After rounds and compost are finished, any boats have been met and food, luggage, or packages have been distributed, there should be some time to work on sustainability initiatives. The main objective of these projects is to decrease Star Island’s reliance on fossil fuels. There are many ways to do this, from research to efficiency upgrades, to community education, to small-scale building projects. In 2012, two recycling stations were built, roofs were added to the compost bins to help regulate moisture, recycling signage was improved, a compost/yomp station was built for the front porch, research was done on alternative systems for treating sludge, the green initiatives page on Star Island’s website was revamped, and weekly sustainability discussions were held with the conferences. Some ideas for future sustainability projects include fixing the water catchment system on the hotel, installing an effective, separating sawdust collection system in the carp shop, adding solar heated water to some of the other buildings, building more recycling and compost/yomp stations, composting our sludge and/or all of our food waste, installing compost toilets, expanding the Pel Garden, building a garden shed from local, natural materials, organizing a sustainability conference, coordinating a volunteer program with WWOOFers, sourcing some of our food from local farms, and researching grants.
Star Island can be looked at as a giant hairy beast. It carries out all of the daily life functions that any beast would; it need water and nutritious food, it uses energy, and it produces waste, both organic and non-organic. Making Star Island as sustainable as possible requires taking an in-depth look at each of these life functions and finding ways to reduce or eliminate the need for inputs and outputs. While doing so, we must take into account our health and the health of the environment. Star Island is a part of several larger ecosystems, including the Isles of Shoals, the New England coast, and the earth. Ideally, the beast should be happy and healthy, and interact with its environment in a beneficial manner, or in the least detrimental way possible.
A solar array could potentially solve a large part of our need for renewable energy. However, just as (or even more) important is a strong commitment to conservation, both of energy and water, since they are basically equivalent in our case. Fresh water will always be an issue out on Star Island. Enhanced water collection and water purification technologies could be of great value. There are a host of solutions that exist for dealing with our food waste and excrement in a sustainable manner. Composting, vermiculture, and living systems are extremely promising. There is also much room for improvement when it comes to dealing with our non-organic waste. By regulating what we buy, and recycling on and off island as much as possible, we can limit what we throw away a great deal. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, localizing our food resources, whether through on-island produce, livestock, or purchasing from local farms, can greatly improve the nutritional value, taste, and marketability of our food, while doing less damage to the climate.
It is important to note, however, that many of these changes take time, and there will absolutely be resistance, whether for financial, social or aesthetic reasons.