Season brings time for reflection

It’s that time of year again. Whether you celebrate the solstice or Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or even Festivus, may you and your loved ones experience much joy, happiness and good health. We’ve turned the corner in our annual journey around the sun; our days are again growing longer. The new year offers promise and a lot to look forward to.

I think 2009 will be a major turning point in many ways. With a new president and a new direction, green living will most assuredly play a major role as our government finally gets serious about the issues of climate change, renewable energy and the environment.

Economic challenges are causing many to focus on priorities. There is a new emphasis on conservation. One benefit has been lower prices at the gas pump. Let’s not make the same mistake again by assuming it will stay that way. As we continue to conserve, we will be reducing our need for foreign oil, stemming the flow of U.S. dollars abroad and saving money at the same time.

We’re also seeing a reduction in overall consumption. While so-called financial experts may see this as a sign of a weak economy, it also can be a harbinger of more responsible choices as people cease being simple “consumers” and begin to make wiser choices about just what is really important in life — like having a savings account. Reduced consumption is a key element to a sustainable future for everyone.

Interest in home energy efficiency and renewable energy systems is skyrocketing as more homeowners seek ways to control utility costs. This is the tip of one iceberg that is most certainly not melting. It is the beginning of a major trend. It will have a significant impact on the way we build, operate and experience living in our homes. Unlike just a few short years ago, I now have many friends who live in solar-powered homes. I expect this will be true for everyone in the not-too-distant future.

As we seek ways to deal with these challenging times, it can be helpful to remember the value that green living brings to our lives. Many of the past ideas discussed in this column, along with the mountains of other information now available on the topic, show that there are options that fit any budget and circumstance.

Sometimes, the excitement of greening one’s lifestyle is palpable. I will never forget one very special holiday. As a young boy, my father surprised me with a new bicycle. That bike represented a source of freedom and mobility that I had never known. I was so excited and grateful that I could hardly contain myself. It’s been many years and although that bike is long gone, I’m considering a new one to take its place.

This time the excitement will be tempered a bit since I haven’t yet figured out how to surprise myself with it. Also, I’ve known the freedom and mobility of several modes of transportation over the years. Nonetheless, there is a feeling of excitement and anticipation that’s very real. This time, it stems from the fact that a bike can help reduce my carbon footprint while providing a source of fun and more time outdoors in the fresh air. A bike is a great source of exercise — something that I could use a lot more of. Those who know me can attest to that.

Also, I’m looking forward to exploring some of the new urban and off road trails in our area. I expect this experience will lend a new perspective to this place I’ve called home for so many years. It will be an adventure of discovery and I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

The point is that there are lots of ways to creatively embrace green living and have fun doing it. Hopefully you will find ways to make it a part of your holiday experience. This is a time to celebrate life and reflect on where we’ve been over the last year. It is a time to share with others and to help those less fortunate. It is a time to steel our resolve, make new commitments and then follow up on our resolutions to their full completion.

I resolve to continue seeking ways to lighten my impact on our world, to care for our home as a responsible steward of the planet and to share ideas that can benefit others as well.

There is one idea that I’d like to leave you with today. If you are one of the thousands of homeowners with a live Christmas tree, please recycle it properly. Starting Friday and running through Jan. 15, 2009, you can take your cut Christmas trees to one of more than 20 convenient drop sites throughout the valley.

Recycling your tree keeps it out of the landfill and when chipped into mulch it becomes valuable organic material that conserves soil moisture and keeps plants healthy. Call 822-7700 or visit www.springspreserve.org for more information.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, specializing in renewable energy, green building, alternative transportation and lifestyle choices for both residential and commercial clients. The company is committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. Rypka can be reached via e-mail at steve@greendream.biz. More information relating to this column is posted at www.greendream.biz.

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