Resolutions for a Sustainable Future

by Robert T. Nanninga

nce again that arbitrary date recognized as New Year's eve has come and gone, and ritual dictates that resolutions be made. I'm sure some folks resolved to give up smoking, drinking, and other assorted vices which is nice in a superficial sort of way. I suggest we go deeper than that when making promises.

Resolutions are easier to keep when there is more riding on the outcome than squeezing into the latest fashion, or bowling the perfect game. Resolutions should be larger than one's ego; otherwise, what chance do you have of keeping them? Most people have no problem lying to themselves, as self delusion is a main tenet of the American way. If you doubt this you need only look at the damage done to San Diego's environment in the name of progress.

Protecting the environment requires considerable resolve. Last year I actually kept the one resolution I made. It was easy, rewarding, and a great excuse to play in the dirt. I planted oak trees -- twelve to be exact. Planting twelve indigenous trees may not seem like a big deal in the larger scheme of things, but it worked for me and future generations will enjoy the shade. Everybody wins.

So to help readers shift gears and broaden the scope of their resolutions I have decided to suggest several that, like the planting of 12 oak trees, may seem inconsequential at first, but when carried out go a long way to help heal our tattered planet.

I hope everyone will attempt at least one of the earth friendly resolutions. I suggest including them all in your plans for 2001 to achieve the utmost in positive vibrations.

At the top of my resolution list is the one to drive less. According to transportation reform specialist Kate Alvord, "more than a quarter of US car trips are one mile or less, and 13.7 percent are an easily walkable half-mile or less." In a nutshell, this means US residents miss 123 million chances to walk instead of drive every day. That's a lot of pollution making its way into our lungs. The best way to ease yourself into this pledge is to replace at least one car trip a week with a walk. Bicycles are another alternative to driving that will help reduce what ails us.

Of course, I will roll over last year's resolution. This year, however, instead of planting coastal live oaks, quercus dumosa is the species I plan to focus my restoration efforts on. As an advocate of environmental sustainability, I will also continue my personal jihad against the planting of invasive nonnatives. In fact, three trees in my yard have already received eviction notices and will not survive to spring. The power is intoxicating.

Next on my resolution list is to phase out the use of paper made from trees. This will not be easy because society at large has decided trees have worth only when processed for human consumption. The amount of trees we throw away as disposable biology is no longer acceptable. Now is the time to start paying attention to where paper comes from. Canceling subscriptions to the daily newspapers that litter the doorstep every morning was just the beginning.

Trees make it possible for us to breathe, without healthy forests ecosystems life as we know it will come to an end. Hemp and kenaf are better sources of paper. They are better for the planet as they are crops that can be harvested yearly, and they can be grown by private citizens for their own paper needs. If people had to make their own paper I'm sure they would use a lot less of it. The biggest challenge will be to find a source for hemp toilet paper.

One resolution that I suggest for others that I no longer need to worry about is to avoid the dreaded super-size. From McMurder french fries to Big Gulps from 7-11 and urban assault vehicles from Ford, America must learn to curb their appetites before it becomes impossible to save our fat masses. Overconsumption on the part of Americans is more damaging to the planet than anything else facing humanity.

Coupled with reducing consumption, a renewed resolution to recycle absolutely everything is needed. As a personal mandate composting should be embraced by every household. Self-mulching yards and parks could easily be achieved. Products should be designed with 100% recycling in mind. If it can't be recycled, it should not be manufactured. Let's visualize an America where landfills are obsolete. Sustainability requires no less.

Robert Nanninga is a free-lance writer, producer and environmental journalist. A native of Vista living in Leucadia, he Chairs San Diego ZPG, as well as representing coastal North County on the Green County Council. He can be reached at