Sustainability Notes from Star Island

April 21st, 2014

by Jack Farrell, Island Manager & Director of Facilities


We have reduced the island diesel consumption from an annual average of 20,000 gallons to less than 15,000 (2013) through conservation and elimination of one boiler. We expect further reduction for 2014 with elimination of a second boiler and wasteful steam loop.



Increased and repaired cistern collection system, reduced need to fill cistern with precious drinking water. Implementing plan to filter cistern water to drinking water standards. Increasing importation of drinking water from Portsmouth via Thomas Laighton (2,500 gallons per trip) and Perseverance (1,600 gallons per trip). Goal to employ costly reverse osmosis as backup source only by end of 2014. Deployed variable frequency drive pumps for salt water intake to reduce power consumption.


Implemented sludge composting to eliminate need for off-island disposal and retain valuable soil enhancement. Reducing waste treatment plant (WTP) power demand through use of variable frequency drive motors. Adding new grease traps to improve quality of effluent reaching WTP to increase treatment efficiency. Adding effluent polishing filter to improve quality of effluent prior to discharge. Design in process for new waste treatment system to provide functional shoulder season leach field, and to eliminate discharge permit through recycling of treated wastewater for irrigation and other suitable purposes (e.g. flushing toilets).

Hot Water

By start of 2014 season we will have moved away from steam generation altogether (reducing heat losses, insurance and maintenance costs), heating water for domestic and kitchen use through a combination of air source heat pumps (ultimately to be solar-powered), solar thermal panels, co-generation (waste heat from new generators) and limited point of use propane heaters. Engineering plan for 2015 to increase use of solar thermal as pre-heat source to feed heat pumps and kitchen.



Accelerated composting program for vegetable waste and WTP sludge, reducing need for off island disposal and providing soil enrichment. Utilizing most island cardboard waste as critical carbon source in compost recipe. Efforts significantly reduce handling, boat trips and contractor disposal costs. For 2014, disposable cups and utensils will be 100% compostable.

Trash and Recycling

Continuing to reduce amount of trash sent to landfill (40% reduction in 2012, maintained through 2013) with additional 2013 savings realized through composting of cardboard, re-use of building materials, sale of recycled aluminum. 2014 initiative encourages aluminum beverage containers which can be collected and sold as high grade aluminum scrap in sufficient quantities.

Gardens and Local Food Sourcing


The Pel Garden continues to expand, producing over 1,000 pounds of vegetables for island consumption in 2013 and providing valuable constructive recreational opportunities for staff. WOOF program volunteering contributes significant labor and expertise to island vegetable and flower gardens. Pilot program in chicken raising converted 500 pounds of kitchen waste to 100 pounds of tasty barbecued chicken (program to be expanded in 2014). Continuing efforts to use island and locally produced food including vegetables, seafood and yogurt.

Re-Use of Waste

The 2013 Oceanic work produced lots of building material which is being re-used on the island where possible or sold to others for re-use. 2014 projects will continue to sort construction debris for valuable items for re-use. For 2014, waste glass will be crushed and converted to safe, valuable aggregate for island drainage, landscaping and infrastructure projects, saving transport and disposal costs, and providing vital material which would otherwise be imported at high expense.

Hazardous Waste

Working with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, we have eliminated the regulatory requirement for management of hazardous waste on the island, primarily through careful procurement (don’t buy any in the first place) and recycling and reclassification efforts (e.g. waste oil hazardous waste becomes waste oil for recycle which is non-hazardous and which can be sold). This effort has reduced disposal costs by more than $4,000 (since 2011) and reduced level of regulatory and environmental risk to SIC.

Lighting Improvements


Domestic lighting requirements account for ten to twenty percent of power demand. We continue to reduce this load by implementation of energy efficient lighting and procedures to manage lighting requirements more carefully. A 2013 initiative to improve safety lighting on the Chapel path is a good example: LED bulbs and a solar powered ground lighting system (designed, installed and provided by Dick Case) added an important safety feature with negligible load on island electrical grid. For 2014, a major program to convert Lobby and other common lighting to LED bulbs, coupled with a program to encourage conferees to assist in conversion of guest rooms to LED bulbs (Isles of Shoals Association, UU “Adopt a Lightbulb Program”) will continue this process.

