By Jennifer Anderson, frequent contributor to Refuge Update
While national wildlife refuges increasingly are doing their part to reduce fossil fuel consumption and rely instead on renewable resources, many refuge staff members are personally walking the walk in their daily lives. Two live in Oregon.
Peter Martin III
A civil engineer/facility specialist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific regional office in Portland, Martin bought a 300-acre working timber ranch near the Pacific Ocean 21 years ago. He built a home primarily out of wood and powers it almost entirely by renewable energy sources.
Wind, he explains, crosses a lake and accelerates as it funnels through the trees, blowing into two well-positioned wind turbines. The turbines provide 5 percent of his power use.
Thirty-six solar panels arrayed on an angle in a skewed horseshoe shape are a major source of power. “The panels take maximum advantage of the sun before the afternoon fog rolls in,” he says.
Martin does not have air-conditioning. Instead, screened sliding doors allow the breeze to circulate throughout the 4,000-square-foot house, and glycol-water in high-density polyethylene coils transfers heat from the roof to a hot-water tank. Sprinklers, also on the roof, use lake water to cool things down further; the overflowing water is collected and used in the garden.
For warmth, overhanging eaves allow only the low winter sun to penetrate a glass facade. High insulation helps keep in heat; slate floors absorb the heat and re-radiate it throughout the house.
Additional heat sources to generate hot water include propane, which costs approximately $150 per year, and a wood-burning stove that incorporates a heat exchanger connected to the water heater. Martin estimates he spends four hours each year maintaining his systems.
A member of the Pacific Region’s carbon-neutral team, Martin says he would like to apply his energy self-sufficiency skills to the office – and, in particular, work with refuges interested in getting off the grid entirely.
An assistant biologist at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis, Monroe has transformed the refuge into a leading example of Earth-friendly operations by sharing with colleagues her knowledge of energy self-sufficiency and waste reduction.
“The main thing I’ve influenced here is introducing to everyone how far we can go with recycling,” says Monroe. Even Styrofoam and various plastic and bubble wraps can be recycled in Corvallis, she says.
It started eight years ago when Monroe noticed yogurt containers, coffee cans, glass and plastic bottles – and even paper – ending up in trash cans. She arranged for recycling bins to be installed throughout the headquarters building of Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex on Finley Refuge. In the kitchen, everything that can be recycled goes into one bin and ends up in a commingled roll-away cart picked up by Allied Waste, a local recycling company.
“I try to keep it simple,” she says. She posts reminders in the kitchen and makes sure recyclables end up in the proper containers.
The trash flow not only decreased, but it also “got hot because it ended up being mostly food waste,” says co-worker Katie Folts, an AmeriCorps volunteer. The organic waste-to-recyclable waste ratio became so high that trash cans literally became warm. So, Monroe started a compost, Folts says. She also has brought in glass dishes and silverware to replace the throwaways for everyone’s use.
With recycling established, Monroe is looking for other ways to install renewable resources in the building. Recent projects involved motion-sensor light switches and solar tubing in the ceiling to bring in more natural light. Solar panels are on Monroe’s wish list.
“We may get an environmental education building down the road,” she says. “If so, we would like to incorporate solar panels.”