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Y2k Green Steps

Here are some no-regrets tips and suggestions you can do now that will make your home and community more sustainable and help you prepare for a worst-case Y2K scenario. Below, we start with four basic principles to follow:

Here are some no-regrets tips and suggestions you can do now that will make your home and community more sustainable and help you prepare for a worst-case Y2K scenario. Below, we start with four basic principles to follow:

Four Principles

1) Take steps for Y2K that green your home and your community –doing things that will be beneficial even if no Y2K problem materializes.

2) Avoid steps that involve the purchase of environmentally damaging products.

3) Encourage people to work together, and create networks and relationships that can benefit your neighborhood and community long after Y2K is history.

4) Meet your neighbors. Learn their names, find out more about them, and establish a sense of trust.


At Home:

• Throughout the year, stock up on nonperishable food (canned, dried, bulk grains, etc.) by adding a few more of these items to your shopping list every week.

• Plan to stock enough food to last your family several weeks to several months. Remember to plan for ease of preparation and simplicity.

• Grow fresh herbs and green leafy vegetables as indoor houseplants, and (if you have the space) plant a garden. Learn to grow sprouts.

• Make sure you have a safe cooking source – wood or propane stove, solar cooker, outdoor grill, or even a camping stove – and enough safely stored fuel.

In Your Community:

• Start or join a community garden. Work together to can, dry, and store the harvest.

• Have a monthly potluck dinner with friends and neighbors to discuss a community response to Y2K problems.

• Create a tradition of exchanging baked goods, meals, sweets, and other foods with your friends and neighbors. That will make it easier to help one another if there is an emergency – and create a network that will provide wonderful benefits long after Y2K is past.

Household Supplies

At Home:

• Take stock of your kitchen supplies. Think about cooking, eating, and cleaning with simplicity.

• Check your toolkit. Be sure you have basic tools that don't require electricity (hammer, saw, screwdrivers, pliers), as well as assorted nails, wire, screws, tape, rope, etc.

• Over the year, build up a supply of other basics, such as candles, matches, plastic sheeting, trash bags, antibacterial soap, buckets, toilet paper, and other items your family may need. (Remember your pets and the special needs of children.)

• Plan for unplugged entertainment. Make sure you have books, puzzles, and games on hand that require no electricity or batteries.

In Your Community:

• Order household supplies in bulk with friends and neighbors.

• Create a neighborhood exchange to share tools and skills.

• Learn to work together by planning and participating in neighborhood clean-ups, garage sales, and special building projects.

Water & Sanitation

At Home:

• Plan for a supply of safe drinking water for several days to several weeks. Average people need at least two quarts of water each day.

• Find a water purification system for your home. Save large bottles (milk, soda, etc.) and large plastic containers. Fill them with water ahead of time.

• Develop a system to save and reuse nondrinking and “gray water” for cleaning and flushing toilets.

• Examine the amount of trash generated by your household. Recycling, composting, and avoiding wasteful packaging can reduce your contribution to the waste system – important all the time and even more so if trash pick up is disrupted due to Y2K.

In Your Community:

• Work with your community to plan, develop, and stock neighborhood water storage centers to share drinking water with those who may need it in an emergency.

• Work with your neighbors to create a community compost pile.

• Work with your community and local government to create a safe way to store garbage and recyclable material if regular trash collection cycles are disrupted.


At Home:

• Convert all the batteries you use to rechargeable batteries and, throughout the year, build up an extra supply of them to run your flashlights, portable radios, hand tools, and other appliances. You can buy solar battery charger systems to keep them charged if electricity in your home is disrupted.

• Consider installing alternative power sources in your home.

• If you live in a colder climate, make plans for an alternative heating source, such as wood, kerosene, or solar heating systems. Use plastic sheeting to insulate rooms that will be heated. Remember to make sure that there is adequate ventilation.

In Your Community:

• Find a place (churches, schools) where everyone can go for heat and warmth to maximize efficiency and minimize the purchase of potentially unsafe or unstable heating systems.

• Buy rechargeable batteries in bulk with others to save money and build awareness. Do the same with alternative power systems.

• Consider a group purchase of a generator as an emergency community power source.

• Throughout the year, plan “power raising” parties where neighbors help each other install solar, wind, or other systems at each other's homes – as well as make the homes more energy efficient. Combine it with a potluck.

First Aid & Medical Supplies

At Home:

• Check your first aid kit. Make sure it is well stocked.

• Keep a supply of vitamins and any prescriptions your household needs.

• Have a first aid reference book in the house. If you can, take a first aid class.

• Check with your doctor and nearby hospitals to find out how they are preparing for any Y2K emergencies.

In Your Community:

• Work with your friends and neighbors to survey the medical needs of your community. Find out who has medical conditions and what special care they might need.

• Make a list of medical skills and resources among your friends and neighbors. Develop plans to transport people to a hospital in case 911 systems are not working.


At Home:

• If you own a car, find out if its computers or embedded chips may fail. Check with the manufacturer. Be sure it has had a recent tune-up. Consider it an emergency resource and make plans to use it less often. Lack of gas, traffic signals, and general confusion could make driving difficult.

In Your Community:

• Develop a ride-sharing plan with your friends and neighbors. Plan carpools to work, grocery stores, schools, and other regular destinations.


At Home:

• If your paycheck is automatically deposited, contact your bank (or other check-writing institution) and your employer to find out how prepared they are for Y2K. Ask them what to do if your deposit is not made.

• Check with all your creditors about their Y2K preparedness. Consider paying some bills in advance. Keep track of all your payments and receipts.

• How prepared is your bank? ATM cards may not work. Decide how much cash you would need to feel secure, and make a plan to set some aside over the course of the year to meet that goal.

• Make sure you know where all your valuable papers are. Keep copies of 1999 bank, credit card, mortgage, and investment statements so you can prove what you own and what you have paid.

In Your Community:

• Work with your friends and neighbors to create a barter exchange for goods and services. Get together with your neighbors to make an inventory of skills and tools that could be shared or bartered. Try to imagine living as a community off the money grid for awhile.


At Home:

• Be sure to have at least one working, battery-operated radio. Short wave, weather band, and emergency band radios might also come in handy.

• Potentially all phone systems, including cellular phones, could go down. A CB radio, ham radio, or even walkie-talkies might come in handy for two-way communications.

• Meet your neighbors. Establish a neighborhood plan for staying in touch.

In Your Community:

• Circulate and share copies of articles and books on Y2K with friends and neighbors.

• Work with your community to establish a way to pass on information and control rumors in case of an emergency.

• Throughout the year, hold meetings to prepare as a community. Plan them as social events. Work with your friends and neighbors to use Y2K as an opportunity to build a socially just and environmentally sustainable world.

This article was taken from the Spring 1999 issue of Co-op America Quarterly, whose source was “Individual Preparation for Y2K” by Paloma O'Riley in The Y2K Citizen's Action Guide. Copies of the guide can be ordered for $4.95 through Utne Reader, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403; 800/880-UTNE. The Y2K Citizen's Action Guide is also available free online at

Chemical Scoreboard

World Oil magazine reported last year that oil and gas firms are likely to fix less than 30 percent of the systems that could potentially fail on Jan. 1, 2000. To find out if you live near an oil refinery, chemical plant, or other industrial facility, check out the Chemical Scorecard on the Environmental Defense FundÕs Web site ( From there, you can type in your zip code and view a list of the industrial sites in your area.

Then, write to these companies and ask them to share their Y2K compliance plans with you. Be sure to let them know you want details of their plans. Send copies of your letter and the response to the local paper. If you have a community group, you could request a public meeting.

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