Going Green in Woods Hole

April 13, 2011

What is this plaster cow doing in Woods Hole? Read on...

Woods Hole — Members of the Woods Hole Business Association were treated to a tour of the Woods Hole Research Center facility this week where they learned about the scientific organization’s cutting edge green building practices as well as the scope and nature of the WHRC’s research and policy initiatives.  The morning started with a presentation by Dr. R.A. Houghton, acting director of the WHRC and world authority on the carbon cycle,  and was followed by a tour of the main offices of the WHRC on Woods Hole Road.

The buildings that house the 60+ employees of the WHRC are about as green as it gets,  using eco-friendly strategies to offset 90% of the energy consumed on the campus.   How do they do it?  With special heat transfer systems that capture natural energy and reuse the heat that comes off computing centers,  many solar panels, a new windmill, extensive insulation strategies and plenty of window light combined with all compact fluorescent lighting.  Because the WHRC is especially focused on carbon use, the organization selected sustainably forested and reclaimed woods for most visible locations in the building.

WHRC also works hard to change individual behaviors — many of the scientists and staff walk or bike to work, buy carbon offsets when they travel, turn off the lights when they leave a room.  The most interesting strategy for behavior change in the building is the use of a plaster cow with a tattered straw hat pulled over its well-worn ears that sits in a main hallway, waiting to be dragged to an office if anyone forgets to close their window before leaving the office at night.  Tour guide and research assistant Tina Cormier said, “You do not want to arrive in the morning and find that cow in your office…  It only happens once.”

Member of the Woods Hole Business Association are committed to bringing green principles into their daily work as well.  The restaurant owners partnered with Cavossa Disposal last summer to start a paper and plastic recycling station where the waste stream is greatly reduced by proper sorting and re-use.  This effort would not have been possible without the donation of dumpster space on Woods Hole Oceanographic (WHOI) property and will continue this year with more local businesses joining in as well.

In addition, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has just completed a renovation of the Loeb Laboratory, winning gold level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of the 66,000 square-foot facility in the middle of Woods Hole.  The Loeb Laboratory is the MBL’s central research training facility and the cornerstone of its world-famous life sciences education programs.   “Climate change is one of the most pressing scientific problems facing our generation. I’m honored and proud that the Loeb Laboratory has achieved LEED gold certification and look forward to continued efforts that we can take here at the MBL to be a responsible member of the global society,” said MBL Director and CEO, Gary Borisy.

Speaking for the business community, WHBA chair Kevin Murphy said, “We are in the epi-center of one of the most important research communities in the US, if not the world.  When our esteemed neighbors tell us that the small changes we make to our business practices can effect the world?  We show up and we listen to that.”

Natural light floods the WHRC campus.

Amazing board room table made of a sustainably harvested Brazilian hardwood anchors the sunny conference area.

Woods Hole, a picture postcard village, postmarked from around the world.