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Sonoma County Gazette

2017—what a year!


Jan 2, 2018
by Tish Levee


The last three years have been the hottest on record, with last year the hottest year NOT affected by an El Niño. Accompanying this global temperature rise have been record heatwaves, flooding, droughts, Atlantic hurricanes, and, of course, wildfires throughout the Western US, as well as Portugal. Our October fires were the worst in California’s history (an accolade no one really wanted), but they’ve now been eclipsed by the devastating Southern California fires.

Meanwhile the current Administration’s pulled out of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords and has sought to roll back 60 environmental regulations, many directly related to global warming and climate change. Nonetheless, it’s not “game over” yet. Led by Governor Jerry Brown and former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, more than 20 states, the 50 largest cities, and 60 businesses, have joined America’s Pledge to say “We’re still in!”

Can we make 2018 a better year?

It’s that time when most of us make New Year’s resolutions – often having to do with our health. This year let’s resolve to make our planet healthier. Here’s a resolution for each month:

  • Stop idling your auto engine (unless it is an electric vehicle, that is). If all Americans idled our engines just one minute less/day, we’d save over 92 million gallons of gasoline/year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 225,200 tons.
  • Walk, bike, or take transit once a week. Respectively, for each of these options the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings is approximately 75%, 78%, and 50%.
  • Keep saving water! While we aren’t in a drought right now, we’ve learned by hard experience that we can’t count on there being enough water. So keep conserving. Get ideas
  • Skip the Straw. Every day, 500 million straws are thrown away in the US—that’s 175 billion a year – many of which end up in our waterways. Join the Sip it Sonoma campaign to ask restaurants to only provide straws on request. Go to learn more.
  • Sign up for Evergreen – 100% renewable energy, with Sonoma Clean Power, if you don’t already have it. The average home using 510 kWh/month will pay less than $20 more a month than SCP’s Clean Start program and about $15 less than PG&E.
  • Go solar, if you can.This is a great time to do so; there’s a federal tax credit available for at least two more years. The County of Sonoma provides low-interest financing through the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP), the longest running program of its kind in the nation. Get help with questions and financing
  • Unplug “vampire” electronics. Vampire or phantom energy cost the US $10 billion in 2009. Unplug your electronics or put them on a power strip that you can then turn off.
  • Switch to LED light bulbs.They use about 18% of the energy used by a CFL bulb (31% of what an incandescent bulb uses). Over 20 years their total cost is 63% of a CFL and 16% of an incandescent bulb. AND think of all the energy you’ll save!
  • Work towards ZeroWaste. Currently 66% of our landfill is either compostable, divertible or potentially so. First we must reduce our consumption. Buy and use less, especially plastics, which make up 14.8% of landfill. Organics, of which 17% is food waste – nearly 45,000 tons locally – are the largest part of our landfill. Remember organics produce methane in landfills, which is 72% more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming. Compost if you can or put it in your green can.
  • Recycle everything you can! Go to for more information on how to recycle almost anything!
  • Go meatless once a week. It takes over 60 times as much water and nearly 12 times as much fossil fuel energy to produce one pound of beef versus one pound of vegetables, while releasing about 30 times as much greenhouse gas emissions.
  •  Take Daily Acts Community Resiliency Challenge this Spring. Learn more about actions you can take, alone or with others, to create a more resilient community at, and see my article, “Ripple the the Recovery AND the World,” elsewhere in this issue.
  • ©Tish Levee, 2017


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