Articles

Star Island’s Gardens Grow

September 13th, 2014

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Celia Thaxter’s Appledore garden is probably the most well known of the plots out at the Isles of Shoals, but Star Island’s gardens are growing strong while supplementing staff and guest meals throughout the summer.

This year, the gardens were tended to by sustainability intern Elspeth Pennell as well as numerous volunteers who helped from a few hours to several days. There are three gardens on Star. The largest, called the Pel Garden, started over five years ago as a small plot tended to by Pelicans — our summer staff — during their off time. This garden has grown over the years and includes two levels and a small greenhouse. Vegetables like summer squash, zucchini, and kale were grown in this garden over the summer. A small garden behind the Founders motel unit started as a potato patch in 2013, and grew kale and other leafy greens this summer. The flower cutting garden behind the Elliot Memorial Building (EMB), where our winter caretaker lives during the off-season, continues to be a flower garden with the addition of vegetables this year.

The goal of the gardens is to reduce our need on mainland food as part of a substantial sustainability effort.

By September 1, 2014, the gardens have produced a total of 910 pounds of produce. Here are some of the numbers from within that haul:

  • 44.5 lbs of Lettuce and Salad Greens
  • 54.5 lbs of Kale
  • 156 lbs of Chard
  • 167 lbs of Zucchini and Summer Squash
  • 55 lbs of Green Beans
  • 42 lbs of Tomatoes

If you have ever participated in a CSA, you’ll know that sometimes you receive a lot of one vegetable at once. In a similar sense, we end up with a lot of certain items at once. For example, a plethora of zucchinis have led us to utilize the vegetable for interesting treats like zucchini muffins. Here’s the recipe our island bakery follows for these muffins (to feed approximately 300 people):

    Ingredients

  • 45 beaten eggs
  • 26 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 26 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 30 cups grated zucchini
  • 9 3/4 tablespoons vanilla
  • 45 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon
  • 3/4 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 4.5 tablespoons baking soda
  • 4/5 tablespoons baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla in a gigantic mixing bowl. In a separate gigantic bowl, mix the remaining ingredients (plus chocolate chips, if you prefer). Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three parts, and mix until combined. Pour the batter 3/4 of the way up into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Chickens

Starting in 2013, a flock of chickens was added to Star’s sustainability causes. These chickens are fed leftover bread and vegetables from staff and guest meals. The chickens are instrumental in reducing the amount of compost shipped off island. In 2014, the chickens have eaten 2,349 pounds of leftover food. The chickens, destined for an end of season staff bbq, will produce about 300 pounds of meat.

Star Island’s Sustainable Summer

September 13th, 2014

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Summer 2014 has seen many developments towards a more sustainable Star Island. From simple changes to major overhauls, this has been a year of greening.

From the start of the summer, Star Island has been operating with a number of habits already in place. For example, we rely on rain collection for a portion of our water. New endeavors include encouraging guests and staff to bring beverages in aluminum cans to help with recycling costs.

Star Island’s largest improvement in green initiatives is the installation of a solar array. This solar power system will provide approximately 60% of the island’s energy needs in 2015. The installation area has been cleared for future construction happening later this month and into October. Meanwhile, the former generator room in the Power House has been completely overhauled for battery storage.

Upgrades on Star Island also include installing dual-purpose equipment, or equipment with multiple benefits. For example, excess heat from generators is captured to heat water. Some of this water makes its way to the dish washing machine. Installed earlier this spring, the dish machine uses 1/3 less water than the previous machine. This reduction in water supports our sustainability in more ways than one as 1/3 less water used means 1/3 less water needed to be heated, and 1/3 less water going to the waste treatment facility.

If you were on Star this summer, you hopefully noticed our re-designed recylcing stations. We moved to single stream recylcing to ensure easier disposal. And, if you visited the Snack Bar this summer, any paper good or utensil you received was compostable.

In 2015, we look forward to continuing with our sustainability initiatives. And, we look forward to your help in these efforts as you return to the island or support or endeavors through donations or volunteering.

Sustainability Notes from Star Island

April 21st, 2014

by Jack Farrell, Island Manager & Director of Facilities

Fuel

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.

Water

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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.

Wastewater

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.

Compost

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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

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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

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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.

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.

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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!

