Low carbon for the New Year?

By Maribeth Crandell

After the holidays most of us could lose a few . . . carbons?

Is that like dieting on burnt toast or something?

Many Americans tend toward the gluttonous and our planet is paying for it. Americans make up about 5 percent of the global population, yet we use roughly 33 percent of the world’s natural resources. To put it another way, if everyone on earth lived as Americans do, we would need three more earths to meet the demands for natural resources. However, our one planet earth could support the current population comfortably if we all live like Europeans.

We’re not talking huge changes here. If we use more efficient lighting, appliances, and automobiles, use mass transit more often, take steps to safeguard and conserve our drinking water, shop for locally grown food, collectively we could make a difference and in most cases, save money, and reduce our carbon consumption, too! Now that’s a New Year’s resolution!

So if you’re curious about “carbon counting,” “greenwashing,” “precycling,” or measuring your “environmental footprint,” perhaps you’d like to attend this year’s series of Sustainable Living Seminars. Learn about Green Building; or Low Impact Development or water wise landscaping. Find out where your food comes from and where your water goes, how you can recycle electronics and other trash, save money on utility and garbage bills, minimize the cost of your commute, create less waste and more meaning during the holidays. In general you could discover how to be a shade more “green” in 2008.

These free monthly workshops are sponsored by the city of Oak Harbor, the WSU Extension and the Whidbey Island Conservation District. All the seminars are on Tuesday nights from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Hayes Hall, across from the Oak Harbor library.

The first seminar will be a Sustainable Living overview. Janet Hall, WSU-Island County Waste Wise coordinator, will speak on making low impact personal lifestyle choices. She’s an expert on everything — from smart shopping to conscientious composting ­­— and has just moved into her new “green” home.

Rob Voigt, Oak Harbor city planner, will give a presentation on sustainable communities. He has worked as a planner for the city of Vancouver, B.C., and now works in Oak Harbor’s Planning Department incorporating Low Impact Development, bike paths, open space and waterfront parks. Both presenters offer a wealth of experience and are familiar with local resources that would enable each of us to live more sustainably. Together they’ll set the tone for the 12-month series and help us start the New Year right.

There are plenty of good reasons to attend. For one thing, these seminars are free! If you’re an Oak Harbor School District teacher you can earn clock hours. Skagit Valley College offers college credit. Island Transit has agreed to detour their last southbound bus of the day and pick up program participants as the seminars are ending. You could discover ways to save money, energy, natural resources, create less waste, help clean up our air and water and generally improve your quality of life.

For more information on college credit or clock hours call, 279-4762 or email mcrandell@oakharbor.org.

Jan. 22: Sustainable Living Overview, Personal and Community Choices; Rob Voigt, Oak Harbor city planner, Janet Hall, WSU Waste Wise coordinator.

Feb. 2: Sound Waters Conference at Coupeville Middle School. Contact Island County-WSU Beach Watchers for info.

Feb. 21: Kathy Fletcher, People for Puget Sound, Coupeville Recreation Hall, 7 p.m.

March 25: Green Building Rural, Residential and Commercial LEED, Green Built, Energy Star & Low Impact Development, Eric Johnston, OH City Engineer; Greg Cane, Cane Engineering; Rick Almberg, LID Developer; Chris Borroughs, Energy Star.

April 29: Green Building Resources & Recycling, Ted Clifton, Certified Green Builder and Instructor; Nicole Luce will present on resources for green building.

May 27: Reduce Your Carbon Food-Print, Farmer’s Market Coordinators, Peg Tennant and Sheila Chase; Linda Bartlett of Rosehip Gardens, CSA.

June 24: Slow the Flow: Rain Barrels to Rain Gardens, Stacy Smith, Whidbey Island Conservation; Duke Le Baron, WSU Extension.

July 22: Getting Friendly with the Natives, Waterwise Landscaping, Rhonda Haines, Oak Harbor Water Dept., Don Lee, Meerkerk Gardens.

Aug. 19: Bike, Bus or Biofuel? Martha Rose, Island Transit; Jim Sommers, cyclist; Arnie Peterschmidt, cyclist and OH city engineer; Eph Robbins, biofuel maker.

Sept. 30: Energy Efficiency; A Warm and Well Lit Winter, Lee James, Puget Sound Energy.

Oct. 21: Sustainable Energy: Sun and Wind on Whidbey, Kelly Keilwitz, founder Whidbey Sun and Wind.

Nov. 25: Tis the Season for Smart Shopping, Janet Hall, Melissa Russell, WSU Waste Wise and Maribeth Crandell, Oak Harbor environmental educator.

Dec. 16: Wading in the Waste Stream, Toxins in our Environment, Mahmoud Abdel Monem, Beach Watcher volunteer; Jerry Mingo, Island County Hazardous Waste & Recycling.

Maribeth Crandell is the city of Oak Harbor’s environmental educator.

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