Laundry and Kitchen Improvements

In 2013 a significant portion of non time sensitive laundry processing was moved off the island. This resulted in lower costs and reduced demand on water, power, hot water and wastewater resources. For 2014, new kitchen equipment will provide similar benefits. The new dishwasher will use one third the water of the present unit with positive impacts on water, power and wastewater systems. Point source generated steam cooking devices will utilize free waste heat from generators and highly efficient use of propane back up when required. Dishwasher and steam cookers will accept additional input from solar thermal sources which can be added over time.

Positive Relationships with Regulators and Advocates

Our initiatives and goals, as well as the collaborative nature of our process have resulted in recognized benefits. We continue to regularly engage with various aspects of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in a cooperative and positive manner as a result of our March, 2013 summit meeting. Our growing collaboration withy the Island Institute of Rockland, Maine provides useful resources and experience from other islands from Maine to Alaska.

What are We Learning?

We are learning that the broader community responds very favorably to an organization that is actively seeking to become more sustainable, and that such response can make operations and innovation more predictable and positive. We are learning that sustainability is a process that requires constant attention and adaptation, and that the goal of a sustainable community can only be reached through an understanding of the integrated and interrelated nature of our activities and use of resources. And finally, based on the overwhelmingly positive response that our efforts have elicited from regulators, neighbors, colleagues, environmentalists, employees and stakeholders- we have realized that our new course towards a truly sustainable Star Island will likely have long term benefits that we are only beginning to appreciate, as we live our vision of creating an example of the world as it might ideally be.

Support Star Island by Eating Dinner Again

April 21st, 2014

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View the 3-Course Menu | Directions to Robert’s | Reservations

Our friends at Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery, Maine have done it again. They’ve created a special three-course dinner menu for Wednesday, April 23 to support Star Island.

Join us at Robert’s on the 23rd from 4:30 – 8 pm and a portion of your dinner bill will help support our vision to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be.

If you live in the New Hampshire seacoast area, we hope you can make it to Robert’s Maine Grill on April 23.

View the 3-Course Menu | Directions to Robert’s | Reservations

Aluminum Cans Are Best for Star Island

April 18th, 2014

by Jack Farrell, Island Manager and Director of Facilities

Sustainability can happen with bold moves like solar installations and new water systems. But it also can happen through the little things that we do every day. We’re trying to work on both of these and we need your help.

As part of the Green Gosport Initiative, Star Island encourages guests and staff this year to opt for canned beverages over bottled whenever possible.

The reasons for this are many: cans are lighter, crushable, easier to store and easier to transport. Cans are also safer. Cans have value as high grade aluminum scrap, and since we don’t have a redemption law in New Hampshire, we can recover some value for the Island by collecting the season’s aluminum and selling it- as we already do with other valuable unwanted metal.


Nearly all soft drinks and juices are available in cans which are more easily recycled than glass or plastic. Some very good beer is now available in cans and is available for purchase in Portsmouth. And, if you prefer wine, boxed options are available. The boxes can then be composted on island.

We have been steadily reducing the cost of waste removal over the past few years through recycling and composting, and the elimination of all hazardous waste. Collecting and disposing of empty beverage containers comprises a surprisingly high proportion of the work of the Truck and Boat Crews. With limited concealed space for trash we have difficulty storing these materials while they wait to be removed. The can program will save money and time, provide funds for worthy projects, and help make us an even greener Star Island.

In the first week of Open Up we are already successfully implementing this plan. I really hope that you will consider this option when purchasing beverages for your stay on Star Island.

We all look forward to seeing you on island soon!

Thanks and Cheers!

Support Star Island by Eating Dinner

April 15th, 2014

Websitel Header

View the 3-Course Menu | Directions to Robert’s | Reservations

Our friends at Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery, Maine have done it again. They’ve created a special three-course dinner menu for Wednesday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 23 to support Star Island.

Join us at Robert’s on the 16th and 23rd from 4:30 – 8 pm and a portion of your dinner bill will help support our vision to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be.

This special night will also feature a gin lime rickey as a nod to our popular (non-alcoholic) lime rickeys served at the snack bar throughout the summer.

If you live in the New Hampshire seacoast area, we hope you can make it to Robert’s Maine Grill on April 16 or 23.

