Milking to help environment Experiment: A new program lets shoppers at Fresh Fields contribute to a cleaner Chesapeake with each purchase of a half-gallon of milk.

On The Bay

November 20, 1998|By Tom Horton | Tom Horton,SUN STAFF

I DON'T NORMALLY DO grocery store promotions but, by all means, beginning in December, buy milk at Fresh Fields' 17 stores in the mid-Atlantic region, including Baltimore, Annapolis, Bethesda and Rockville.

It's an opportunity for all those who ever asked, "How can I help the bay?" to put their money where their mouth is. Look for the label Chesapeake Milk with the Environmental Quality Initiative symbol on the carton.

You'll pay a nickel extra on each half-gallon, which for a family that went through, say, 2 gallons a week, would add a whopping 10 bucks a year to the food budget.

The extra money will go directly to several dairy farmers in Pennsylvania whose farms have passed a rigorous environmental evaluation. Part of the money will go to help other farmers who want to upgrade their operations to qualify for the premium.

These farms are upstream of the bay and drain into it, as does about a third of all Pennsylvania. Nutrients in farm runoff are a substantial part of the Chesapeake's pollution problems.

Sponsors of the Chesapeake Milk idea, which will be test-marketed at Fresh Fields for the next year, include the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Rodale Institute and Penn State University.

The implications of this experiment are exciting, and go well beyond the test-marketing of environment-friendly milk.

It makes a critical link between consumers and producers in the American food system. It is a system geared to abundant, cheap commodities, whose prices have not reflected the staggering amounts of pollution caused by their production.

With hogs, with chickens, with dairy products, with grain, our rivers and estuaries like the Chesapeake, and the coastal oceans, are paying the price, from toxic algae blooms to huge volumes of water devoid of enough oxygen to support aquatic life.

Part of the solution is traditional environmental regulation, from which agriculture has largely been exempt. That is happening, though too slowly.

But farmers and even agribusiness cannot bear the brunt of the cleanup. The pollution must be recognized in the context of the ** system of producing affordable and plentiful food, from which everyone who eats benefits -- and bears responsibility for.

I would like to see the Chesapeake Milk venture, which is voluntary and performance- based, spread to all grocery stores and to other products (Chesapeake Chicken rolls nicely off the tongue).

In an even larger sense, Chesapeake Milk highlights the need for all of us to recognize how much our lifestyle choices affect the bay.

The linkages among sprawl development, air pollution, traffic congestion and the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay are too well established and too substantial to ignore.

To use a gas-slurping sport utility vehicle for a high-mileage commute to work from your big lot in a new rural subdivision, while supporting the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, just won't cut it -- not with millions more people moving into the bay's watershed in the next few decades.

If you think such choices don't have impacts, consider that a third of the bay's major pollutants come from air pollution, a chief component of which is auto exhaust.

Consider that large-lot development trends mean the next million Marylanders are projected to use as much open space as the 5 million already here.

Consider the proposed 20-year transportation plan for the Baltimore region. It foresees spending $16 billion, with traffic congestion getting about twice as bad, and progress on air quality stalling or getting worse.

Those dreary trends are driven, ultimately, by choices. Next month, sit back with a cool glass of Chesapeake Milk and think about yours.

Hopkins officials fell short when they felled trees

Turning out educated citizens should include teaching them how to live in a place without destroying its nature.

So it is troubling to see a great university like Johns Hopkins again cutting more of the scant forest remaining on its Homewood campus.

This time it's an acre of fine, large beeches and poplars where East 33rd Street abuts North Charles. A $17 million student arts center will soon supplant all but about a dozen trees.

Perhaps no alternative exists. But JHU's answer -- planting some saplings, and hiring an expert to help the few large survivor trees cope with construction -- falls short of the environmental example a place with its resources and talent should set.

The university might start by thinking in terms of the "1 percent for art" guideline that has been applied to the construction cost of public buildings -- $170,000 in the arts center's case.

Nor would Hopkins have to look far to find worthy green projects. Active community associations along Stony Run and the Jones Falls are trying to preserve and redevelop forested corridors along both waterways.

The lovely and historic Wyman Park Dell just south of the Homewood campus badly needs restoration. The vast paved acreages around Eastern High School, which Hopkins owns, and Memorial Stadium, which it proposes to redevelop, cry out for trees.

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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