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Green New Year's Resolutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Shawn Dell Joyce   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 00:00

Lucky for us, Santa is very kind, or we would have received a lump of coal in our stockings for being major contributors to climate change. Instead of giving us more stuff, I imagine Santa probably snuck into our houses and swapped out those incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents. He's probably pretty peeved about the climate changing at the North Pole -- and that his flying reindeer may soon join all the other Arctic creatures on the endangered species list. Indeed, we Americans have been very, very naughty.

Most of us realize that we can't go on this way. We are running out of planet to consume and will need 3-5 more earths to keep up our current consumption. We cannot continue to gorge ourselves at the all-you-caneat buffet created by our fossilfueled agricultural system. Nor can we keep adding more and more coal-burning plants to feed our lust for power, nor continue driving gas-guzzling SUV's. We have already burned through our share of the world resources and are now dipping deeply into our children's and grandchildren's meager allotments.

Each American household has to commit to change, changing light bulbs and changing paradigms. Let's embrace a culture built on conservation of resources instead of waste and excess. Here are a few New Year's resolutions that will set us on the right track:

1. Go on a "low carbon" diet. Woodstock author David Gershon leads you through energy-slimming actions to lose 5,000 pounds of carbon or more. Considering the average American household has a carbon footprint of 22,000 pounds per year, there's plenty of carbon to cut.

2. Take the "100-mile diet" challenge. Eating locally is the single best thing you can do to curb climate change. The average American fork-full of food traveled 1,500 miles to reach your mouth. By eating locally, we save emissions from transporting food and the livelihoods of local farmers. We also eat fresher, more nutritious food and we become intimately connected to the land and the seasons.

3. Set the "zero waste" goal. Make recycling, composting, washing and reusing a common practice. Carry your own mug or reusable water container to avoid generating more petroleum-based plastics. Stash a set of tote bags in your car for shopping, and refuse to accept any disposables.

4. Take the 10 percent challenge. Try spending 10 percent of your income at locally owned businesses. Move your mortgage to a local bank or credit union, buy from consignment stores instead of chain stores and eat at locally owned restaurants. This keeps your money flowing locally, where it grows and multiplies as local businesses frequent other local businesses. This one act will improve your local economy and save Main Street, and maybe even your job.

5. Convert to renewable energy. Curb 30 percent of your family's emissions by switching to renewable energy. If solar panels or a wind turbine are out of your price range, consider buying wind energy through your utility for about $15 per month.

6. Exercise your political will! We need real leadership at all levels of government willing to address climate change, and stop the growing disparity between rich and poor. It is time for creative direct actions like our youth demonstrated in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

7. Create community. Be the change you want to see. Take time to know your neighbors, walk to the store and see what small businesses you could be frequenting that you didn't even know existed. Spend precious time and energy getting involved in your community by volunteering and becoming politically active. Become deeply rooted in your community and bloom where you are planted!

Raised Garden Bed

Q: We are planning ahead for next summer and have a garden space next to some chokecherry trees and a wooden fence that we cannot grow anything on. What do we need to do with it? It gets sunshine most of the day. Would raised beds work?

A: How big and old are the trees? Old trees have big root systems, and newer trees have smaller root systems. Are the tree roots preventing other plants from growing or is it lack of water or poor soil? Chokecherry trees are not usually looked upon as being good trees. Could you cut them down?

When you say you can't get anything to grow are you mainly talking about lawn grasses? Grasses need full sun, which you have, but they also need a lot of water that the existing trees may be taking out of the soil.

When you say garden space, are you looking at a vegetable garden or a flower garden? Vegetables require full sun, lots of water and a loose organic soil. Your space has full sun, in spite of the trees. The tree roots may be taking out so much water that the other plants can't grow. If the space is near a water source, then all you need to do is add good soil to the raised bed. It would be good to install a weed barrier cloth on the current soil before adding the new soil to keep the tree roots from growing up into the new soil. As for a flower bed, there are plenty of plants that will grow in the sun or shade and some will grow in low soil moisture areas where tree roots are competing for water, but they would all do better in a good soil. They would all benefit from adding more soil over a weed barrier cloth.

In all three cases of lawns, vegetables and flowers, adding at least 6 inches of new soil would be good and 8 inches to a foot would be even better. For a lawn, add the soil in such a way that you don't change the water flow pattern across the yard to force the surface water towards your house or your neighbors.

For the flower and vegetable gardens, build the box for the raised beds using naturally decay resistant woods such as cedar, cypress, Osage orange or redwood. You can use a plastic deck board or a raised garden kit that uses recycled plastic for the boards. Cover the existing soil with the weed barrier cloth and then add the new topsoil.

If you want to keep the trees healthy, it would be best if you covered less than a quarter of their root system area with new soil. If you were to try to just add some new soil and rototill it in you would damage the tree roots. If you cover too much of the root system with too much soil, you could damage the roots. Don't add any soil on the tree trunks. Taper off to no new soil a few feet from the trunk. Also, don't pile any new soil on the fence.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 December 2013 21:26

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