View the 3-Course Menu | Directions to Robert’s | Reservations

Summer Programs Filling Up

April 14th, 2014

Several of Star Island’s summer programs have already reached their registration capacity and are operating with wait lists. If the program you were hoping to attend is already full, here are some suggestions for other engaging opportunities this summer:

If you were thinking about:

All Star 1


All Star 2

All Star 2 Family Conference Icon

During All Star II, young and old will awake to the sounds of ocean and gulls, marvel at the diversity of flora and fellow Shoalers, and close each day with an inspirational candlelight service in Star’s historic stone chapel. Hours in between are filled with sports, art, music, rowing, theatre, dancing, reading, friendship, and a thought-provoking lecture series, or simply relaxing in a porch rocker at the Oceanic Hotel, communing with one’s self, one’s family, and old and new friends. Morning and afternoon children’s programs led by our wonderful and expert staff offer creative fun for the kids. Gather with us in 2014 for laughter, friendship and spiritual renewal.

Click Here to Register for All Star 2

If you were thinking about:

Institute on Religion in an Age of Science


International Affairs

International Affairs Icon

Rudyard Kipling wrote about the Great Game in the 19th Century: the strategic rivalry between Great Britain and Russia in Central Asia. Today that Great Game continues with the United States, China, India and others maneuvering in Pakistan, which now has the atomic bomb and is a locus of international terrorists groups.

IA 2014 will explore Pakistan’s historic and current strategic role on the international stage and will provide a well-rounded perspective on how and why its people and government do what they do.

Surrounding this theme are a great many activities designed to make a wonderful vacation experience for families of all ages and sizes. These include our traditional workshops in art, music and yoga, various one time workshops, softball games, lectures and book discussions of particular interest to conference participants.

Children ages 18 months to 18 years participate in a robust and engaging youth program.

Click Here to Register for International Affairs

If you were thinking about:

Star Gathering 2


Star Gathering 1

Star Gathering 1 Icon

Baptism, holy communion, ashes on Ash Wednesday, blessings, laying on of hands, anointing at healing services, foot-washing, lighting the Advent wreath—these are a few of the traditional rituals of the Christian church. They are special “spiritual” things we do in church on designated days. But do these practices have a life outside the sanctuary? Are they connected to the realities of our ordinary lives? Do they mean anything to us once we move from Sunday to Monday?

This week’s program will explore a few of these rituals (some of which we call ‘sacraments’), looking for ways they are present, active, and ethically demanding in the everyday. And we’ll ask how, in return, our ordinary experiences might enrich and deepen the rituals we practice in church.

In worship, we will explore stories of scripture and stories of life, and be introduced to people who reveal to us the very heart of God. We will practice “seeing people,” and in doing so, encounter God in our midst.

Click Here to Register for Star Gathering 1

Click here to visit the complete summer 2014 program list.

Early Spring Work

April 11th, 2014

A trip to Star Island yesterday afforded the chance to see the progress made by Star Island staff and contractors on major projects and the annual activities performed to open up the island.

The early morning boat ride was made worthwhile by calm seas, good conversation, plus coffee and bagels. The calm seas and conversation are typical, but the coffee and bagels were a great surprise.

Open Up 7-7

The east siding of the Oceanic Hotel has been removed in less than a week. The Oceanic, with its bare structure showing, makes one marvel at its initial construction in 1875.

Open Up 9-9

The contractors remain busy, and bundled up. While the temperature is rising on the mainland, the crisp Atlantic winds keep Star Island seemingly a season behind.

Open Up 3-3

Inside the Dining Hall, contractors started removing the sound proofing panels. This is the first step in a process to repaint the Dining Hall and install a new sound proofing system. And it’s always good to have an inside project for the contractors on a rainy day.

Open Up 10-10

Another team of contractors is plumbing in the new pump to power the island’s sprinkler system. Later, this team will be working on installing recessed sprinkler heads in the Chapel.

Open Up 8-8

All of this is great work, but you’re probably wondering about drinking water and flushing the toilets. Don’t fret, that work is underway. While the Open Up crew relies on drinking water imported in large jugs from the mainland, your summer stay is hydrated by re-installing the reverse osmosis machines.

Open Up 11-11

And when you flush the toilet on island, this giant machine just put back together yesterday, will — ahem — help the process along.

Open Up 4-4

Which reminds us, you’re probably thinking about ordering your first lime rickey soon; unfortunately, the snack bar isn’t open until June.

Open Up 2-2

Until next time, Star Island.

Open Up 1-1

Interested in Open Up?

Spring time on Star Island is quite the unique perspective. If you want to journey out for a volunteer weekend to experience this sometimes chilly, always exciting time, CLICK HERE for more information and the volunteer application.

Sharing Star Island

April 8th, 2014

You share because you care, so if you care about Star Island (and you probably do) it’s time to start thinking about how you can share your memorable summer experiences with others. Sharing Star Island is about talking to people about our beautiful island, showing photos of sunsets, engaging in conversation, and demonstrating that Star Island spirit of community.

