Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bright Lights, Now 33% Whiter?

One morning last week, very early, I gazed out of the window of the regional jet I was flying to Chicago and took notice of all the lights. Street lights, headlights, parking lot lights, flood lights—all illuminating Central Pennsylvania in a dot pattern like a giant LiteBrite board. Looking closer, I realized the lights were two distinct colors: orange and white. Orange for old-school, incandescent bulbs and white for newer, LED bulbs. I scanned the area within my view and made the entirely unscientific declaration that about one-third of the fixtures were energy-saving ones. I found that encouraging.

Last week en route to Las Vegas, I didn’t take notice of white lights, but, then again, in Vegas, most lights are colorful. It’s hard to imagine the original Sin City worrying about their electric usage when that neon skyline is tied so closely to its image. Has anyone noticed how entrenched “white lights” are in cities you’ve visited?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Conventionally grown fruit or no fruit in the winter?

The wisdom and sustainability of certain things we take for granted, like grocery stores brimming with perfect looking produce all year round, should probably be questioned.

Photo (c)2010 Dr. Danny George, Farmers Market in Hershey
I find myself picking up organic apples only to put them down when I realize they're from New Zealand. I scour the red peppers for varieties from Canada rather than Mexico (mostly because I think the use of pesticides is not as great; unfounded assumption that it is). I find myself longing for organic grapes, no matter where they grow this time of year. My kids love fresh fruit and veggies and it's hard to figure out the best options for out-of-season months here in Central PA.

Like I said, I still buy peppers and cucumbers, mostly the greenhouse variety, and I'd love to know if these carry a lower toxic burden. I've done some research and posted questions on popular sites, but so far have not gotten any useful responses. I won't give up, but it's not at the top of my list at the moment. I also buy melons and bananas (I know that's a dirty business!) because they're good for my kids and they eat them. I wash the outside of the melons and always wash my knife in between cutting, to minimize the exposure to chemicals on the rind, but they're still being shipped from South America or somewhere else not very eco-friendly.

What's the right thing to do, for the planet: To eat less out-of-season food, even if that means less than a balanced diet, or prioritize healthy whole foods, regardless of their origin, all year round? It's not an easy answer. I'm guessing most people would opt for a middle ground, being sensitive to staying "as local as possible." Which is not local at all this time of year. Sigh.