The Patchwork of Peace

The Olive Branch and Upcycled support fair trade and set example for our community

Recipe for easy Thanksgiving sweet potatoes: Peel and boil potatoes, then blend with butter, spices, and brown sugar. Place in a casserole dish. Top with marshmallows. Bake until warm and marshmallows melted. Skim off the marshmallows and throw the orange stuff in the trash. Enjoy!

That’s not your typical sweet potato recipe but this won’t be a typical Thanksgiving. Giving thanks will be extra meaningful as we remember all those around the world with whom we shared the hardships of 2020, including those who helped get the food to our table. We can savor the dedication of those who brought each ingredient from the fields to the store and the determination of farmers who planted the seeds.

Two Missoula businesses bring awareness to each link in the chain of what we buy, albeit with dollars instead of sweet potatoes. The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center (JRPC) and Upcycled are neighbors on the Hip Strip and partners in creating conversations around what it means to connect to the world through ethical consumerism.

The peace center is named after Montana’s congresswoman who cast dissenting votes against U.S. entry into both World Wars. The center is known for both a store stocked with Fair Trade Certified goods and peace-centered community projects. Although, not everyone realizes that these various activities come from a single non-profit. Carol Schwartz, Fair Trade and Marketing Director, frequently hears surprised comments. 

“They know us from either our store or our public outreach. When we’re at an event, I’ll hear, ‘You’re THAT Jeannette Rankin center?’”

Recently, JRPC had another opportunity to practice peace by becoming the new caretaker of the peace sign—yes, THAT peace sign—once erected on Missoula’s North Hills. Longtime Missoulians remember the shared drama that played out on what was originally a microwave reflector. A peace symbol would appear on the sign overnight. The phone company would repaint the sign white. Soon, the peace sign would return, only to be whitewashed again. Back and forth, citizens and the phone company volleyed with different symbols and innumerable white washings, until the reflector was removed in 2001. Carol shared how the sign re-emerged at its new home behind the peace center. 

“When the sign was taken down, nine pieces were distributed to locals for watching over. They kept them safe all these years. It was always the goal to bring the pieces together again. We’re proud to display the sign in all its original size and glory.”

JRPC couldn’t ask for a better neighbor than Upcycled. Owner Donovan Peterson has provided an antidote to the modern ailment of wishcycling: not being sure if something is recyclable but throwing it in the bin anyway, hoping someone will find a way. His shop sells work from local makers that’s at least 50% sourced from old materials. The shop's register counter is a perfect example. Repurposed from the Missoula Food Bank and covered with outdated floppy-disks, the counter doubles as a display for locally-made magnets. A keen eye can see how the colored disks are arranged to spell “UP!” It's that combo of whimsy and practicality that Donovan encourages in both artists and shoppers. 

“Some of the best upcycling are happy accidents,” he said. The two stores have created a synergy that goes beyond brick-and-mortar. Carol remembered one instance. 

“A customer wanted one of our hats but she wanted a chin strap on it. We went to Donavon and asked if he could make one. He found materials in his store and she walked out with the hat that she wanted.” However, it’s about more than just shopping.

“We run our shops but we also hold space for ethical conversations about consumption,” explained Donovan. Carol agreed. 

“The favorite part of my days are the conversations I have with customers. Plus, you can shop both stores and feel good about what you buy because we've done the work for you.” 

“Of course,” Donovan said, “You have to stay in business. But we’ve been able to create self-perpetuating models based on being a good person, rather than the bottom line.”

This Thanksgiving we can each follow the examples set by JRPC and Upcycled by considering what it means to be a good global citizen. We can take our own first step, even if that’s just with one bite of sweet potato.

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