An important part of our non-profit mission is to implement and model sustainable practices in our day to day operations. Our hope is to both reduce our organization's impact as well as operate as an educational institution for our guests, campers and all users of the Center. Here's some of the what we've been able to do so far.
The 8 tracking solar arrays here at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center have been on-grid since 2010. All-Sun Trackers, a Vermont-based solar company, installed the panels. The panels have produced between 39000-50000kWh annually. The entire Outdoor Center uses approximately 130,000 kWh of electricity per year, about 35 percent of which is offset by the solar arrays. The daily, monthly, and yearly production of the panels can be tracked live here.
The power they produce is put into the grid for distribution; we don't have the batteries, inverters or other infrastructure to use the power directly off the panels.
You'll note that the panels aren't always oriented the same way. The panels use GPS to track the path of the sun throughout the day. This means that they are in an optimal position to collect solar energy at any given time. Each panel is equipped with an anemometer to measure wind speed, and as a protective measure they are programmed to face directly upward if the wind is strong enough to cause damage. They also face directly upward during the nighttime. If you catch them right around sunrise, you can see the panels "wake up" - they all turn on and swivel to face the sun.
While composting and food scraps have been recovered in one way or another for quite a while, the Center put together a more comprehensive solution in 2010 for virtually all food waste. The Green Racing Project ski athletes joined forces with the Highfields Center for Composting to design a system, and then the skiers helped Center staff with the building of the infrastructure. The five bay structure holds several bins of compost as well as materials needed to keep the process going. In addition to the food scraps, we throw garden waste and our neighbor's horse manure into the mix to create an awesome soil addition that gets put back on our gardens and those of Hosmer Point down the road - completing the loop. Beyond the food waste, we've changed items like teabags, to go cups and so forth to allow for composting as well.
The kitchen always takes excellent care of athletes, staff, and guests alike. In the past several years, they've been working to do so with more local food. The town of Craftsbury is blessed with many local producers nearby, and we are happy to support them and their quality, organic (and super-tasty!) ingredients. Our Vermont Fresh Network Kitchen draws from our neighbors like Vermont Soy, Jasper Hill cheese, Pete's Greens, Sweet Rowen dairy, Bonnieview Farm, Butterworks and many more. Audits have shown that between 40-50% of our ingredients come from our Vermont neighbors.
They've also been able to take advantage of the gardens on-site, and in some years, the chickens, pigs, turkeys, and other animals that members of the Green Racing Project have raised during the summer.
This project requires some sacrifices; local food is rarely the cheapest. But by cutting down on the 'food miles' required to transport our food from farm to mouth, we hope to cut the amount of fuel burned, and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. In addition, we're proud to support producers from our own community, encouraging healthy growth for the Northeast Kingdom.
Net-Zero Activity Center
In fall of 2014, the COC opened a net-zero energy Activity Center. The building consists of two wings – a fitness/weight room with a waxing area in the basement, and a large lodge space containing a café, ski shop, and seating areas surrounding a wood fireplace.
The Activity Center showcases many “green features,” that help it meet net-zero energy standards as well as the Center's environmental conservation mission. The roof supports more than 3,000 square feet of solar panels, and the window sizes and roof overhangs were optimized for temperature considerations. Heating in the winter months is provided by radiant floor heat that uses waste heat from our snowmaking generators, topped off with an air-to-water heat pump, and supplemented by localized warmth from a woodstove in the lodge.
Trombe walls and an EarthTube air exchange unit help maintain comfortable temperatures without additional energy use, and summertime cooling is primarily through passive ventilation. The concrete floor slabs, and insulated concrete form (ICF) walls, provide high thermal mass so that the building resists temperature changes, while well-sealed windows and doors minimize infiltration of cold winter air. The bathrooms contain low-flow fixtures, Clivus composting toilets, and showers on timer systems, all to minimize water use and water-heating energy expenditures. Consideration was given to local sourcing of materials, especially the wood that makes up much of the structure and finished surfaces of the Activity Center. The interior siding is spruce/fir from New Hampshire, pine countertops and tabletops are from Morrisville, and Cedar furniture legs are from on site at the COC. We’re proud of the building, and hope you’ll have time to admire the building techniques as you take advantage of the fitness, class, or relaxation offerings!
Land Management / Forestry
Together with our consultants, Northern Forest Conservation Services, LLC (Ross Morgan, Dawn Morgan and Rick Morrill) we have developed a long term forest management plan which supports our vision of a multi-use forest that serves several important values:
- Protection of the water and soil resources
- Recreational use which benefits both users and the local economy
- Wildlife habitat maintenance and enhancement, from birds to bears
- Production of commercial forest products such as sawtimber used for lumber and furniture as well as products like firewood, some of which helps support our our fossil-fuel free heating system goals
- Educational resource to support knowledge and awareness of forest stewardship
In summer 2016 we started our first harvest in an area with active trails. While we regret the inconvenience to our users, we're committed to the responsible management of the forest and doing our part to contribute to the local forest products economy. The Center mission emphasizes the use and teaching of sustainable practices. Our forest management program achieves both the sustainable use of the forest while demonstrating best practices in land stewardship, to serve as an example and educational resource in the community. By participating in the Vermont State Current Use Program we are committed to maintaining the land as part of working forest. Read more about forestry management.