I’ve been in beautiful Traverse City, MI for a good 3 weeks now and have written zero posts about it. For shame. So much exciting stuff has happened in the last 3 days (day 3 meaning this morning, probably the least exciting – feel free to skip it if you’re not interested in seasonal pies) that I’ll start with just the 3-day rundown and fill in the important missing bits later!
1: Thursday’s energy efficiency leadership summit, my first ‘real event’ as an intern. After working for over a week on registration lists, Facebook publicity, confirmation calls and cold calls, agenda layout, and nametags… I was ready for the thing to happen, already. Honestly, I was prepared to go, hear ‘inspirational’ speeches about energy efficiency that would be unlikely to elicit any real response from the business and utilities folks in the audience (a considerable turnout), and in the end serve mostly as publicity for our work, possibly including the report we were presenting on the economic benefits of energy efficiency – a really reasonable, convincing (in my opinion) demonstration of why, besides all the other well-documented environmental reasons, it makes good economic sense to invest in efficiency.
Fortunately, I was pretty far off the mark. Peter Garforth, the keynote speaker (who had been billed as ‘inspirational’, whence much of my concern), gave an amazing presentation that was totally on-target for his audience. He was deliberately, explicitly politically neutral: he even pointed out at one point, when starting to throw down the numbers, that using cities’ carbon emissions to represent energy efficiency had absolutely nothing to do with environmental concerns over greenhouse gases – a thought that was probably occurring to many skeptics in the room – and everything to do with carbon emissions as one of the best reliable, proven metrics for energy use. He also discussed what’s known as the ‘loading order’ for reducing energy consumption: improve efficiency first, always, since energy not used is the cleanest possible; heat recovery second (more on that later), since it’s energy already there and going to waste; renewable energy – one of the biggest political messes of the lot – comes third, if and when it makes sense; lastly, working on energy distribution. It’s funny, because the way I’ve always thought of energy is that the big, important step is switching over to renewable and improving efficiency is just a nice intermediate measure. Maybe that’s thanks to all the buzz about renewable sources (and of course, eventually we’ll need 100% ‘sustainable’ sources of energy, no matter how much we use or where it’s coming from) – they tend to be at the forefront of discussion and public awareness. Really, though, it makes a lot of sense to aim for reducing energy use asap… especially since it’s (probably) the easier to implement in contrast to the political firestorm that is windmills, for example. Not that we should give up on windmills; but as Garforth put it (approximately), “Don’t put a windmill on an inefficient house. Make the house more efficient first, then if it makes sense, throw the windmill on.” And where we can, optimally, reduce generation concurrently with switching to alternative sources
The take-home message of the day was that it’s going to cost more not to increase our energy efficiency than to take the plunge and do it (‘our’ meaning communities, businesses, countries, individuals… humanity, basically; although some cities and countries are obviously further ahead than others. Side note: got even more excited about next semester after learning that Copenhagen is the global benchmark city for energy efficiency – measured in carbon emissions per capita – in large part due to building efficiency. Danish sustainable design studies, what what). ‘Energy’, importantly, means not just ‘electricity’ but also heat, oil, natural gas, you name it. Eating lunch after the summit, I got to hear further discussion about how much more efficient electricity generation would be if all the wasted heat (about 70% of all energy is wasted at the power plant in the production of electricity!!!) were captured and used as the heat source for nearby cities and communities.
We’ve gotten SO MUCH positive feedback about the summit and about Mr. Garforth’s presentation, from just about every area interest represented at the event, which really makes it feel worthwhile. My role in organizing was fairly small, comparatively, but it’s nice to think that maybe I helped nab one or two of the companies and elected representatives with my little bit of outreach! (Still getting into the whole confidence in cold-calling thing – not my favorite activity, and it’s going to be a very slow work in progress, haha…)
Check out our (MLUI’s) write-up of the event and Peter Garforth’s slides:
2: Yesterday, my first farm Friday – I spent the morning and part of the afternoon lending a hand at Birch Point Farm in Leelanau County. I met the dog, cats, chickens (and six Muscovy ducks, who hyperventilate rather than quack, not actually ducks but more closely related to geese), and the interns’ goats; helped harvest baby salad, lettuce, dill, green garlic, and miscellaneous ‘braising greens’; and pulled out and re-prepped what had been a spinach bed. The farm is certified organic, and just about everything is done by hand – I left while the two interns there were setting up irrigation tape, which involved punching holes manually into the plastic tubes. Fridays from here on out will be a whole different world of work, that’s for sure!!
Before taking off, Michelle (the owner) loaded me with some of the lettuce and garlic we’d harvested, plus a bunch of rhubarb and some garlic scapes. I discovered garlic scapes two weeks ago at the farmer’s market, where they served as hair ornaments as well as produce (I now know a lady who works at SEEDS, another area nonprofit, who wears them as crazy, curly earrings). If I can convince my roommates to another house barbeque sometime soon, I’ll throw them on the grill and see what happens…
3: This morning. Paid in rhubarb = I have rhubarb = strawberry rhubarb pie. First and only rhubarb lesson from my childhood. If there were ever other ways to employ rhubarb, they must not have been important (really, how can you improve on pie?) Grabbed some local strawberries (seasonal fruits, what’s up with that??? Turns out they’re delicious. Things I never learned at the supermarket, #117) and the family cookbook and am currently waiting for the thing to finish baking. After that, it’s probably a beach day! I have been shamefully few times to the lake thus far. Fixing that.
Here’s a picture of my first local food masterpiece! (Ignore the cookies, my roommate’s.) Now I feel like a cooking blogger… but hey, food & farming intern, right? Isn’t it my job to plug the good stuff??