Bloomington Web Master Emily Brown stops by the Bloomingfoods on Sixth Street every morning for breakfast on her way to work at City Hall. During breaks, she often enjoys lunch there as well.
She didn’t realize the store functioned as a cooperative grocery until she spoke with a member about the benefits a year and a half ago.
“This is the first community that I’ve lived in with a co-op that I knew of,” the 30-year-old Brown said.
Two years ago, the idea of picking fresh fruit from a public tree without paying in Bloomington was unheard of. Now, thanks to Amy Countryman, an entire orchard is dedicated just to that cause.
“This is food, and it’s free,” the 35-year-old force behind the Bloomington Community Orchard said. “You should be able to come in and pick apples and take them home just because you can, and because we care about each other like that.”
Daniel Frohman doesn’t live far from Bryan Park. With its open areas, he goes there every day to walk his dog, Kiva. Today was no different. While some lay on blankets or watched the kids play, Frohman played Frisbee with his brother, Ben, and his brother’s girlfriend, Frankie. Running among them was his dog.
“We got Kiva from the Bloomington pound,” Frohman says. “We wanted a dog after we were out visiting some friends that had a really cute dog. … We were thinking the pound would be the best place and it would also help out.”
Frohman, a 16-year-old at Bloomington High School South, is one of the hundreds of people who adopt animals from Bloomington Animal Care and Control (BACC) every year. However, this is not a new trend. Since 2006, BACC has seen a steady increase in the number of adoptions combined with a decrease in the number of incoming animals.
Lydia Comer sits perched on a railing outside of her house watching the traffic on Atwater Avenue rush by. A big, wispy, brown dog sprawls contentedly in the side yard, while a calico cat leans against the screen of the open window. A few of Comer's 15 housemates stand in the doorway, and the conversation meanders between different kinds of for-profit, cooperative structures and who's making dinner tonight.
"I knew I wanted to be here before I got here," she said. "I was the first person to sign on for this house."
Comer lives at 630 E. Atwater Ave. in one of the two cooperative, or co-op, houses in town rented by Bloomington Cooperative Living (BCL). BCL is a local non-profit organization that tries to "foster an economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable society by promoting the value of cooperation and diversity," according to its Web site.
Joanne Shank doesn't remember the moment she realized that she wanted to create environmentally conscious art. A life-long lover of both nature and art, she can't imagine one without the other.
"I've always just enjoyed looking at nature as my resource for expression and inspiration," she says. "I've always enjoyed art, and I've always enjoyed nature, so I don't think there's a beginning point to either of those things in my life."
Shank is one of a number of Bloomington artists who have decided to work in environmentally sustainable ways. Whether artists choose to use recycled or organic materials or to create pieces that focus on environmental issues, the recent surge in interest in the green movement is a natural fit within the local arts community.
Fallen leaves crunch beneath the steps of 20-plus sixth graders as they run about with clipboards in hand behind Edgewood Primary School. Carroll Ritter watches the miniature scientists, equipped with tape measurers and calculators, in their quests to determine the diameters and circumferences of surrounding trees.
"Yes, I knew it!" exclaims a boy, pumping a reddened fist into the air when his math comes out correctly. Within the next 30 minutes, each student's calculations will prove a familiar mathematical concept: pi = 3.14.
"Today's exercise is a practical use of math with hands-on outdoor experience," says Ritter, the environmental education coordinator at Sycamore Land Trust (SLT). "A lot of subjects can be taught using the outdoors. It's fun, it's practical, and it's real world."
On a bench outside the First United Methodist Church, John Hammond, 52, sits clutching a black lighter and a slowly burning cigarette. Across the street, people mingle at the bus stop, their hands shoved into pockets, their faces downturned against the cutting November wind. An empty Styrofoam cup drifts down the sidewalk, colliding with the skittering leaves left over from fall.
The sound of buses makes the otherwise quiet street sound monstrous. Groans of engines and the screech of brakes echo against the stone face of the church. Women in business suits pass by, walking quickly and avoiding eye contact. Men in shaggy coats nod and say hello.
Hammond's bright blue eyes see it all from below the brim of his red and white baseball cap. "I worked all my life," he says. "My background is psychology and business management from IU, with 25 years' management experience. You wouldn't expect to find somebody like me down here. But it can happen to anybody."
When he's not teaching a class, helping students during office hours, or spending time with his children, Richard Schrimper, a senior lecturer of accounting at IU, devotes his time to his true passion: the forests of Brown County. Having hiked in the woods there for over 25 years, the trees have secured a place in his heart.
With the acquisition of a new property in Brown County, Schrimper immersed himself in the breathtaking beauty of the forest and also secured some financial freedom. His trees earned him $78,500. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a conservation organization that protects plants and animals, bought the rights to the trees on Schrimper's land.
"It was too good of a deal," Schrimper said. "I just couldn't pass it up."
Susan Sandberg eases the glass door of the jail lobby open, quickly peeking over her black-framed glasses to survey the room. Like a scene from a corny made-for-TV movie, a gust of wind blows her short blond hair.
Today, she dons a black leather jacket, blue jeans and pearls, a departure from her colorful, everyday ensembles, which usually feature chunky turquoise jewelry and red shoes.
"I don't normally wear my pearls to these things," she says with a laugh. "But I've got to rush off after this, jump into my little black dress, and I'm off to another event."
Mike Black stands casually behind the counter of his downtown market, wearing a zip-up North Face, light-colored jeans and faded New Balance shoes. He greets customers as they enter the store, knowing most by name, often knowing what particular lottery ticket or pack of cigarettes they buy before they tell him.
"Downtown is like a big family," he says with a smile. "I know everybody."
Since opening Black's Mercantile on 221 N. Walnut St. a little over three-and-a-half years ago, Black, 55, has provided downtown with a comfortable environment to shop for groceries.