Going Green Pays Off in Bellingham

Heading out for an evening sail on Bellingham Bay

Waders, rain jackets, rain hats. Sorry – no sun.”

So read the sign in front of a sporting goods store near Everett, Washington, though the cold, driving rain discouraged us from checking out specials on rain gear.

We were on our way to Bellingham, Washington for the annual spring conference of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association, though to be honest, we were also looking for some spring weather. Of course, we were realistic enough to understand that if you head for the West Coast rain forest you’re likely to find rain.

We found rain, and people at local businesses were apologetic about the weather. They were also weary of cold, wet weather and were eager to get some warm sunshine. The skies did clear and we had a chance to enjoy some sunshine while we took advantage of opportunities to get away from hotel conference rooms and poke around this maritime city.

With bright sunshine to set things off, Bellingham looks mighty green right now, with lots of spring flowers to add colorful highlights. We also learned the city is green in other ways as well. We had a presentation by the director of a local non-profit, Sustainable Connections, an agency working to improve the local business climate and quality of life by emphasizing ‘green’ ways of doing business, including renewable energy sources, reducing waste (one business was featured for reducing waste by 90 percent), expanding local farming and similar efforts.

The efforts seem to be paying off and they’ve gotten a lot of recognition for it. The Environmental Protection Agency rates Bellingham as the nation’s number one Green Power Community. They also have the nation’s largest increase in public transit ridership. More to the point, perhaps, is their number two national rating for local retail vibrancy.

Sustainable Connections’ logo includes this slogan, “Think local, buy local, be local.”

A representative from the local Convention and Visitor Bureau boasted that the Bellingham area ranks in the nation’s top ten for clean air, health and happiness, bike ridership, and as a place to live. Though the city is known as a maritime center, agriculture is the area’s number one industry. In fact, the county raises 65 percent of the country’s red raspberries. For variety, the area also has the nation’s second largest numbers of artists, per capita, after Santa Fe, New Mexico.

All in all, Bellingham seems an attractive city, with its combination of scenery, outdoor recreation and bustling downtown area. It’s a good demonstration of how emphasizing so-called green values, such as renewable energy, reducing waste, and boosting local agriculture, contributes to a community’s economy and quality of life.

On the dry side of the Cascades is Wenatchee, which bills itself as the “Apple Capital of the World.” It’s quite a sight, right now, with miles and miles of apple orchards bursting into bloom. When I toss an apple into my hunting lunch next October I’ll have to keep in mind that last week I might have seen the blossom that produced the fruit.

We’ll close with a literary note. The New York Times ran a book review last week of “Evel, the High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend,” by Leigh Montville. It’s one of the more entertaining book reviews I’ve seen.

The reviewer, Dwight Martin, says “This book is, like Knievel’s life, slick, pulpy, eye-filling, exhaust-belching and in the end a bit boorish and irksome. Its ideal form would be a mass-market paperback flecked with glitter. It should come with a grape Slurpee, a little packet of Pop Rocks and a cocktail-size American flag to wave between your thumb and forefinger at weary moments.”

Evel Knievel, or Bobby, as he is still remembered by those who knew him before his high-flying daredevil days, was never dull, and always controversial, even here in his hometown. Judging by the Times review, this biography seems equal to the man of whom a San Francisco Examiner sports writer described before the Snake River Canyon jump, “The contest is Evel Knievel versus the canyon. The canyon is the sentimental favorite.”