Article & Photographs by Carolyn Manney
I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all want the Earth to have a nice, long, healthy life. There’s the quintessential checklist of earth-saving duties: recycle, shop local, bring your own bag, don’t leave the lights on, turn down the heat, compost, don’t litter - some of which I do better than others. But there are times when I feel like this list is exactly that, duties, instead of what it actually is, basically an exercise in living creatively. Of being more engaged with life.
I understand that things these days are serious. What with the ice caps melting, the weather patterns changing, the honey bees vanishing, it’s no time to mess around. The health of our planet depends on us and each choice we make really does matter.
But I am of the multi-tasking mindset that we can fully understand the magnitude of the circumstances we’re in, do our part to help save this planet, challenge ourselves to be better stewards of the earth, all while having a good time and maybe even learning a thing or two along the way. And lucky for me, you, East Nashville and the Earth, Tara and Johnny Shields, owners of The Green Wagon, feel exactly the same way.
And they throw really great parties.
Tara and Johnny are cool, down-to-earth, real people who feel passionately that sustainable living should be simple. And easy. And fun. And free of guilt and finger-wagging. Their shop, in the big white house at the corner of Forrest and 11th, the one with the beautiful rain garden and the front porch that beckons you to just sit and stay for a while, is full of products that are 100% sustainable and over 70% are made right here in Tennessee. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend stopping in.
There are everyday products like toilet paper and trash bags, handmade soaps that smell like pure fragrant bliss, lip balms, natural make-up and nail polish for the ladies. You can also find natural toys for kids, clothes made from repurposed materials, naturally dyed scarves by ASK Apparel and local art adorning the walls. And did I mention that Aunt April’s Bakery, the unbelievably delicious all gluten-free bakery, is also housed inside The Green Wagon? I’m not even gluten-free but the muffins she makes - pumpkin chocolate chip, blueberry, poppy seed, etc. - are the absolute best. With one bite, all notions you may have had about gluten-free food being scary or bland, will be banished forever.
The word that comes to mind when I think of The Green Wagon is community. When Tara and Johnny became the owners in January of this year, they brought with them their mission to turn The Green Wagon into a community hub. Part of the way they do this is through 3Funding America where you get to pick from a whole slew of non-profits including CASA, Sound Forest, Soles for Souls, and each time you buy something, 5% of that purchase goes to the non-profit of your choice. Who knew spending money could feel so good.
And if I could be so inclined as to plan your day for you, might I recommend swinging by The Green Wagon either before or after you hit up The East Nashville Farmers Market, since each Wednesday they donate a percentage of sales to a local East Nashville non-profit that represents a branch of sustainability, such as Friends of Shelby Park. And while we’re at it, I might as well plan this Saturday for you as well since as I mentioned earlier, Tara and Johnny throw really great parties.
This Saturday, June 25th is where it’s at. Be there or be square, as they say. The Green Wagon Summer Block Party starts at noon with a workshop on edible landscaping by Jeremy and Eliza of Nashville Foodscapes. They’ll teach you how to grow and maintain three types of gardens: culinary herbs, vegetables and medicinal herbs. After that, grab yourself a Yazoo or Nashvillion beer at a suggested donation price of five bucks for two beers and listen to some music, as there is a pretty incredible line-up of bands playing all afternoon and well into the evening. And if you’re hungry, have no fear, you can choose from Nashville’s finest food trucks: The Grilled Cheeserie, Mas Tacos, Terra Delicious, Bang Candy and Herbal Lemonade. See, suddenly your Saturday is shaping up to be pretty sweet.
The moral of this story, to me anyway, is that choosing to live in a sustainable way, to have even the slightest bit more awareness in your everyday life, in the way you choose to eat and shop, means more fun, more simplicity, a bit more knowledge and more great people sprinkled throughout. And lucky for me, you, East Nashville and the Earth, The Green Wagon is right there at the center of it all, keeping it real.