Making maple syrup and saving the world

Maple syrup production in the United States peaked in 1860. This had nothing to do with agricultural trends or culinary tastes. It was political and moral beliefs in action.

The Northern states were abolitionist, but their political efforts to end slavery in America had gone nowhere. That was not the end of their activism. Abolitionists urged people to eat no sugar made by slaves.

By happy coincidence, the North had its own source of sugar — the sugar maple tree. Tens of thousands of Americans made maple sugar on their farms, doing their part for the cause of freedom.

Today, as in the 1850s, political gridlock has blocked progress on a crucial issue: global warming.

We should continue to promote climate action at the state, federal and international level. At the same time, each of us can “think globally and act personally”.

Here are 10 suggestions for reduced carbon living that I have found doable:

1. Consider solar panels. Prices have come way down in recent years. You don’t need a lot of up-front cash, as many solar companies offer loans or leases that pay for themselves. When your panels generate more electricity than you use, you can “net meter” the excess back to the grid, lowering your electric bill further.

2. Plant trees. Our streets used to be lined with shade trees, until road salt killed most of the sugar maples, and Dutch elm disease did its dirty work. Today, we can replant our streets with disease-resistant varieties, providing us with beauty and shade, while the trees sequester carbon.

3. Recycle. It takes less energy to reuse than to start with virgin materials. When my office started recycling, we found we generated just one bag of trash a week, so we canceled our dumpster, saving $2,000 a year.

4. Downsize your car. A small turbocharged engine can have the same power as a bigger engine, but with much better mileage.

5. Look into a used electric car. Many electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, are coming off three year leases — so many, in fact, that they can be bought for about one-third their original price. This is a better deal than buying new and getting the tax credit.

6. Burn wood. Any time you fire up the woodstove and turn down the thermostat is a plus. Extra points if you use wood from dead trees.

7. Grow veggies. Huge quantities of fossil fuels are used to grow vegetables far away and ship them to New Hampshire. In a small space, you can grow plenty for your family.

8. Compost. Kitchen scraps, leaves and lawn clippings are not “waste.” They are a resource. Put a compost pile in the back corner of your yard. If it looks unsightly, buy a compost bin, or make one from wood scraps.

9. Turn off your furnace in the summer. If your hot water is heated by your furnace, turn it on only when you need hot water. This will also make your house cooler in the summer.

10. Eat less meat. It takes approximately 10 pounds of vegetable matter to make one pound of meat. There is no nutritional reason for us to eat meat at every meal.

The above ideas are ways you can make your heating, electricity, transportation, waste stream, and food more “carbon-lite,” without crimping your style.

Mark Fernald is a former state senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for governor.


Categories: Opinion