So we’ve gathered some suggestions if you’d like to share Star Island with people you know.

Number One

Talk about Star Island!


This is pretty simple, but if you need an explanation, here goes: While having a conversation with friends, mention Star Island. Talk about how you enjoy your trip out to the island every summer, the way the wind cools you off on a hot day, the voices of morning singers waking you up with news of the breakfast menu, or the talent shows showcasing such amazing people.

If you’re anything like us, your friends have probably already heard about Star Island a lot. But it doesn’t hurt to remind people.

Number Two

Engage with your congregation

Star Island 2014 Program Catalog Cover

Many of the people who come to Star Island first heard about us from a friend at their UCC or UU congregation. And, since we were founded on the traditions of these two faiths, we strongly support engaging people within these communities. When sharing Star Island in your congregation, you can start small by hanging a Star Island poster, or go large by hosting a table during a coffee or social hour. Indulge your imagination to come up with ideas on how to share Star Island within your congregation. One Shoaler bought mugs for his congregation’s coffee hour that features Star Island’s chapel. Perfect conversation starter.

In between hanging a poster and hosting a social hour table, think about making a Star Island display to hang in a church hall, providing Star Island program catalogs for folks, and putting a Star Island ad in your congregation’s bulletin.

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And, if your minister has never been to Star Island, definitely invite him or her. And put your minister in touch with the registrar of your conference to see about the Minister Overnight Program, which can cover the cost of an overnight for any minister who has never been to Star before.

Number Three

The 30% off Discount


Star Island is offering a very specific discount in 2014 which provides people entirely new to Star Island from selected congregations and historical societies 30% off room and board for attending the full length of selected summer programs.

Click here to check out more details about this discount

This discount does require some effort on your part. First, you tell us what the selected congregations or historical societies are. Here’s a for instance: You regularly attend service at First Church, and you want to share this discount with people you know there. Email email hidden; JavaScript is required letting us know that you would like First Church to be included in the church discount. And viola! It’s done. Well, that part is done. The second part is pretty easy, too: tell your friend(s) about the discount! And let them know when they register to click the “Targeted Church Discount” on the registration form. Pretty simple (and affordable).

The links below are more resources for sharing this discount:

Discount FAQs | Discount Flyer

Number Four

Social Media


Help feed the social media beast with Star Island. We’ve seen you taking loads of sunset pictures on island, and many a rocking chair snapshot, too. So, let the world see these gems. We suggest tagging posts with #StarIslandNH, but there’s no requirement. We love coming across old photos on Thursdays (that’s #ThrowBackThursday if you were wondering why), and we’re still waiting to see Uncle Oscar appear on someone’s feed for #MCM (that’s #ManCrushMonday). Basically, there are a lot of reasons to post Star Island photos, videos, and info. But, the best reason: there’s no reason. Just go ahead and post away.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some awesome videos set on Star Island:

Okay, you’re right, that last video is more just for laughs, but it shows that Star Island is about having fun with creative people.

Number Five

Send a Postcard

Send a postcard…from Star Island, that is. This one is for you procrastinators, and doesn’t require your attention for a few months. Here’s the skinny: Purchase a few postcards and stamps from the bookstore on island. And then write to your heart’s content (as long as it fits on the postcard) about how much you are loving your time on Star and how much the person you’re writing to should visit next year (or later this summer when you both come back for a Personal Retreat).

Don’t forget to affix a stamp to your postcard before dropping it in the mail slot on the front desk. And you’re golden. We don’t usually like to promote gloating, but that’s the prime reason to write postcards, right?

So there you have it. Five simple ways to share Star Island with people you know. If you have any questions, email email hidden; JavaScript is required.

And, if you are feeling even more inclined to share Star Island, explore the Ambassador page for resources.

Next Page »

Star Island is one of the rocky, wind-swept Isles of Shoals, located off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire. For over 100 years, summers here have provided individuals and families with a welcome respite from their busy mainland lives.

Star Island Corporation is a nonprofit organization which maintains the island and its facilities and provides hospitality services for visitors.

Contact Star Island

Phone: (603) 430-6272
Fax: (603) 430-6270
Island Phone: (603) 601-0832
Staff Email Address List

Star Island Corporation
Morton-Benedict House
30 Middle Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Get directions to the office

Content © 1999–2014 Star Island Corporation. Clouds photo © Axel Rouvin.
Other photos © their respective owners.