Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Green City Diaries: The journey begins now

Photo by Marvin Shaouni
(originally published 1/10/12 in Model D)

Detroit: green city?

It’s a little counter-intuitive, I know. We are, after all, the ignoble home of the most polluted zip code in the state and the largest trash incinerator in the country. We’re the only major city in the nation to lack city-wide curbside recycling. We unleashed the automobile and its attendant environmental woes to the world, of course, and our historic inability to build and sustain effective public transit is legendary (and continues).

I could go on, but I won’t, because we all know this story. It’s an old one.

Instead, why don’t we consider a new story? This one is about how we’re changing -- how we’re learning, day by day, to be sustainable. In some cases, this change is the result of organized efforts by committed groups with visionary leadership, producing such remarkable things as the new bike lanes in Corktown and Southwest, the Dequindre Cut, and Lafayette Greens.

But in most cases, this change is small, localized, and individualized, and it’s been happening far longer than we’ve had bike lanes. And people are noticing, as this article listing Detroit as one of the 10 emerging sustainable cities to watch makes clear. More and more, people here are choosing to live differently. They’re buying locally grown produce from farmers’ markets, for instance, and skipping the drive to the supermarket. They’re biking to work. They’re planting gardens and composting their scraps. They’re making a point to do all their holiday shopping exclusively at small businesses in the city. And, in the absence of curbside, they’re taking their recyclables to Recycle Here (and meeting like-minded neighbors in the process).