Wouldn’t it be great to feel good about how you heat?

Not everyone can feel good when they reach for the thermostat, but we should. Most of us who heat with wood think that it’s good for the environment and good for the broader forest economy and our communities. Intuitively it makes sense. Heating with local wood, supporting local jobs and keeping our heating dollars local must be better than using fossil fuels. 

Now we’ve got data that proves heating with wood pellet fuel instead of fossil fuels in the Northern Forest drastically cuts greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve just announced the results of a research study for our region confirming that switching to modern wood heat – using a high-efficiency wood pellet boiler or stove – instead of oil will cut your greenhouse gas emissions by 54% immediately, and it gets even better over time. Switching from natural gas to wood pellets cuts your emissions by 59%. Fuel comparison GHG study 50years

That is significant news for the Northern Forest region, where the single biggest thing you can do to cut your contribution to the rising levels of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is to change how you heat your home! 

I just returned from the Heating the Midwest conference – a spinoff of the annual Northeast Biomass Heating Expo – where I learned that sharing lessons learned and the progress made in the Northeast can prove helpful to other regions. I was particularly struck by how the Northern Forest states’ investment in modern wood heat – through both demand- and supply-side incentives and other supportive policies – has been essential for market development.

Cycle ADK Long Saranac

Can bike tourism help reinvigorate Adirondack communities? That is the question I asked myself as I represented the Center at a top-notch cycling tour through the Adirondacks sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The ride represented so much of what we care about. It showcased community spirit, the outstanding landscape, and conservation science, all while exposing cyclists from across the country to a resilient, beautiful part of the Northern Forest.

At the Northern Forest Center, we share the concerns of rural places facing the alarming loss of young people and the resulting pressures on the ability of schools, health care and local governments to provide excellent services. This loss endangers the very social fabric of communities. And yet, there are bright spots of resurgence across the Northern Forest; communities that are finding ways to rekindle their vitality and draw in new people. Our collective challenge is to learn from these places and transfer their great examples to help communities across the region.

Newport VT main st webThere’s no denying it—the challenges presented by declining populations, particularly in younger demographics, place a drag on the overall economy. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, a self-perpetuating cycle is taking over in some areas:

“Capital chases high-growth ideas, and high-growth ideas tend to be concentrated in areas of highly educated and highly skilled workforce,” said Manuel Adelino, an economist at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University who has published several research papers on entrepreneurship patterns and credit availability. “This suggests that the lack of new business formation in rural America may lead to widening gaps in income and employment” between those areas and big cities.