ACT LOCALLY: What we do to our planet

“SEEMS LIKE THEY’VE upped the ante for awareness,” my friend moaned, with mock exhaustion.

Ecologically savvy, Mary recycles and shops locally. She cooks healthful meals with produce from her farm share. And hasn’t purchased bottled water in years.

Discovering that her bank funds mountaintop coal removal, generally in Appalachia, kicked Mary’s awareness up a notch.

While we worry about the destruction of the Amazon rain forests or the alarming number of American kids and adults developing asthma, it’s hard for even thoughtful consumers like Mary to connect all the dots.

Yet, as author Daniel Goleman explained, our everyday consumer habits are slowly destroying the Earth.

Goleman’s newest book, Ecological Intelligence, encourages us to become more educated consumers — on every level.

Want to know that one kids’ sunscreen has an ingredient that becomes carcinogenic when exposed to the sun, for instance?

Or look closely at that spiffy organic cotton shirt.

“It’s nice they didn’t use pesticides and fertilizers to grow the cotton,” Goleman said in a recent interview, “[but] organic cotton fibers are shorter than other ones so you have to grow more cotton per garment.

“Cotton uses enormous amounts of water and is usually grown in very arid parts of the world, so its stealing water from other uses and local communities.”

We need to look beyond “organic” and consider the chemicals used to process the cotton and the working conditions of the people involved in every step in creating that garment.

Fashionable and inexpensive? It was probably made in a sweatshop somewhere. Only sweatshops can turn things around quickly and cheaply, Goleman said.

“So our appetite for cheap trendy fashion actually makes young women in the poorest parts of the world suffer by having to work 18-hour days,” Goleman said.

Becoming aware of the hidden environmental impact of stuff before we buy it means we can help create change.

Enough concerned people can make companies rethink how they make things, what ingredients they buy, how they treat their workers and care for the environment.

Consider some recent consumer-driven changes:

• The Home Depot promised to sell only certified wood and offer environmentally friendly products.

• Starbucks switched to “greener” coffee.

When people focus and make their demands known, companies change, primarily to maintain their share of the market. A few percentage point changes in market share are extremely significant to a company.

An average family spends $18,000 a year on goods and services — which translates into 18,000 votes for the world you want.

How do you make informed choices?

It’s a challenge, but there’s help as near as your computer — or even your phone.

Begin with your regular shopping list, Goleman advised. Then check out those items online at

Next, tell everybody you know. Multiply your impact by twittering while you shop or posting your finds on Facebook.

Technologically challenged?

Ask your favorite bookstore for the Better World Shopping Guide, by Ellis Jones. His top 10 list of things to change begins with your bank, since it uses your dollars however it chooses.

On the North Olympic Peninsula — where almost all of its electricity is hydro — only a few people were aware that there were demonstrations against mountain top coal mining in several states last Friday.

But everyone uses energy. What do you know about the impact of your choices?

Learn more at

Start connecting those dots.


Diana Somerville, an award-winning author and science writer, lives in Clallam County and can be contacted via

Act Locally, her column on sustainability and the environment on the North Olympic Peninsula, appears every other Tuesday.

More in News

About 30 sailboats compete in the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s 33rd annual Shipwrights Regatta on Port Townsend Bay on Saturday. More of a fun event than a sailing competition, awards are given out during a pizza party afterward for the most navigationally challenged (Directional Helmet trophy) and for the “saltiest” boat and crew. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Shipwrights Regatta

About 30 sailboats compete in the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s 33rd annual… Continue reading

The City of Sequim hosts 13 manufactured home/mobile home parks with 596 existing units and 786 approved dwelling units. City staff continue to look into zoning options that could protect these sites from redevelopment to help protect affordable housing options in the city. (City of Sequim)
Sequim extends its mobile home moratorium

City staff to work preserving manufactured housing option

Olympic Medical Center chief outlines efforts at improvements

Decreased number of travelers among them

Jay and Trudi Inslee wear red for #WearRedDay to support women’s heart health in 2022. (Jay Inslee)
Gov. Inslee reflects in his final year of three terms

On the second level of the white and gray marbled… Continue reading

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer as coworker Robert Bufford prepares to secure the load as the pair prepares to open the parking lot at Port Angeles City Pier to automobiles on Friday. The work was part of a project to improve storm drainage, replace damaged sidewalks and ADA ramps and mitigate shoreline erosion around the lot, which had been closed since early January. Tree replacement and other project detail work is expected to follow over the next few weeks.
City Pier parking open

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer… Continue reading

Sequim Citizen of the Year luncheon on Tuesday

Emiko Brock, Labbe, Olsen to be honored

EYE ON THE PENINSULA: Broadband, public health before county boards

Government meetings across North Olympic Peninsula

A pair of Clallam Transit buses sit at The Gateway Transit Center in Port Angeles in preparation for their fixed-route runs on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Clallam Transit sees large rise in ridership

No issues seen with new zero-fare policy

Plans move ahead for Quilcene skate park

Jefferson County, volunteers seek grants

Peninsula College Foundation reports record levels of giving

Programs, students both recipients of funds

County to repave section of Carlsborg Road

Clallam County commissioners will consider awarding a contract for… Continue reading

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail and the entrance to the Port Angeles City Pier parking lot on Wednesday as part of a project to improve sidewalks and storm water drainage around the site. The project is expected to be substantially completed and the parking lot reopened by mid-March. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles City Pier

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail… Continue reading