When asked where we live, we may offer our street address or city, depending on the need — driving directions, delivery of mail or a general sense of distance.
That information, however, doesn’t inform how we should live here.
By the end of the first day of Stream Stewards class in February, I decided to do some research and craft a more meaningful address for myself.
I began with the most specific — my watershed address, a watershed characterizes where rainwater goes when it falls in that location. It turns out, there are as many as 116 distinct watersheds in North Kitsap alone. You can find the map easily by searching the internet using the words “Kitsap,” “watershed” and “map.”
Knowing your watershed address informs the decisions you make when maintaining your house, lawn and vehicles. Gamble Bay, Puget Sound and Cascadia are my watershed and bioregions, respectively.
Then, I looked at a few of the things that we all consume (water and energy) and generate (wastewater and waste). Both are the origin and fate of those flows.
It was too much to fit into this article, but there were a few things that I thought I’d share because they surprised me and will inform how I prioritize my future efforts to reduce my impacts.
I had been under the impression that most of our power is hydroelectric-based. However, the information that’s available, which reflects the 2014 generation, indicates that we rely on close to equal shares coal (35 percent) and hydro (36 percent) as well as natural gas (25 percent) for our conventional electricity supply. Customers who pay a bit more to buy Puget Sound Energy’s green power mix are supporting primarily wind, livestock methane and landfill gas-based power generation.
I hadn’t realized that Washington is one of the few Pacific Northwest states that has oil refineries, so the gasoline we buy to run our cars generally comes from one of these five in-state refineries. In the past, the majority of the crude oil processed in Washington came from Alaska. However, in recent years, a larger share of the crude oil is coming from the North Dakota Bakken Shale oilfields and Canadian oil sands.
There is a backstory to what we consume and a fate to what we generate. Making healthy choices for the future will call on us to stay aware, see the whole system and understand the consequences of those choices.
— Beth Berglund is a Stillwaters Environmental Center board member. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.