Can you commit to supporting the Great Lakes? Can you afford not to?

This guest post is part of the Traverse Magazine series “For Land and Water.” Subscribe for more about environmental preservation efforts in our communities.

When you look at the Great Lakes through the lens of geologic history, you easily understand they were here long before humans settled along their shores and will likely outlast us in one form or another. But for the time being, they are in the hands of European settlers that took on a different “stewardship philosophy” than the Native Americans before them. Their care now suffers the vagaries of late stage democracy, or better yet, partisan gamesmanship. Often the players constitute political rivals in our nation’s capital, most of whom have never felt the Great Lakes’ fury, walked barefoot on their shores, or experienced the power of a salmon on the end of a fishing line.

Yes, the lakes suffer the human condition of our time. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take better care of them during our short stewardship. While the survival of our Great Lakes watershed will require the continued support of our state and federal government, it’s clear that these waters can’t sustain us without the support of you and me. We’re the ones who use them for recreation. We’re the ones who benefit from 1.5 million jobs they help create, and the $6 billion in economic power they generate every year for our businesses and our state.

When Food For Thought launched its sister-brand, Esch Road Foods, my family and I named it after our favorite Lake Michigan beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Known as “Esch Beach” or “Otter Creek Beach” to locals, it’s been our personal family playground, given its proximity to our farm. It’s where we dipped our newborn children, walk white sand beaches, or enjoy healing cool waters on a hot summer day.

One of our goals in launching Esch Road Foods was to make a difference for the Great Lakes. One piece of that includes our commitment to donate 1 percent of sales to non-profit organizations that seek to protect, as well as to educate about important Great Lakes issues. Taking our inspiration from Patagonia’s “1 percent for the Planet” campaign, we created a logo and display it proudly in hopes of inspiring both individuals and businesses to do the same.

This year we’ve decided to devote 100 percent of our 1 percent to For Love of Water (FLOW) for their inspiring legal and educational work concerning threats to the Great Lakes—especially their work addressing the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Mackinac Straits. Can you commit to support your favorite Great Lakes water warriors? Use your imagination and give what you can. Is it 1 percent of your tax return? 1 percent of your income? Or if you are a business owner, is it 1 percent of your sales? That’s up to you. It only matters that you make a commitment. That’s something that only you can do.

Timothy Young is the founder of Food for Thought and Esch Road Foods.

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Photo(s) by Taylor Brown