Mackinac Island is not only a really neat eight-mile island in the Great Lakes where Lake Huron meets Lake Michigan, but it is probably one of the “greenest” places in the US. Eighty-percent of the island is State Park, there are no motorized vehicles and recycle is a big way of life because getting rid of garbage on a island is tough.
Transportation is via foot, horse...there are 500 really big horses to do all the heavy lifting...and, of course, there are bikes, lots and lots of them. Fact is you can’t swing a dead cat around this island without wiping out a couple of bikers. There are tandem bikes, geared biked, bikes for kids and three-wheeled bikes. There are bikes with trailers for taking the tots for a ride or the family dog. In Braking for Bodies, Evie who owns a bike shop has carts that hook on the back of bikes for golf clubs.
You can rent a bike from the many shops on Main Street or bring your own on the ferry. And, yes, that is the only way to get to MI unless you fly in on a one-engine puddle-jumper.
I visited MI with my bike and my daughter from NYC. When we got off the boat she asked if we died, surely this was heaven. Gong from the racket of Time Square to Mackinac Island all in one day is definite culture shock! There is NO noise unless you count the clip-clop of horse hooves noise. There are no traffic lights, no traffic jams, and no honking horns. There is clean air, blue skies and peace. Bikes with baskets are parked in front of shops instead of cars and parking lots are bike racks. Groceries and other purchases are in reusable sacks and everyone is walking everywhere and loving it even in the rain. It’s called an umbrella.
Mackinac Island is a clean way of life. Considering there are only five-hundred full-time residents on the island this environmentally sound living sounds pretty darn easy. And it is as its part of life.
Clothes Swaps are twice a year where residents swap clothes to enhance their wardrobe. This year the yellow sweater with rhinestones might be yours and next year you might see it on your neighbor who shares that same great taste in clothes. Furniture is resold or given away. The post office, ground zero for catching up on local news and gossip, has a bulletin board for that very purpose.
Now what about when those tourists who visit? How do the locals get the guests to go along with their ideas and they have to as there are nearly a million visitors each year. Mackinac Island has figured out that people do what is expected. There are trashcans separated into plastic, paper, trash. Tourists come prepared to walk or take horse taxis and they bring their won bags, bikes and sense that time moves at horse speed and not warp speed.
Mackinac is green out of necessity and everyone who goes there seems to get on board with that idea and it works. One of the best parts of visiting Mackinac Island is that you feel one with the Earth and not just someone running around on it. That’s what living green is all about and it can be done. We just have to make the commitment.