Summer 2014 Sustainability Internships

January 28th, 2014

Your favorite color doesn’t have to be green, but that would be rather awesome. Star Island is looking for people to fill two new internships starting in 2014. Both internships will work under the auspices of the Green Gosport Initiative and interact with guests and staff to further develop our understanding of island systems, and how best to utilize resources.

Learn more about these internship opportunities:

  • Sustainable Food and Waste Systems Intern
  • Sustainability/Environmental Education Intern
  • These internships are intended for current college students seeking college credit and a memorable summer experience.


    Click here to learn more about the Green Gosport Initiative.

    Strategic Map to Guide Star Through 2016

    January 13th, 2014

    Strategic Map Profile Imageby Sharon Kennedy, President

    In 2014, Star Island embarks on a new three year strategic plan with community, economic, environment, and stewardship goals at its core. Our plan is the result of many individuals within our Shoaler community working together. It also demonstrates our connections with the principles of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

    Our new strategic map, and it truly is our map, lays out objectives to accomplish by the end of 2016.

    The four goals share the common purpose of achieving the sustainability, and enhancing the vitality, of Star Island. Just as we are all connected as Shoalers, this map and its objectives depend on one another in order to succeed. There are several common threads throughout our strategic map, and together these threads weave a strong fabric. For example, enhancing the interconnectivity between conferences, via the Council of Conferences and other methods, can spark ideas to expand island amenities. And as Corporation membership grows, a deeply engaged Shoaler community is more likely to support our goals and growth efforts through annual, capital and planned giving.

    The goals and their objectives point us to a sustainable model with full conferences, an engagedcommunity, and an eye towards innovative preservation of our traditions. You and I both know how important Star Island is, and this three year map is our guide to a stronger future. While we will keep you apprised of our progress in the interim, I look forward to celebrating with you in 2016 the successes we will have achieved together.


    Learn more about the “Corporation” side of Star Island and membership by viewing our Membership page.

    We’re Free of Zombies

    October 31st, 2013

    Zombie Free Star Island

    In the event of a zombie attack, please remember Star Island as one of New England’s treasured gems for rest, relaxation and spiritual renewal. Located just 6 miles off New Hampshire’s coast, Star Island is the perfect location to spend your days and watch the sunrises and sunsets knowing that you’re safe from the undead. With history dating back thousands of years, Star Island will prove to be your community oasis. We’re best reached by boat or any floating apparatus that’s handy. As you prepare for the zombie apocolypse, choose Star Island for your retreat.

    Accommodations

    Star Island is already known for its rustic yet adequate accommodations, so if you make it to Star you’ll be living in as much luxury as anyone else really. Our comfortable beds are found throughout the island in various settings: the Oceanic Hotel, Gosport House, and cottages dotting the long boardwalk. Clean linens are available right off the laundry room and come in many varities that will delight anyone escaping the walking dead.

    Food

    Throughout the past few years Star Island has done a lot of work creating a more sustainable island with food in mind. New gardens have been planted and will be ready for you to either help harvest or maintain throughout your stay. Since Star Island is surrounded by the ocean, rowboats will be made available to any sane person who wishes to fish, trap lobster, or otherwise forage for seafood. The island also holds a number of cookbooks that can guide people in preparing meals with island resources. And anything that remains from our snackbar at the end of the season is fair game.

    Transportation

    We won’t be scheduling any ferry runs to and from Star Island because, well, that’s just a bit unwise (wouldn’t you agree?). You’ll have to find your own method of getting to Star. So whether that’s a sailboat, a rowboat, or a raft just make sure you’re ready for an ocean voyage of several miles.

    Resources

    Don’t worry about Star Island’s resources. We already make our own drinking water, and we have a pretty extensive rain water collection system. We’re also continuing to work on installing solar panels. Let’s just say, we’re not officially preparing for a zombie apocolypse, but we’ve got it covered when it happens.

    Payment

    Since world markets will be collapsing, we’ll be relying on the barter system for payment. So bring what you think can be traded. Things we’ll most likely be looking for: chocolate, avocados, and batteries.

    Programs

    Star Island is well known for its summer programs that bring people together to form a dynamic community based on the principles of the Unitarian Universalism and the United Church of Christ. We’ll continue to offer those programs with varied themes and workshops as our population permits. Evening chapel services will occur as scheduled.



    Happy Halloween!

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    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.