 months old. For her baby shower, Deanna had the hostesses specify her preference for gently used baby gear and clothes and then registered at The Green Bambino for cloth diapering supplies. “There's an old saying that we don't own the earth, but are borrowing it from our children. Isn't it just the responsible, kind thing to do to leave it in good shape for future generations?”
Green living is so incorporated into the family's daily lives that they simply consider these measures a matter of routine. “We recycle, shop locally, eat organic, cloth diaper, breastfeed, bike or walk when possible, buy used and secondhand items, use reusable bags and green feminine products, and make things from scratch that most people buy,” says Deanna. Even cloth diapering poses little inconvenience. “We've gotten a lot of great support, information, and supplies from two local stores in particular, The Green Bambino and The Changing Table, which has made it easy. There are many different ways to go about cloth diapering, from economical to high end, and we were surprised how little effort is involved,” says Norris.
In addition to these efforts, Ian and Deanna try to shop at green businesses whenever possible, and the Oklahoma City metro has a number of options when it comes to eco-friendly local businesses. Lisa Sharp is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Green Oklahoma website (www.greenokla.com), which offers a directory of green-friendly area businesses as well as news and educational tools for Oklahomans looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Being green has so many benefits, most people can find a reason to be a bit greener. For some, it's about helping Oklahoma's economy by bringing green jobs here and supporting alternative energy, while others do it to save money, and some simply do it for the benefit of the environment,” says Sharp. “We welcome all shades of green and encourage people to do what they can.”
For families who aren't sure where to begin the transition to eco-friendly living, Sharp recommends starting with steps such as shopping local, switching to reusable shopping bags, and cutting out bottled water. “Plastic is a big problem for our environment. Recycling is great, and we support it 100%, but it still uses a lot of energy and is the third “R” for a reason. Reduce and reuse are even more important,” says Sharp. “Shopping locally helps our economy by keeping more money in our communities. Buying locally made products can help reduce the energy needed to ship the items as well. There are many great businesses here in Oklahoma that are doing wonderful things for our state and our environment. We are always adding more to our business directory.”
Another major change families can make is to buy local food by utilizing farmer's markets, retailers specializing in local products, and coops.
“This again reduces the need to ship products and supports Oklahomans. The Oklahoma Food Coop is a wonderful resource for local food. We have some amazing farmers and ranchers here in Oklahoma raising food in environmentally friendly ways that are better for us and for the planet,” says Sharp.
Bob Waldrop was a key player in the formation of the Oklahoma Food Coop and currently serves as its president. Waldrop grew up on a farm in southwest Oklahoma and was active in 4-H, which teaches about cooperatives. “My father was a member of the Tillman County Farmers' Coop, and when we lived on our farm, we got our electricity from a rural electric coop,” says Waldrop.
The Oklahoma Food Coop was the first food coop in the US to focus solely on locally-grown and locally made foods and products. They offer over 4,000 products each month from around 100 different Oklahoma producers. In September, they were awarded the 2013 Henry Bellmon Sustainability Award for Responsible Economic Growth.
By definition, a cooperative business is owned by its members and producers, and participants must purchase a membership share -much like purchasing a stock share in a public company- for $50 in order to do business with the coop.
“We operate with an online ordering system, www.oklahomafood.coop, and a volunteer delivery system. Our delivery day each month is the third Thursday,” says Waldrop.
The monthly order opens on the first of each month at 8am, and closes on the second Thursday. Coop members log on to the website during the order period and browse the available product lists to select items for purchase. Payment can be made by check or money order at the time of pickup or via PayPal, and all products have a 100% quality guarantee. In addition to their online store, the coop hosts a farmer's market each Saturday at 311 S. Klein in Oklahoma City, where consumers can browse some of their available products in person.
Guthrie residents Matt and Melissa Bolek have been members of the Oklahoma Food Coop for the past two years. The couple have always prided themselves on being environmentally conscientious and decided to join the coop after seeing the documentary Food, Inc., about the industrialization of food production in the U.S.
“It made us realize we had no idea where our food came from or how it was produced,” says Melissa.
“We like that we're supporting the local economy, and I've met many interesting and like-minded people through the coop. Organically produced food is better for you, and many of the producers actually encourage consumers to visit farms. We can actually trace our food back to its beginning. We feel like better informed consumers,” says Bolek.
With so many businesses participating in the nation's green movement, it has never been easier for Oklahomans to embrace a more environmentally responsible way of living. From retailers catering to eco-friendly consumers to simple lifestyles changes and resources such as Green Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, there are many ways to participate in green living.
Says Green Oklahoma's Lisa Sharp, “Going green can seem overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, it's easy. Before you know it, the changes are habits.”
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