Honoring Ashland's eco-experts

There's a theme to many of my columns, have you noticed?

Reporter tries to take some big, green step. Reporter fails. Kind soul, who is also an eco-expert, helps reporter out. Expert is patient while reporter screws up again. Eventually reporter learns. Things don't turn out so bad.

I'm grateful to the many eco-experts who have guided me over the past 11 months. They may not have degrees in conservation, but they're experts in their niche fields because they've been committed for so long.

And for too long, they've gone largely unnoticed in Ashland.

The city's Conservation Commission aims to change that this year. The commission has created four new awards it will present on Earth Day, April 23, to people or groups that made Ashland more sustainable in 2010.

Through March 1, you can send in nominations for the Conservationist of the Year, Junior Conservationist of the Year, Best Business Conservationist and Best Volunteer Organization Conservationist.

"The purpose of these awards is to recognize leaders in efforts to conserve and protect our water, air and soil; to reduce energy use; or to save our natural resources," said Jim McGinnis, commission chairman.

"Just as the Tree Commission recognizes a tree of the year and the Historic Commission gives out awards to preservation projects, we're going to highlight efforts to preserve Ashland's environment."

I doubt the commission will have trouble finding worthy candidates. In fact, I'm sure the hardest part will be choosing just four.

Within weeks last year, I discovered an artist who uses only sustainable materials, Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors who expand our view of the world and farmers who are creating their own renegade organic movement.

Then, Southern Oregon University students raised money for oil cleanup in the Gulf, my yoga teacher taught our class to stay grounded and a doctor gave tips on avoiding skin cancer and toxic sunscreens.

Later, local groups started an online trading center for farm goods, Ashland Middle School students built solar ovens and American Indian elders taught us how to listen.

It seems there's no shortage of people in Ashland trying to live more sustainably. In other words, Ashland's sustainability movement seems to have come to a point where it is itself sustainable. I hope that's the case and I hope to highlight the work of many more eco-experts this year. If you have suggestions, please e-mail me.

As I prepared to write my column this week, a quotation came to me — literally.

In a bowl by the door at Ashland Yoga Center are quotations printed on tiny slips of paper. On Tuesday, as I left my class, I drew a quote from John Heywood, a 16th century writer.

"Many hands make light work," the quote reads.

I've been thinking about that, in light of all the hard work Ashland's conservationists did last year. Their many hands have certainly made my work easier.

I'd also like to think that Heywood took into account the multiple meanings of the word "light" when he wrote that sentence.

Because, from what I saw in Ashland last year, many hands may make easy work — but they can also make brilliant work.

Print out nomination forms for the conservation awards at ashland.or.us/Files/application.pdf and drop them off at the Ashland Conservation Division, 51 Winburn Way. For more information, see the city's website, ashland.or.us, and select the Conservation Commission page.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns, see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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