Martha’s Path To Sustainability

The Chicago Years: 1952 – 1966
Trains of all types that went everywhere, an “uptown” a few blocks away, roller skating on the sidewalks, stealing rhubarb from the neighbor‘s garden, riding bicycles, knowing the neighbors, helping each other out… these are my roots. However, at less than 13 years old, I knew there was something wrong when housing developments were replacing cornfields everywhere one looked.

The Washington DC years: 1966 – 1975
The flora and fauna in the Great Smokey Mountains is more diverse than all of Europe. In the cities and the countryside of the East Coast are traditions that shape the structures of lives, buildings and communities. My years in this region gave me an appreciation of nature and an understanding of the reasons why we do things in certain ways when it comes to construction and community planning. The East has rich history with its roots in another continent and explanations that goes along with it.

The Row Houses of Georgetown, Alexandria and Baltimore provide the template for the look that younger cities now strive for: townhomes with character, on transit lines, close to shopping. I very much appreciated the old way, yet began my career participating in the new way of construction: using fast techniques with poor quality materials. I was nineteen years old.

When it was time for me to move west, construction had begun on the DC subway system that would come to be known for the least expensive cost per mile to build. It was filled to capacity when complete. No voter initiatives were offered that might have derailed it.

The Move: Spring 1975 – Fall 1975
Meandering across the back roads of our country‘s vast landscape is a lesson in cultural diversity, natural forces that rightfully influence life, and figuring out how to know and trust one‘s self. Five months on the road traversing dozens of states in several climate zones helps one to understand regional housing and life styles. For example, I learned about the chic female crew-cut summer hairdo in the hot desert regions.

The Portland, Oregon Years: 1975 – 1977
Living in a neighborhood with a walking score of 86, learning how to grow an organic vegetable garden, building a network of friends involved with alternative ways of living and helping to decimate filbert orchards with cheaply built housing were all pieces of that quilt. “We may not be good, but we are fast” was the job site mantra on one framing crew. The seed of becoming a business owner was planted in this wonderful city. Torn about leaving, it became time to move “back to the land”.

Grays Harbor: 1977 –1982
I learned that it takes at least twice as much effort (energy) to live in the country as it does to live in an urban area, unless one knows what to do, either by having learned it growing up or by somehow acquiring the info another way. For most, earning a living often required a one or two hour commute each way. Money had to be poured down the throats of vehicles that had voracious appetites for gas and repairs.
The other lessons here were about nuclear power and alternative energy. They were about organic gardening, rainwater harvesting and living without electricity. They were about being in business, community organizing and more self trust. It was here that a neighbor fed me this challenge: “If you do not like the way they (the developers) are doing their job, then you must become one”.