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Carbon dating on romantic Whidbey Island

The Coupeville Wharf is a good place to go on a carbon date.  - File photo
The Coupeville Wharf is a good place to go on a carbon date.
— image credit: File photo

Every year new words enter our vocabulary. Sometimes the words aren’t exactly new, but the way we use them is entirely different. Take the word carbon. How many times did I use that word in casual conversation say in 2001? Maybe none. Now it seems to crop up all over the place. There’s carbon counting, carbon footprint, carbon neutral, carbon impacts. The list goes on.

How about carbon dating? With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it might be a good time to try a greener type of love.

I’m picturing a romantic evening. You bike together to the neighborhood pub. He gets a locally brewed beer. She orders Washington wine. They dine on Alaskan wild salmon caught by a local fisherman who is sitting at the bar. They’re served a salad of organically grown field greens from a small farm in Coupeville and French fried potatoes grown in the Skagit Valley. They listen to a band from Bellingham and dance in shoes made of recycled plastic bottles. They go home and calculate the carbon impact of their date and find they’ve cut their carbon footprint by 10 percent over last week’s date at the bowling alley. But if they want to make that trip to Victoria next month they’ll have to do some carbon trading with friends at work.

We all contribute to global warming and we can all rein it in. Climate change has become a primary focus of many individuals, businesses and municipal governments. As the bumper sticker says, “Think globally, act locally.” Start by calculating your carbons once a year to measure your success. This site comes recommended by Cathy D’Almeida, Coupeville’s Sustainable Community coordinator: www.b-e-f.org/offsets/calculator/.

D’Almeida gave a presentation this month to kick off the 2009 Sustainable Living Seminar Series in Oak Harbor. She showed the Council of Governments Sustainability Resolution signed by the Island County commissioners, mayors, and port commissioners. It states the intention of our elected leaders to work together to make Whidbey Island more sustainable.

D’Almeida’s presentation highlighted how our federal, state and local governments are taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Linda Irvine, hired by the city of Langley a year ago, has spearheaded the effort to reduced the town’s carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020. In her first year the town reduced its energy use by 5 percent. They found the biggest energy consumer, as in many communities, is pumping water, so water conservation is key. Langley installed a programmable thermostat in the marina restrooms and city staff and residents made efforts to cut energy use. This fall she launched her Porch Light Campaign, training volunteers to go door to door offering free CFL bulbs and discussing energy efficiency.

D’Almeida, recently hired by the town of Coupeville, just ran her own porch light campaign contacting 1,200 people. She hosts a monthly film series on the Coupeville Wharf (complete with popcorn). Currently she’s working with the Coupeville School District to get a Solar 4R Schools grant. The schools have been participating in a Cool School Challenge to reduce energy in every classroom. For more information on Coupeville’s projects visit:

www.town.coupeville.wa.us/sustainability.htm.

Oak Harbor city staff is working with a PSE advisor to cut energy use and save money. Many tax incentives, rebates and grants are available for energy efficiency upgrades in 2009. Oak Harbor awarded the first Green Business Award to Angelo’s Caffe’ for their efforts to reduce waste and conserve water and energy. The monthly Sustainable Living Seminars were launched last year. This spring a new series on Green Building will be offered. Topics will include historic preservation, deconstruction, Green Built, LEED and Energy Star Certifications, Renewable Energy, Low Impact Development, Water Catchment and Conservation.

Make your next date carbon free. Take the bus to Angelo’s Caffe’ for organic coffee, ride a bike to a movie on the Coupeville Wharf, or carpool to the next Sustainable Living Seminar. Call 360-279-4762, or visit www.oakhabor.org for a complete schedule.

Maribeth Crandell is the city of Oak Harbor’ environmental coordinator.

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