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12.30.09

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Five Resolutions

Mick Winter's easy tips for a sustainable New Year

By Juliane Poirier


Mick Winter of Napa is a look-ahead person who translates a world of complexity into simple, practical tasks. He has made everyone's New Year resolution-making easier this year by consolidating a bunch of earth-saving, optimism-building ideas that will also leave us spending less money in 2010. The following suggestions come from his 2007 book, Sustainable Living: For Home, Neighborhood and Community. The expanded version of this little gem has a flashier title: Peak Oil Prep: Three Things You Can Do to Prepare for Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Collapse. Since Sustainable Living's publication date predated the current economic collapse, perhaps Winter peers into the big picture with greater perception than some. His list is perfect for beginners who want to start the New Year right and enjoy life more.

1. Replace "Incandescent bulbs," Winter explains, "are basically little heaters that also produce light. Only 10 percent of the energy they use produces light; the other 90 percent produces heat. This is a very serious waste of energy." Since PG&E uses coal-fire and other dirty power in California, we can reduce by up to 75 percent per bulb how much of that stuff comes on line by using compact fluorescents instead. While you help the planet, you save $32 over the life of the bulb. "Replace 10 bulbs in your home, and that's a savings of more than $300," Winter explains. "A bulb can pay for itself with normal use in just five months."

2. Move "The physical exercise from moving your body [walking or riding a bike] will increase your blood flow, strengthen all the muscles in your body, loosen your joints, improve your breathing, help you lose weight over time and increase your appetite yet help you be satisfied with lower food intake," says Winter. What's not to like about that? When driving is a must, he has this advice: Combine trips by waiting to do all errands at once; telecommute at least once a week; carpool or use public transportation more often; and share errands with neighbors.

3. Plant "No matter how small your living space," Winter writes, "you can still grow some of your own food, even if it's just sprouts, herbs or a couple of tomato plants." His alternative advice is to join one of the more than 18,000 community gardens now thriving in the United States and Canada. Growing food is part of the local and Slow Food movement that includes buying from community supported agriculture.

4. Share Sharing increases wealth. Much of the solution to planetary crisis involves organizing and sharing to significantly lower our ecological footprint while creating the community that we lost when we became consumers rather than interdependent people. "It's good to have a home that's self-sufficient," Winter writes, "but even better to have an entire neighborhood that can cover its own basic needs. Your neighbors are likely to have knowledge, skills and tools that you don't have. Through mutual sharing, you're all strengthened."

5. Localize Spend your money at local business and on local producers. "Locally owned businesses help the economy," Winter reminds us. "Chain stores don't." Winter cites a study showing that out of every $100 spent at a chain store, only $43 remains in the community, whereas of every $100 spent at a local store, $68 remains in the community. "The people who own and work at local businesses are your friends, neighbors and fellow members of your community," he reminds us. "They have the same stake in the community's health as you do."

From Mick Winter and me:

Happy New Year.


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