Organic and solar
are still the way to go


Story and photos by Andrew High

Gourmet food and the power source of the future were on display at Elon's Fall Sustainability Forum Oct. 8. People from all over the state attended the forum's various events, but the one place most of them made sure to visit was the school's Harden Cafeteria.

The cafeteria served two complete organic meals billed as "The Battle of the Chefs Goes Organic." The meals included beef and chicken raised in the Burlington area. The dairy products and vegetables used in making the meal were all purchased from small organic dealers in the state.

Organic meats, vegetable and dairy products are raised or grown without the help of chemicals or steroids.

Larry Aldridge, an Aramark food service director, said he was glad to accommodate the planners to the forum. "They asked us to be a part of it," he said. "They wanted to know if we could include the food as part of it. We're always willing to help with any projects going on campus."

Food is synonymous with sustainability

Elaine Stover, a program director with the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Greensboro, ate beef steak, sweet potatoes and salad from the organic menu. A dessert of baked apple and ice cream, all organic as well, was her favorite dish. "I don't know whether it was the organic part or the preparation or the presentation but it was tasty," she said. "It was tastier than what you'd get on a normal cafeteria line."

Stover said she choose to attend the conference to gauge the progress of the sustainability movement thus far and the movement's impact on the region.

"We've got to figure out how to ground this movement and make it work with all of our practices," Stover said. "Food is synonymous with sustainability. Considering the economy, the nutrients and the energy it takes to produce food around the world, sustainability is needed because of the enormous amount of waste in that system."

Hanna Cockburn, an administrator with the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments, added that sustainability in transportation is also part of the big picture. "The work that I do is urban transportation planning," she said. "It's finding ways to implement sustainable concepts into every step of the planning process so it's not an afterthought, it's part of our core thinking."

Going solar with 'gourmet electricity'

If James Getkin had his way, planning for urban areas would include space for solar power cells. Getkin works for Solar Village, a company that specializes in installing the cells for private homeowners.

He said it costs about $30,000 to convert a house to solar power. This also includes a wind turbine which generates power from October to April, when solar exposure is limited.

"This is gourmet electricity," he said. "People who understand the cost of nuclear power, the cost of coal-fired plants and carbon emissions - what it costs to relocate New York City when the water levels rise - that's how much that power costs. That's why I call it black-market power. They're really stealing the environment from us."

Getkin painted a bleak picture of the future of power consumption, a problem he believes can only be solved by immediate action.

"It's either move to solar power or extinction," he said. "Renewable energy doesn't produce the carbon. We are on a terminal path with the mass consumption of fossil fuels. We've got to turn on a dime. We need a new Marshall Plan where they just stop and say 'Stop building cars and start building wind turbines.'"

The Christian Science Monitor had an interesting update on how solar power is gaining ground in the energy market. And Business Week carried an informative piece titled "Why Solar Power Makes Cents" that is also quite informative on the topic.



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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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