Franklin Countys First News

350 Day presentations & events focus on sustainability

Discussions and exhibits on energy reduction and efficiency, including pictured above at the Farmington Community Center, were part of 350 Day, an internationally-organized event held on Oct. 24 to raise awareness in climate change.

FARMINGTON - Cold, miserable weather did little to lessen the enthusiasm of people attending a variety of events focusing on sustainability and environmental awareness.

At both public and University of Maine at Farmington facilities in town, discussions and exhibits on energy reduction and efficiency were part of 350 Day, an internationally-organized event held on Oct. 24 to raise awareness in climate change. The number '350' refers to 350 parts per million of carbon in the earth's atmosphere, which some researchers believe is the "carbon ceiling" for a healthy planet.

Events began with the Old South Church on Main Street tolling its bell 350 times at 8 a.m. They will end with a series of performances at UMF's Nordica Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

At the Farmington Conservation Fair, organized by resident Jeremy Smith, a number of speakers addressed an audience of roughly 100 people throughout the day, discussing ways to be self-sufficient and efficient. Chris Knapp, who owns and operates the recently-opened Koviashuvik Local Living School in Temple with Ashirah Knapp, provided information on some of their aspects of living a sustainable lifestyle.

Will Bonsall of the Scatterseed Project.

Knapp pointed to simple steps, from buying local food which requires less energy to transport and maintaining a root cellar, to more elaborate ones such as utilizing solar water heaters for hot water, rocket stoves for cooked food and preserving vegetables with a solar dehydrator.

Other guests at the fair included Dion Olmstead, sharing energy efficiency tips in home design and Iver Lofving, who discussed sources of affordable renewable energy.

At UMF, Will Bonsall, director of the Scatterseed Project, which seeks to prevent the extinction of historically-used crop species through the preservation of seed samples, was talking about growing energy efficient crops to another group of residents.

Calling corn-produced ethanol fuel and wood pulp-free paper "bonkers," Bonsall said that most people didn't realize how inefficient some modern farming techniques are. For instance, he recommended  against using manure for the growing of crops, noting that the amount of energy it took to keep livestock alive greatly outweighed the return. Products of a forest, such as the leaves, he said, have a much better return rate than hay or grass.

"Most people don't care if you call them immoral," he joked, "but they'll say, 'don't tell me I'm unbusinesslike or inefficient.'"

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