There are really only two sources of ethical energy in Princeton for powering our homes and vehicles, and both of them come from the sun that shines on our town. That solar energy can be collected by solar panels, or by plants, whether they be trees that store the energy in their wood, or crops that power people and livestock. Though solar panels are about 20 times more efficient than trees at capturing useable energy, the wood is still potentially useful for powering a portion of our lives. Alas, most of the harvest from Princeton's urban forest is ground up and carted away for composting outside of town, powering only the decomposers that quickly send much of the captured carbon back into the atmosphere. Might there be ways that wood could help Princeton trim its dependence on fracked natural gas, whose environmental downsides are becoming harder to ignore?
While Princeton is largely spurning its own harvest of wood, the local supermarket is selling firewood from Europe.
The label says the wood comes from an "Eco Forest," though it's hard to see what's eco about shipping firewood all the way across the Atlantic.
Another brand appears to come from Maryland, which is closer by. But all of these woods are kiln-dried, which likely means heating the wood with fossil fuels to kill any pests or diseases that might otherwise hitchhike in the wood.
There is some local firewood available, mostly through arborists like Wells Tree Service. Then there are people like me, who scavenge and split firewood left on the curb. Our woodstove is a treasured component of our winter heating. It's radiant heat is superior in comfort to the forced air heat of our furnace. It burns much more cleanly and efficiently than a fireplace, and could heat the whole house with its wonderful radiance. On a cold night, when the wood stove is going and the gas furnace has thankfully gone silent, we can feel for those hours what it would be like to liberate ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels. It's a nice feeling that can't be accessed by using wood imported from Europe.