Global Green Room Interview: Hynden Walch

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Meet Hynden Walch, one of the runners-up of our first Citizen Entrepreneur Contest to honor local green heroes. Walch was selected for running the Hillside Produce Cooperative, a group she started in her Los Angeles neighborhood to collect and distribute excess produce from neighbors. How did you become environmentally conscious?

I don't know that I'd consider myself more or less environmentally conscious than anyone else. But what really hit home for me was seeing all the waste of fruit growing in yards and on vacant lands in my hillside neighborhood. On one walk, I saw an elderly neighbor digging her way out from under a deluge of once-delicious, now-rotten lemons. I saw a mess of once-perfect California avocados smashed in on the street -- the victims of a fruit "hit and run." And I thought, This is crazy! Are we really so rich we can just let food rot on the tree and roll down the hill? That's when I mobilized and formed the Hillside Produce Cooperative, as a place where once a month, participants pick all that fruit they can't use themselves, bring it to my house and, in return, receive an equal share of all the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that everyone else contributed. Truly, it is an astonishing variety of incredible food -- and it's always free for everyone.

What would surprise us about your work?

Surprisingly, this project comes down to economic theory for me. From the beginning, the co-op has been about getting the chance to really practice what I preach. Under this system, we have no need for money nor any sense of "dibs." No matter what someone contributes (how much, how little, how exotic, how ordinary), everyone gets the same in return: one equal share of what the group "collected." Capitalism claims that this moneyless equality will breed resentment and competition. What I've discovered (much to my delight), is that when no "score" is kept (ie. "I brought A LOT, so I get I A LOT; you only brought a little, so you should get less than me"), people are freed up to become wildly generous! What I hear from my co-op members is how they want to give more next time! And plant more, too! It's a very nice thing to see and experience.

How have you worked with Global Green?

I regret to say, I only learned about Global Green once someone nominated me for this award. (Thank you!)  It's been nice to learn about Global Green. You guys are doing great work, especially in New Orleans!

Who is your hero?

I'm sorry, I'm not much on heroes. I think we're all (all of us) amazing as a big group. We just have to remember our interconnection -- we're all part of the same thing.

What has been a recent work success or accomplishment?

Much to my astonishment, we just completed our fourth year! During this year, I got to visit some of the other chapters, and it was amazing to see it existing and functioning as the "system" I always dreamed it would be -- operating without me in other places. Which meant more people were eating local, organic food free, less homegrown produce was going to waste, and people were getting to know and appreciate their neighbors in entirely new ways. And oh, it was really great!

If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?

Well, that's easy!  I would love to cut everyone out of the food-getting chain, except for the people who grow and the people who eat.  Agri-mega-business would be no more. Food would be freely shared, and locally grown. Other than that, I'd love for us all as a world to come up with a different way of measuring everything (including, sadly, people) that's not money.