After meeting with the Centennial High School environmental science classes, I headed west towards Arkansas. It had been super great to be able to spend some time and connect with the younger generation and spread the message of sustainability, but now I was looking at a full travel schedule. Traveling west through Arkansas, I paralleled the southern edge of the Ozarks, whose plentiful forests provided lots of excellent spots for some small White Dogwood seedlings. The weather had turned a bit cooler as fall progressed towards winter and many of the leaves had lost their amazing vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, but the huge swaths of rolling hills were magnificent nevertheless.
I started my run the next morning crossing a wide bridge that spanned the Arkansas-Oklahoma border near Fort Smith, AR, looping huge arcs around fallow cornfields that stretched as far as I could see. Heading north the landscape changed very little, still providing ample areas of pliable and fertile soil, this time for fifty Red Oak seedlings. I had seen very little of civilization since passing through Memphis on the edge of Tennessee, the view out the big bay window dominated by rolling hills and leafless treetops. These hills gave was to farmlands of middle Missouri, where I had the happy opportunity to meet up with an old friend and born-and-bred Missouri native. Trevor showed me some of his favorite wild areas near the small town of Versailles, Missouri, and he and his wife Catherine generously helped plant fifty new Red Oaks.
The hours of driving every day were beginning to wear on me a little, and I decided to spend a day or two in Kansas City before heading farther north. I pulled off to plant more Red Oaks just before the expansive farmlands and intermittent stands of trees gave way to a more suburban, populated area. With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, I met up with a friendly group of twenty-something Kansas City natives, and had a great time sharing stories and tons of amazing food with them. Later that night I was back on the road again headed north, bound for Nebraska. At this point I was beginning to exit ecological zones 7 and 6 and entering into zones 5 and 4, which are more dominated by evergreens, conifers and colder-weather trees. Instead of Red Oaks, fifty White Pines found new homes in the Nebraskan soil as I wound my way towards Omaha.
Once reaching the city I was quickly reminded of the coming holidays, with multicolored lights and trees strung all throughout the city, despite the fact that November was just now coming to a close. The end of the year holidays are always a great time to see friends and family, but it seems more and more that they come into conflict with sustainable ways of living, as advertisements and social norms bombard people with the demand to buy, consume, wrap, unwrap, and toss whatever you don’t need. Even reusing is decried, with ‘re-gifting’ being the epitome of a cheap, un-thoughtful attitude.
I challenge you to use this holiday to take steps towards more sustainable behaviors! Instead of heading to the department stores with a lengthy and inflexible list, I suggest doing some research on the companies the produce the products you are setting out to buy. How do they treat their employees? Do they hold sustainable manufacturing practices? Do they package their products in recycled material? Every consumer’s purchase choice supports something, for better or worse. Spending your money towards business that pledge environmentally responsible practices is one of the greatest power the consumer has!
The next stop after passing through Iowa will be up in Minnesota to meet with Rob Greenfield and help to provide accurate and up to date information on the situation at Standing Rock and the progress of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Make sure to check out robgreenfield.tv and Rob Greenfield’s Facebook page for current information as we make our way towards North Dakota!