I visited some friends in Portland for a week this summer. I was interested to find out what the differences in sustainable practices between the Midwest and the Northwest. My friends in Portland had previously lived in Chicago, so they were able to point out some of the differences between the two cities. The largest difference they noticed was the waste system. Waste is only picked up every other week, trash cans are much smaller, and composting is mandatory. I thought it was an interesting way in which policy can have major positive environmental impact. A limited waste system made it so the people of Portland were much more conscious of what can be recycled or composted. Walking around I noticed that it was also very common for houses to have free boxes. I thought that this was tied to the waste reduction policies, and how free boxes are great alternatives to throwing useful things out.
The other large difference I notices walking around was the choice of plant life. In the front yards of houses, there was rarely a lawn. Not only was the lawn uncommon, but also the choices of plants were often useful. I talked to one of the people I was staying with about how there is food growing out of most front yards, and they felt that because the climate was more forgiving people were more motivated to grow food. Besides the climate being more forgiving, I still thought about how the people who live in the properties had a choice in what they planted. I often wondered why in Chicago the landscaping decisions are purely decorative, because I feel that there are other useful plants that are even more beautiful and just as easy to grow. It was great to see this idea being put into practice. My friends talked about how soon it would be hard to walk around without filling up on berries. Just imagine how beautiful and sweet that scene will be! If you are ever in a position to choose what plants will exist in a place, consider planting a raspberry bush and some lavender.