A Nevada City woman transformed her life by trading in her SUV for a motorcycle, replacing all the lightbulbs in her house with energy-efficient bulbs, taking in a roommate, cutting down on meat consumption and saying goodbye to her cell phone.
"These are really easy, manageable changes that make a difference. That's all we ask of people," Reinette Senum said as she talked from the steps of Nevada City's United Methodist Church at the top of Broad Street.
Senum is the seed of APPLE, the Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy, a grassroots group concerned about high-priced and limited supplies of fuel, global warming and how investments in our local economy can make Nevada County more prosperous and less reliant on big corporations.
APPLE's town hall meetings have drawn standing-room-only crowds that come to learn how to put extra cash in their wallets while leaving a smaller ecological footprint on the planet.
Experts in many fields have spoken at APPLE meetings and given practical guidelines for buying locally produced goods, riding a bicycle or sharing a car to get to work, or switching to more energy saving lightbulbs.
Dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration, Hurricane Katrina, odd weather patterns and the volatility of gas prices have all fueled the interest in alternatives, Senum said.
"If any changes happen, it has to come from us," Senum said.
It all came about two years ago when Senum reached a point in her life where she felt disillusioned with the world.
"We're in a pickle. We're in a bad place," she said. She set about to make a change and began organizing the Town Hall Institute's Peak Oil Conference in May 2005. The response was more than she bargained for when a crowd of 200 people attended the event.
Eighteen months later, a number of spinoffs were born, including Community Gardens, The Clean Power Co-operative of Nevada County, Peak Moment Television, Nevada City CarShare, and PowerUpNC.
"What APPLE has become is the mother ship," Senum said.
It's not surprising that a movement as energetic as this one is being led by Senum, who grew up in Lake of the Pines. She's been rallying crowds since her days as a Miner mascot at Nevada Union, back in the 1980s.
At 18, she cared for her ailing adoptive mother and still remembers the last words her mother spoke before she died. "If there is something you want to do in life, do it now," she said. Those words were Senum's springboard into the world and have driven her ever since.
In 1994, Senum, then 27, became the first woman to cross Alaska alone. A video, film, slideshow and storytelling presentation of that adventure will be presented on April Fool's Day as a fundraiser for the organization she and Kelly Casterson founded called PowerUp-NC.
After several years of studying film making in Los Angeles, Senum returned to her home town. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work on APPLE a few years later.
State and PG&E grants for the project are finally beginning to surface after Senum supported the project for a year and a half by painting houses on weekends and volunteering all of her hours.
"I've never been more broke in my life and more happy," Senum said.
To learn more about APPLE visit: www.applenc.org or call 470-8642.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4231.
What: "Alaska Revisited" a storytelling, video and slideshow presentation of Reinette Senum's 1,500-mile trek across Alaska
When: 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, April 1, at Miners Foundry in Nevada City
Why: Fundraiser for PowerUpNC
Cost: Tickets are on sale at the door only. Adults, $12, children $8. Special offer to the Friendship Club girls and half price for their parents, guardians or angels.
Senum became the first woman to cross Alaska alone in 1994. She filmed the endeavor herself for National Geographic.
Highlights of the trek include a 600 mile cross-country ski trip down the frozen Yukon River pulling a 160-pound sled in temperatures of 55 degrees below freezing; building a canoe in an Athabascan native village and paddling 900 miles without a gun, radio or tent. Senum completed her 1,500-mile journey in four months and six days.
"The story of this journey puts most people on the edge of their seats," explained Reinette, "simply because it generally takes the audience beyond their comfort zone and then ends the story with a wild and unexpected twist of fate."
The three performances will benefit the local organization, PowerUpNC. PowerUp is a nonprofit group dedicated to implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for the Nevada City area.