There are many "green" stories out there. This is just one.

There are many "green" stories out there. This is just one.

Usually, green stories start with regular people doing something small that they know is going to help the planet, even if it takes a little extra time (or even money). They feel that small thing will soon become habit, something that doesn't take any extra time or money — and before you know it, people are telling each other about it and copying it.

This story is about a retailer and a manufac-turer who knew each other from green circles and green meetings and started talking. Soon, the green light bulb went on and they formed one small link that will end up lightening the considerable human load on this 50-mile thick planetary skin that we call the biosphere.

Rogue Valley Runner in Ashland heard about Nike's "Re-Use a Shoe" program, recycling old athletic shoes, grinding them into raw material for use in building athletic tracks.

If we all get rid of one pair of sneakers a year, that's 600 million shoes in the U.S. alone, that go into landfills for eternity. Whack, big impact.

So the shop's owner, Hal Koerner, told shoppers that if they turned in their old shoes, he'd give them a discount on their next purchase, which, of course, they would likely make in his shop, since they would be standing right there, turning in their old shoes — and in need of some new ones.

This, obviously, creates a big shipping cost. A box of 30 pairs of shoes costs about $50 to send to Nike, but Koerner says, "We will work it out. I'll pay for it now, but we'll talk to FedEx and UPS and see if they will give us a cut."

And, down the road, a program usually pops up to pay part or all of such costs.

It doesn't stop there. Melissa Schweisguth, director of marketing and social responsibility at Dagoba Organic Chocolates in Ashland, heard about it and offered Koerner a supply of bite-sized chocolates to sweeten up the deal, rewarding customers for thinking green.

"People go through a lot of shoes and they feel guilty about throwing them away. This was a fabulous idea and it helps us achieve harmony with the earth," says Schweisguth. "You want to encourage people to take whatever steps they can to live in a more harmonious way and help a local business to do the positive thing."

A major green business, Dagoba has cleaned up its own act from the beginning, buying green tags to offset its entire carbon footprint (amount of carbon emissions sent into the atmosphere that cause global warming) and practicing recycling of every possible item that enters the premises, including "pallet wrap," that long plastic that goes around pallets of goods, says Schweisguth.

They also donate to many groups and organizations, including Lomakatsi Forest Restoration in Ashland. Even the little things count, she adds, and office staff have found nontoxic replacements for fume-generating markers and cleaning supplies.

"Rogue Valley Runner is providing a much needed service to the community and planet by supporting the everyday recycling of an item that is not usually recycled, and this is really the kind of thing our planet needs more of," Scheisguth said, noting Dagoba likes to support causes that get people outside because "when people connect with nature more, they understand the interdependence and get involved in efforts to protect and restore nature."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at