For those of you in ecological despair over my story of potash and the way greedy, ignorant Colonial folk treated the virgin land, I have some comfort to offer.
Specifically, that while it is true there was some wholesale destruction of woodland in the interest of making potash (some of that forest, in truth, wasn’t being cleared for farming), clearcutting wasn’t the only way potash was made. A far less expensive and destructive method was to simply go around and collect ashes from people’s homes, where wood was burned for fuel and ashes tended to pile up. Fat did too for that matter, as a waste product from cooking and occasional animal butchering. The fellows that came around and collected these leftovers were called chandlers.
Potash was made from the ashes, and the fat was rendered. The two were either combined to make to make soap, or the potash was reserved for sale or export. Which is actually an early form of recycling when you think about it.