Dina Klaminsky brushes against her herbs that are budding in her AeroGrow, and gathers starts from her different plants and produce to pass on to her neighbors and friends.She turns down her heater, which she just changed to conserve energy and save $200 a year. Her garden is her prized possession, and she hopes that her green thumb will spread ideas of conserving energy to her neighbors as well.
Klaminsky is discovering that there needs to be immediate action to try and save the planet from being polluted. Realizing that the planet cannot be saved all at once, she, along with the rest of the population, is carrying out these actions by taking baby steps. One of these steps is living sustainably by converting a home to solar energy, using fluorescent lighting and going back to eating raw, organic food. The Amazon Neighborhood, stretching from Agate Street to Amazon Park and past 24th Street, in Eugene, Oregon, is taking a baby step by growing gardens that produce local crops.
Consisting of 800 households, the Amazon Neighborhood is quaint on the outside, but active on the inside. Families, students and homeowners are being proactive to try and make a smaller carbon footprint.
Walking along 29th street, gardens push out of the fences house by house. Produce, crops and different kinds of vegetables are being grown to save money, to share with neighbors and to contribute to the efforts to get rid of processed food.
Just like Eugene, other U.S. cities and towns are trying to have their residents buy their food locally instead of imported. The Amazon Neighborhood has Sundance Natural Foods, which contributes to the idea of locally grown, organic food being bought by local residents of Eugene and Amazon Neighbors. Another way that Eugene encourages this idea of buying locally is by holding the Eugene Farmer’s Market. Many areas across the country are making efforts to support local farmers by organizing a Farmer’s Market where different farmers sell their crops to surrounding residents.
Erik Muller, a retired but pro-sustainability Amazon Neighbor, says, “There are lots of small efforts [regarding sustainability], but the number of people involved is not enough. There needs to be more leadership, education and more of a feeling of ‘this is what we really need to do.’”
Muller explains that several small steps have been taken to move the Amazon Neighborhood in the right direction. There is a sub-committee for the steering committee for the Amazon Neighborhood specifically devoted to improving sustainable lifestyles in the neighborhood. The committee is helping raise money and awareness for the community garden that was created at the neighborhood’s school, Camas Ridge Community School.
Muller says, “There needs to be an urgent response to sustainability for it to work. Maybe we need to lobby the city, or even start a community garden [in addition to Camas Ridge] in the Amazon Neighborhood.”
Dina Klaminsky, an Amazon Neighborhood resident for 28 years, grows her own herbs in and around her home. Klaminsky strongly believes in growing her own produce and garden. She has a full garden of different vegetables and plants. All the plants and herbs that she grows are not from her personal seeds or starts (small buds of the plants that grow more quickly than seeds). Instead, she is involved in a “pay it forward” system. “If I get too much of a plant growing in my garden, I dig it up, put it in a pot, and give it to my friends so that they can have the plant and pay it forward, too.”
While Klaminsky and her friends and neighbors are making an effort to have a green thumb, she says others are failing to conserve energy. “It may save you money now, but it’s not going to save the earth in the long run.” Klaminsky hopes to soon have a system to conserve, reuse and save water in her home by filtering run-off water from the many inches of rain Eugene gets each year.
Klaminsky enjoys being a part of the Amazon Neighborhood because of the efforts to have a smaller carbon footprint. “You take a walk around this neighborhood and you will see people growing gardens. That’s one of the things I love about this neighborhood. They are like me. We share.”
Another way that the Amazon Neighborhood is getting its residents involved with living sustainably is the “bike tours”. Randy Prince, Amazon Neighborhood’s co-chair, explains that the bike tours are where residents from the surrounding Eugene area take a tour of the neighborhood while riding their bikes. They stop at different homes, especially in the Amazon Neighborhood, and see the different gardens and crops that households are producing. Different gardening tips are shared along with seeds and starts.
Amazon resident, Kathy Ging, contributes to the neighborhood’s efforts of growing personal gardens. Her theory is that anyone can grow their own produce without even getting their hands dirty. Ging came up with the creation of her “liberated salad”, which is a “mixture of up to 100 greens and ruby reds grown in garden beds or boxes selectively harvested in a 1 to 8+ month growing season, needing minimum water, weeding and soil nutrients.” Instead of getting packs of seeds and starting from scratch, this mini-garden makes it simple and reliable to grow produce instead of hoping that the seeds will pop up. Also, the plants can last up to two years instead of only being able to be harvested once. Ging’s creation of the “liberated salad” has made it easier for residents, like ones in the Amazon Neighborhood, to start their own garden and have a greener thumb.
While Amazon Neighbors are making efforts to save the planet, other towns and cities are making similar efforts as well. The movement to buy and sell locally grown foods and products is on the rise. Even in Oregon, Portland and its surrounding suburbs such as Lake Oswego, West Linn, Hillsboro and Beaverton are making efforts to contribute to their local Farmer’s Markets. Homes are switching from gas heating systems to solar powered energy and fluorescent lighting.
The Amazon Neighbor sustainability sub-committee hopes to continue getting neighbors involved with switching to sustainable lifestyles. Muller’s sustainable reading group, consisting of different Amazon Neighbors, hopes to make a bandwagon of sustainable living and have the neighbors actively follow. “I’m just one person in the pool here paddling around,” Muller says.
Klaminsky digs in her garden and plucks the buds from her herbs. She keeps her front door open just in case a neighbor pops in to ask about her garden and how they can start their own.
Sidebar #1: Ways to live sustainably
-Bike instead of drive.
-Use re-usable bags for groceries.
-Recycle cans, glass, bottles, cardboard, paper, etc.
-Install water-saving devices in the house.
-Switch light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).
-Wash clothes in cold water.
-Dry clothes on a clothesline or dry-rack instead of in a dryer.
-Stop drinking bottled water.
Sidebar #2: By the numbers…
-0 number of federal bills passed to cap America’s global warming pollution.
-1 rank of America as top global warming polluter in the world.
-30 million single-serve non-returnable containers end up in landfills or as litter every day.
-20 gallons of water per day wasted if there is a leak in a faucet.
-3 dollars for a fluorescent light bulb.
-35 gallons of water used to take a 4-minute shower.
Sidebar #3: Ways to garden sustainably
1. Organic gardening: grow produce without use of petrochemical pesticides.
2. Native plants and trees: plant trees and plants that will work in harmony with the other nature around it. This will take less energy for a garden and the trees and plants will be healthier.
3. Double digging: helps the soil hold more water; improves aeration and places organic material at a depth that enables plant roots to adequately extend.
4. Vermicomposting: worm composting; easy way to have pure organic plant food at all times for crops.
5. Recycle and re-use: things that you would normally throw away can be used as garden decorations for example broken planting pots, wooden popsicle sticks and old containers.
*Information gathered from http://www.recycleworks.org/compost/sustainable_gardening.html