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Portland amazes me.

Three days ago, my husband opened the front door to retrieve the Sunday morning newspaper like he does every Sunday. This week, however, he carried in not only a newspaper, but a small, plastic pail as well.

“Look what we got,” he said, holding it up.

I looked at the pail with confusion, turning it from side to side. About the size of a small crockpot, it has a tight latching lid the color of hot chocolate and a bottom the color of creamy coffee. A soothing combination to match any décor.

On the front I read, “PORTLAND COMPOSTS! Collect food scraps here.”

Inside we found instructions on how to compost food and information on upcoming changes to the city’s waste collection system.

Apparently, we residents of Portland, Oregon throw away approximately 30,000 tons of compostable food scraps every year. In an effort to reduce garbage output, the city decided to provide every home with the small compost bin we received that Sunday.

In case we need further motivation, the city will also be collecting garbage less often because we will, undoubtedly, be producing less waste, more compost. To reduce personal costs, residents have the option of eliminating garbage pickup altogether, leaving only composting or recycling as options. All persuasive reasons for breaking old habits.

My husband and I decided to conduct a bit of an experiment to see if we can live without a garbage can. Like two-year-olds learning anew, we can now be found holding a piece of trash, looking at it with uncertainty. “Garbage?” one of us asks the other.

It’s a welcome challenge, another small step towards Portland convincing me each person really can make a difference.

I am amazed that not only has the city found a way to change consumer habits, but that the people here are idealistic enough to believe change can happen and determined enough to see it through.

With rain streaming down, Portlanders grab their waterproof bags and ride bikes around town to avoid polluting and maintain health. Vegetable gardens and chicken coops abound in friends’ backyards, building a wholly sustainable, organic lifestyle. Fair trade coffee has been claimed unfair by Portland’s most ubiquitous roaster, so it now deals directly with farmers to pay all that’s deserved.

Photo courtesy of Erin Creasy

There is a stubborn hope for the impossible, an optimism here which I long for. A hope I need.

It seems in some ways God may have brought me to this place called Portland to begin healing. To restore hope, to renew belief that God’s plan is best and that He continues to move throughout the world.

This largely unchurched, “keep it weird” community is helping me see there really is hope for the ground beneath our feet. The ground on which I daily walk is not just a doomed, jaded, fallen world, but a place filled with promise and manifestations of God’s hope.