A teacher told me, when I was young, that, when Europeans first arrived in North America, it would have been theoretically possible for a squirrel to cross from the eastern seaboard to the Mississippi River Banks, without ever having touched the ground. So thick were the trees, as to provide a contiguous sky-way. Perhaps he was exaggerating...I've never really known and my young mind believed it. Either way, you get the point. The concept holds. Look out any window. Look for anything that looks different from the last thick woods you walked through, and man has cleared that space for something: a road, a church, a school, homes, malls, highways...you name it and we've built it. Ohio is now known as an agricultural state, but it's also a woodland habitat in its natural form. Where do you think those millions of acres of farmlands came from? Where are most of the woods?
|photo by steve metz goldfish tank/park + vine|
Do we need roads, places to live, places to work and places to grow food? Of course we do. But I guess the question is, when will we begin to actually contain ourselves? When and how will we reach and maintain a stasis? When will enough people believe that nothing is endless? I guess it will boil down to one of two things: a reactive crisis of survival or, preferably, a proactive series of small decisions, implemented by everyone. Do I need a new mobile phone every two years or do I simply want a new mobile phone every two years? Do I need to drive my car three blocks to the restaurant or can I walk? Should I dispose of my dog's poop with a traditional plastic bag which will stay in the landfill forever or should I invest a small amount of money on some biodegradable bags? Is there something I can do with this pair of shoes I no longer want, besides putting them out to the curb?
|photo by steve metz dan k./owner operator, park + vine|
Yes, we have a lot of freedoms and conveniences today, but we also have a lot of decisions to make. Fortunately, burgeoning awareness of our relationship to and reliance upon our planet's finite, natural resources has given rise to a new breed of industry, which is intent on helping us in our stewardship. Green industries and technologies have created a nice little symbiosis: we get cool stuff, which helps us keep the planet alive, along with the satisfaction of knowing that we're taking small steps, and they get to employ people, make a few bucks, and the satisfaction of knowing that they've helped us take small steps. A marquee example of this paradigm, is Cincinnati's own Park + Vine.
|photo by steve metz foodstuffs!/park + vine|
What was that thing that Twain said about wanting to die in Cincinnati? Sure, it's probably true that eco-friendly stores similar to Park + Vine set up shop in towns like Eugene and Asheville, prior to the Park + Vine opening in Cincinnati, 5 years ago. To me, that just makes this place more special. It's a bastion of uniqueness, floating upon a sea of Targetesque and Walmartian sameness.
|photo by steve metz sarah/park + vine|
This eco-epicenter of the region is the brainchild of Dan K., a Cincinnati expatriate who returned home to open the shop, now located in the charming space which once housed Kaldi's coffee shop. The store has quickly become the cornerstone of green, environmentally conscious living: selling eco-friendly house and garden wares, hosting educational forums, and, most recently, offering locally grown and/or organic foods, cafe style.
|photo by steve metz a house after my own heart|
When first you step through the front door of Park + Vine, you will quickly realize that you are in for an atypical Cincinnati shopping experience. The space is unbelievably inviting. I felt like meandering for hours on the day of my visit. The vibrant colors of the products, exposed brick walls, and decorative murals, combined with accents such as a beautiful plant/goldfish eco-display, and a sunroom-style children's mini-store, will make you feel like you've entered the winning entry of an eclectic design competition. It's really charming.
|photo by steve metz sandy/park + vine|
When you finally stop admiring the space, you'll then be drawn into its unique world of merchandise. Each item seems to tell the story of how it came to be, of how its presence is the response to a problem, which you may not have even known about prior to having held its solution in your hands. You know that new doormat you purchased at the Depot last weekend....the one made from newly manufactured rubber? Yeah, that one. Well Park + Vine has one made from the recycled parts of colorful, discarded flip flops. Someone had that cool idea and they actually followed through on it, and now you can buy one. The list of products and their warm tales of existence is long, but sufficed to say that if you are like me: the type of person who is concerned about, for example, the chemicals we are breathing and often dumping into the water supply when we paint our homes, then Park + Vine has many products you'll be glad to find and purchase. You no longer need to clean your house with poison, people.
|photo by steve metz local!/park + vine|
There are times when I imagine our entire world to be a small cluster of cells which are part of a larger organism, and, that on that cluster of cells, we, the human race, are a rapidly spreading virus. It's a grim analogy, but if you look at world growth statistics, you'll know what I mean. The world's population, in 1927, just thirteen years before my parents were born, was 2 billion. Only two generations later, and we have topped 7 billion. Thousands of years to reach 2 billion, and less than one hundred years to more than triple that number. Are fresh air, water, and clean soil magically and mysteriously propagating to match the collective bulge of people we've grown? Nope.
|photo by steve metz mushroom garden/flip flop doormats|
So, it's time to do something big, by doing lots of small things. It's the easy way out of this mess. Let's use our muscles to open doors, rather than having machines which open them automatically. Let's ride a bike with a tiny solar cell on our backpack, which we'll use to charge our phone later. Let's grow a little of our own food, and, when we don't use all of it, let's compost. Let's buy reclaimed flooring for our homes, and if it's absolutely necessary to purchase something new, let's make it bamboo (there's a rhyme in that last bit, if you say it just right). Most importantly, let's support places like Park + Vine. Sure, they're trying to make a living, just like everyone, but their mission is noble and they are connecting us to the tiny materials and objects which will lead us to a greater good. Someone's gonna have the next great idea because they've been inspired by this place.
Park + Vine