When one thinks of taking a vacation, it is likely that the last thing on their mind is if the place they have chosen has a strong recycling program or if amenities are powered by solar or wind. Perhaps the time has come to shift our thinking to ensure that the Earth is around for all future generations and make an effort to locate such resources in our destinations of choice.
This is just what Boston, Massachusetts has done by installing solar powered, compacting trash cans throughout city limits in place of all open cans. City limits in Boston also extends to the Harbor Islands and on a recent trip to two of these islands, Spectacle and Georges, it was pleasing to see that not only were these new cans installed and being utilized but that additional efforts were being taken on Spectacle to reduce energy and water consumption.
Spectacle Island, just a ten minute ferry ride from Boston’s waterfront, has a long and sordid past. The island has been home to fishermen, served as a quarantine spot for smallpox victims, had two hotels shut down for illicit activity, housed a horse rendering plant, and ran a trash incinerator which was shut down in 1935. Upon the close of the incinerator the island continued to be used as a dump until 1959 and pollutants were able to leak into the water until the early 1990’s.
The city decided it was time to put a stop to centuries of mistreatment of this island and when The Big Dig began in 1992 the resulting Earth that was removed was strategically placed on and around Spectacle to contain the leaking and create an entirely new island full of trees and trails that opened to the public, as part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, in 2006.
When the island became a tourist destination for those looking to hike or to glimpse a wonderful city view it was clear that there could be a backlash in waste, as well as a demand on energy and resources, so strong efforts were put into place on and around this island to utilize renewable energy sources wherever possible.
Solar power is harnessed in multiple locations on the island such as self contained photovoltaic panels that power the emergency lights on the pier as well as thirty two large solar panels on the south face of the Visitor Center roof which are connected to the grid and feed back into the power supply. The photovoltaic panels on the Visitor Center roof are used to collect all the power needed to run the lights inside overnight as well as feed into a battery back up system.
In addition to the solar efforts, composting toilets were installed in all mens and womens stalls in the Visitor Center on Spectacle and in portable bathroom stalls (which also utilized solar to run the water to wash hands) on Georges. These toilets utilize waste as fertilizer and can cut water consumption but up to fifty percent. Additionally they are much quieter, reduce odor and can be used for more than just human waste — they will even compost dinner scraps and lawn clippings!
The final and all important area of any public park is the often overlooked maintenance needed. There are roads, the Visitor Center, the pier, docks, gazebos, benches, lawns and a myriad of other areas to maintain. On a daily basis a large amount of fossil based fuel would be needed to drive from place to place but the Solectria truck, named Flash, uses the energy created from the sun to run. Solar power is gathered by the roof panels and stored in batteries that are installed in the truck making Flash a zero emission vehicle.
The efforts on the islands do not stop at Spectacle and Georges as additional renewable resources are utilized on spots surrounding these two. A wind turbine in Hull creates enough power to run the town’s streetlights, plans are in place to install two additional turbines off the south coast of Spectacle, hydroturbines are used to feed energy back into the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority from the clean water pushed out of the plant on Deer Island (approximately ten percent of its electricity is powered in this way) and self generated steam heat (via steam turbine generator powered by the methane created during the treatment process) is used as the sole heat source for the MWRA plant for ten months of the year.
With so many ecologically responsible efforts, Boston is quickly becoming one of the greenest cities in the country and savvy, eco-conscious tourists are reaping the benefits of a cleaner, more breathable and progressive city.To support the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands and ensure efforts such as these will continue please visit their website
To learn more about the islands or some of the environmental topics in this article please follow the links below.
Photovoltaic Solar Collectors
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com