Environmental issues column by Diana Somerville — “An army of home-grown solutions”

AS WE BECOME more aware of the ways our lives intertwine, the notion of winners and losers grows irrelevant.

Choosing sides doesn’t solve today’s complex problems.

North Olympic Peninsula residents are thinking outside that tired, old box, embracing creative collaborations rich with opportunities.

Identifying shared goals and seeking win-win-win strategies are new ways of getting things done — in ways that enrich our communities by bringing creativity to our challenges — without losing sight of the future.

Some local solutions to cheer about:

■ The Clallam County Medicine Return Program is a collaboration of small businesses, local law enforcement and environmental health agencies taking unwanted medicines to Jim’s Pharmacy (360-452-4200) in Port Angeles or Frick’s Drugs (360-683-9536) in Sequim, keeping them out of our waterways and away from other possible harm.

■ The Olympic Peninsula Boys & Girls Club, faced with a cash crunch, found support from a local Tupperware dealer, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe and its 7 Cedars Casino.

■ Northwest Community Development, a nonprofit devoted to assisting cooperative businesses (www.nwcdc.coop), and people concerned about repurposing the vacant Gottschalks building in downtown Port Angeles are exploring a co-op department store, following successful models in Cody, Wyo., and Billings, Mont.

■ Local food is an ever-expanding success story as more people awaken to the taste of freshness and the superior nutrition of local and organic products.

Farm shares, also called Community Supported Agriculture, allows people to support local farms and share in their seasonal offerings.

Our farmers’ markets are expanding beyond fresh veggies, adding locally raised beef, organic pork artisan cheeses, fresh-baked bread and fresh fish, oysters and clams.

Nash’s Organic Produce, www.nashsorganicproduce.com, has stocked a lending library at its Farm Store with books, DVDs and food-focused information.

■ Parents eager to have their kids enjoy food from local farms rather than distant factories are making their voices heard, from a recent coalition-building Farm to Cafeteria gathering to a North Olympic Peninsula Farm to Cafeteria Program Facebook page.

■ Volunteer gleaners take to the fields to gather what harvesters missed, or pick fruit offered by property owners whose trees produce more than they can use, stocking local food banks with farm-fresh produce.

■ Another creative idea coming down Highway 101: Culinary tours through Clallam, Jefferson, Mason and Grays Harbor counties, which can bring rural experiences close to bigger cities.

Showcasing local farms and fare could make the Peninsula a destination for a growing part of the tourist market, Kathy Charlton of Olympic Cellars Winery said at a recent presentation by the Olympic Peninsula Loop Culinary Tourism Association.

Travelers often want authentic experiences of a region’s society, culture and environment, which means culinary and agricultural tourism are fast-growing sectors of the sustainable tourism market.

■ Bringing more locally grown food into the kitchens and on the menus of Peninsula restaurants will increase local markets for our farms’ products and will enhance what the Peninsula offers tourists who want to taste what our area has to offer.

Tuna and salmon accompanied by reports on how recently they were pulled from which part of the ocean, or clams and oysters delivered by the hands that harvested them, add a value that’s hard to measure.

“It doesn’t have to be dollars that keep you going,” said Charlton, unknotting a red scarf from her handbag.

It says “Love Yourself,” a motto of the local Heart Health Challenge this month.

The winery is among businesses promoting healthful lifestyes with the Clallam County YMCA and the Olympic Medical Center. Details: www.olympiccellars.com/eventsroot/heartmonth.

“Our part is small. We’re offering a drawing,” she said.

The prizes: original works by local artist Pamela Hastings (www.pamelahastings.com).

Creativity just keeps expanding good works and good will.

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Diana Somerville, an award-winning author and science writer who lives in Clallam County, is exploring creative collaboration with “Telling your stories, transforming them into art” workshops beginning Feb. 18 at the Port Angeles Senior and Community Center (see: www.DianaSomerville.com) and a day of HEARTDANCE Feb. 28 (www.turningthewheel.org).

Act Locally, her column on sustainability and the environment on the North Olympic Peninsula, appears every other Tuesday.

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