Earth Week, April 20-26: live lighter

How will you reduce your 20 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) this year to do your part in climate control?

We’ve been asked to turn down thermostats in the winter and wear sweaters, and turn down AC in the summer and wear shorts; streamline our own consumption; replace old windows with energy-saving ones; walk more/drive less; and recycle to reduce our carbon footprints.

City Councilman Mike Cero campaigned on this issue, saying he knew his carbon footprint. He confirms it today:

“From, I calculated [my family of five] at 120,692 pounds, which doesn’t seem too bad given that the average U.S. household of two is 41,500 pounds.

According to, we create 14.3 tons, double the average family of about 7.5 tons.

At, I found my family of five at 78 tons, significantly less than its U.S. comparable of 130 tons, yet more than the world average of 28 tons.

“Despite this range of results, I want to reduce our carbon footprint,” Cero says. “I’ll replace light bulbs, and I think I can drop down to a 20-gallon garbage tote. I continue telling my kids to ‘turn off the blinkin’ lights’ until I’m blue in the face.” He said the biggest gain came when they built their house, making “many ‘green’ decisions in its design — mostly motivated by economics [to reduce electrical costs and upkeep].”

Cero had also promised to distribute “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Cool It” and “Unstoppable Global Warming” to his six fellow Council members and the city manager. Done, he says. He recommends this reading for citizens too.

At the city’s “Leap for Green” event on Saturday, April 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CCMV, a booth will help you measure your carbon footprint. Also, you may be the first to meet MI Parks and Recreation’s new mascot — a life-sized frog who will keep us aware of “sustainable living” throughout the year. (Read more about this event at People of all ages can enjoy the music, storytelling, food, art, live animal exhibits, gardening, dancing and more. It is put on by the city and IslandVision, sponsor of our new farmers’ market coming in August.

Stay tuned: The high school’s Committee to Save the Earth advisor, Sommer Whitmarsh, and MI Rotarian Nancy Lee, on its Planet Earth Committee, have been discussing collaboration on a battery recycling program on the Island.

This same Planet Earth committee has invited Damon Taam, Waste-to-Energy expert from the Spokane incineration project, to make a presentation to MI Rotary on April 22, Earth Day. The Spokane facility burns up to 800 tons per day of municipal solid waste and sells that energy to Puget Sound Power and Light to generate more than 26,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per hour — equivalent to the electrical needs of 23,000 homes. Similar projects in Hamburg, Germany, and other European countries also have eliminated landfills, which eventually leach contaminants into water sources.

George Chambers, a local advocate of such garbage treatment and recaptured energy, believes it is important for King County and Mercer Island to consider W2E before our Cedar Hills Landfill reaches capacity within a decade.

Now come on, litterer: Whoever tossed a metal green and red Christmas tree stand 10 feet off Gallagher Hill Road into the ferns — it’s never going to compost there! However, all those Christmas trees you donated to the city chippers in January have now composted and have been spread on Island medians and pathways. Smells so good!

Art-go-green: 125 fifth-graders at West Mercer Elementary are honing their creative talents to begin a wall mural with a “Green Theme.” They begin the process on May 1, working with visiting-artist Jose Orantes, and they’ll incorporate images about recycling, the water shed, food waste and all the lessons that they learned at IslandWood environmental camp.

The permanent five-panel mural will be hung before summer break (June 16) in the school’s multi-purpose room, similar to the one at Islander Middle School that Orantes also influenced. He has been a Washington State Arts Commission artist-in-residence for 11 years and has transformed many schools’ and communities’ talents into plywood and paint masterpieces. See his virtual show at

Ah, spring — and the loud lawn mowers and blowers, the smell of burning gasoline, and chemicals sprayed for pests and fertilizers. “Green” companies are advertising the use of electric mowers, organic products and the solar charging of electric equipment during the workday. Two such companies, “In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes” and “Clean Air Lawn Care,” call themselves “carbon neutral.” For details, contact owner Adam Werner, Clean Air Lawn Care, 650-3774.

Other “green-collar” jobs are sprouting — the Green Car Company in Bellevue, environmental assessors, Community Supported Agriculture (locally grown organics), Open Space Conservancy Trusts, companies converting rape seed to biodiesel, and ecoscientists capturing energy from wind, sun and the tides.

Live lighter: To stem our own over-consumption, consider eating only things that grow on trees or from the ground (in other words, produce!) ... the “10-minute rule” for dessert — after a meal, wait that long, and usually the desire subsides ... eat whatever you like — just cut it in half. And finally, “If you think it tastes good, spit it out!”

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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