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Now I Get It

Mike Houston

On June 22 my amazing wife gave birth to a healthy and beautiful son, our first. The past six weeks have been an incredible mix of sleep deprivation, adorable firsts, learning on the fly and unconditional love.  In meeting with friends and family, some who have children and some who don’t, I’ve found myself telling the same anecdote over and over to explain first-time fatherhood. 

My wife and I went to Yosemite National Park for our honeymoon in 2014. We were planning to see the giant sequoia trees while there. Like most people, I’d always seen pictures of sequoia and giant redwood trees and thought, ‘I get it, they’re big.’ You see photos of people standing in front of them for scale, cars driving through them and chains of friends holding hands in a ring around them and you think ‘I get it.’  You know they’re big. You think you understand. 

Then you get to the forest, and you see one standing mightily in front of you with your own two eyes, and you crane your neck up and down and struggle to take it all in. And in that moment, you think to yourself ‘NOW, I get it.’ It’s instantaneous. You thought you understood how big and majestic they were, but until you see it in real life, you don’t totally get it. 

Similarly, after months of planning, going to baby classes, thinking about what life with a newborn would be like, preparing your apartment and feeling him kick and wiggle on the inside, you think to yourself ‘I get it.’ But just like those incredible trees, the moment you first see and touch your newborn son, you immediate know: ‘NOW, I get it.’ It’s life-changing in every literal sense of the phrase. The things you thought might be disgusting or difficult before immediately melt away, and you are thrilled to do anything you can to care for this new person. After decades of thinking that I understood the concept of parenthood, I now fully understand, and all it took was an instant. 

It’s interesting that my metaphor contains both the sequoias and my newborn, because they both have the same world altering issue creating uncertainty for their future: climate change. We know based on scientific consensus that big changes to the way we live are required, and time is a factor. We need to reduce the materials we create in the first place. We need to do better with recycling and composting.  We need to improve food waste on the farm, in the fridge and everywhere in between along the supply chain. 

That is why I was so thrilled when TPSS Co-op received Gold Certification from Green America. Gold level certification from Green America granted the Co-op automatic acceptance into the Montgomery County Green Business Program, becoming the first grocery store in Montgomery County to achieve that honor. The dedication from our staff and member-owners on environmental issues and how to thoughtfully run a grocery store are the reasons for the recognition. But that doesn’t mean the work stops here. 

Sustainability is a focus of our Board of Representatives and me as General Manager. We are committed to continual improvement on issues related to our environment. Those changes can be small or large, but they add up over 362 days of operating a grocery store each year. Our commitment doesn’t stop at our walls either. I have advocated for greater composting programs and resources, like what the Co-op has with the Compost Crew, for all co-ops nationwide at a meeting of the National Cooperative Grocers Association. Serving on the Montgomery County Food Council, I am able to leverage the knowledge of the Environmental Impact Working Group, as well as advocate and teach other food businesses and retailers in the area about sustainable products and practices. While I am thrilled that TPSS Co-op became the first grocery store in the Montgomery County Green Business Program, I sincerely hope that other stores join us soon. 

The changes we read about in articles can be daunting, and the timeline downright scary. But I believe that by committing to a constant evaluation of practices, improvement and evangelizing sustainability to others, we can make a real impact. I know I must continue to do everything I can, so one day I can show my son the sequoia trees.