Have you ever heard the story of the little boy and the starfish? Apparently it was adapted from a story by Loren Eiseley. It’s one of my favorite stories, so just in case, here’s a quick summary for you.

Once upon a time, a man who always visited the beach in the mornings to write saw a little boy who kept walking, then pausing, then standing up again. The man wanted to see what this kid was up to. He saw that the little boy was throwing starfish into the ocean. The man asked the little boy what he was doing. The boy said, “That big storm last night washed all of these starfish up onto the beach. If they don’t make it back to the water before the sun hits, they’ll die, so I need to toss them back in.” The man told the boy that there must be ten thousand starfish. What difference does it make if you throw a few back? The little boy bent down, picked up a starfish, and threw it into the ocean. “It made a big difference to that one,” he said.

There are many different ways to tell the same story. A bucket of water consists of just a million tiny drops. Hobbits were able to save the world by taking one little step at a time. OK, that MAY be fictional (Frodo lives!) but it’s the same general story.

These days, the world is filled with really big problems. Often, these problems can seem so big that there almost doesn’t seem a point in trying to solve them. What can one person do, after all? Environmental concerns are one area where this holds true. Icebergs are melting, polar bears are dying out, and there is an island of trash the size of the Barrier Reef floating in our oceans.  What can one person do about all of this? What can one little town do about all of this?

The fact is that here in the MOV, we believe that there is always a reason to push the needle forward. We may not save all of the starfish, but the ones we do save will be well worth the effort. To that end, many businesses in the area have started to make efforts to become more environmentally careful.

One such business is Dad’s Primitive Workbench. An active member of the downtown community, owner Charlie Clay is a large reason Dad’s Primitive Workbench is a popular shopping destination. Charlie said he is making efforts to make his business more green. “We reuse all the paper that comes in our shipments to wrap antiques and glassware in the store. We also have been asking customers if they want a receipt to save paper and also have switched to chalk board sale signs versus printing paper signs as much as we can.”

Wit & Whimzy is another beloved stop downtown, and owner Laura Pytlik is another who somehow seems to be everywhere downtown. Laura said the environment has been on her mind as well. She said, “My landlord collects all our cardboard to recycle – none goes in the dumpster. I use and re-use cloths to clean, instead of paper towels and I’m starting to transition to electronic receipts instead of paper.”

Peddler of Dreams Art Space for Children is also mindful of materials, and does a lot of recycled art projects to minimize waste. Many of their events include environmental education and nature inspired activities. “We are very environmental awareness driven and always try to educate children about recycling, reusing materials and seeing beauty in cast off materials,” said owner Prudence Burgardt. “We encourage them to come up with ideas to use things usually disposed of in the garbage. We frequent the recycling center weekly for materials.”

Over on Second Street, The Galley has been making waves recently in initiatives that are focused on making the eatery more green. In the spring, The Galley began growing their own herb garden on the roof, which literally makes them more green, but growing food helps reduce fuel costs and has many positive ripple effects for the environment. The Galley is also moving to a “no plastic straws” policy, and they have begun using recyclable paper take-out bags and cardboard take-out boxes versus plastic and Styrofoam. General Manager Nate Shahan notes that more initiatives like this are being worked on right now.

I remember when I was a kid being told that the Earth was already in big trouble. I think kids my age were raised to some extent to believe that it was actually a sin to throw an aluminum can in a trash can instead of a recycling bin. Recycling is not as easily accessible in the Mid-Ohio Valley as I wish it was, but I find it so encouraging to know that so many businesses are doing what they can. As more businesses begin tagging along with these efforts, sustainable business will become a trend, not an outlier. The Mid-Ohio Valley may not be a big area, but we are doing what we can to help change the world.

If you are interested in learning more about minimizing waste generation, check out Zero Waste MOV, a Facebook page created to share tips and ideas for local sustainable living.