Friday, November 20, 2015

Sustainability in My Neck of the Woods

Having grown up in Lancaster County, green and sustainable principals have always been a part of our consciousness.  It does not escape my predilection for irony that these fundamental ideas are historically more prominent in the rural areas than in more developed parts of the City.

One can drive a car or ride a bike down the lanes that divide one farm from another and see the originators of sustainability and conservation.  I have been aware of harnessing the wind to create power my entire life, for instance.  It is not a new technology by any means, nor has the technology been improved significantly in the last 40 years aside from enhancements to battery storage.  The rotational moment is still the means to produce electricity.  Amish and Mennonite farms in the area have powered their electric fences with wind mills or water mills for centuries.  Now we see wind farms out our windows on the PA Turnpike.  I always wonder why some of the giant turbines are never rotating – you never see that happen on a farm.

High Tech wind power on the landscape.
Composting has also made it to the mainstream in urban and suburban centers.  From the zero-waste hotel I stayed in during a visit to Boulder, CO (good luck finding a non-recyclable or compostable trash - trash can), to the little compost mixer in my neighbors back yard, more is being done with our waste to keep it out of landfills.  As a 16 year old working on a produce farm just a few miles from here, however, I was all too aware of compost.  I dreaded the times when I would have to accompany my boss, Farmer Jim, out to the "pit" - a foul smelling and fly infested hole in the ground that I would have to "feed" with the rotting remains of cantaloupes, pumpkins or peaches.

Farmers allow unsold produce to compost in fallow fields.  This is the field I worked as a kid.
And it is funny more me to think that a trademark feature of a modern home is a laundry room on the second floor.  On those bike rides through the farmland, almost all the homes I saw had a very specialized technology to that not only delivered the laundry to the second floor of the homeowner's house, but also harnessed solar and wind power to complete the drying process at the same time.  It's called a clothesline on a pulley.

Solar and Wind dry these bloomers.
Because of our unique heritage here, Lancastrians have been exposed to sustainable ideas since the first settlers utilized them out of necessity.  The expansion and reliance upon the mechanical revolution may have clouded this vision to modern inhabitants, but because of the traditions and perhaps the frugality of our neighbors (all ancestors of the first settlers in the 1700's), we can take some pride in their continued vigilance and excellent stewardship of our natural resources.