Tag Archives: GreenPARE

Supporting a Community to Build a Rain Garden

By: Marc F. Weller, P.E., Pare Project Engineer, a member of Pare’s Rising Professionals Committee, and on the New England Water Environment Association Young Professionals Committee

Two Pare engineers recently participated in the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) Young Professionals Committee’s first annual Community Service Project.  The Committee’s goal was to build green infrastructure that would have an impact on a community and promote environmental sustainability.  It was decided to construct a rain garden at the Common Fence Point Community Center  in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Funding for the project was generously provided by the Van Beuren Charitable Foundation through the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition; and was supported by the Eastern RI Conservation District.

Once the project and location were determined, the members of the Young Professionals worked tirelessly to design and organize the details of the raingarden.  All of this work paid off the day of the event!  More than 45 volunteers gathered at the Common Fence Point Community Center, with most of the help coming from residents in the community. Six residents stood out for their dedication to the project by donating their professional expertise and use of heavy equipment for the project.  Without the media outreach, excavation equipment, and horticulture expertise, we would not have been able to construct the raingarden.  Many residents helped move loam and mulch, build a rip-rap spillway, and plant various shrubs and flowers.  It was an incredible display of community camaraderie.  The rain garden project was completed in about seven hours, which was much faster than expected and solely attributed to the amazing community support.

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects and allows rain to slowly infiltrate into the ground, minimizing runoff and filtering the water. The 760-SF rain garden was designed to capture 50% of the runoff from the community center roof that would otherwise infiltrate into the ground and eventually discharge into the Mt. Hope Bay without any kind of treatment.  Two roof leaders were tied together with new PVC drain pipe and discharged into to the rain garden.  The rain garden was constructed using four inches of 50/50 loam/compost mix and 3-inches of pine bark mulch.  Native plants are preferred in the rain garden because they have already adapted to local environmental conditions and require far less water.  With this in mind, over 400 plants native to Rhode Island, including bearberry, milkweed, and azaleas, were planted within the garden bed.  A small rip-rap spillway was also constructed to allow for the release of water that may build up in the garden during heavier rain events.

Since the day of the event, the community has taken a special interest in the rain garden and have added approximately $4,500 of additional plants and material! In addition to adding new flowers along the perimeter, large stones have been installed to help stabilize the slopes.  The rain garden has really become a reflection of the camaraderie of the Common Fence Point community.

The project was a great experience to help a community that was engaged and willing to help …and we had fun doing it!  Several residents shared how the community center used to be the focal point of the neighborhood.  Movie nights, dances, and impromptu neighborhood parties used to be a staple at the community center, but for one reason or another, those activities have become few-and-far-between in recent years.  This event helped revitalize that sense of community, and we are optimistic that this construction will help inspire the return of those community events.

From an engineering point of view, we enjoyed putting the design skills cultivated on other projects at Pare into use on this community project. It was a great experience to actually get our hands dirty planting this raingarden side-by-side with our neighbors.

Click here to learn more about raingardens on the Environmental Protection Agency Rain Garden Information Website and how you can install one in your own community.

Pare’s Sustainability Committee Has Been Invigorated

By: Lindsey Machamer, LEED AP, Senior Engineer and Chair of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Pare’s Sustainability Committee is a group of committed professionals enthusiastic about incorporating innovative sustainability into our business operations, local community, and design practices. Over the past year, we have attended conferences, been involved in organizations, and studied the nuances of the newest sustainability rating systems.  Those activities have influenced our goals for the future.  We are excited to help guide planning and engineering within the Pare community into a future where we can create a better built environment. We are excited to share our efforts and goals.

First, we have revisited an analysis of our own company’s impact on the environment.  Our analysis includes Pare’s waste generation, transportation impact, and buying practices.  To advance this initiative, we will continuously review our options to reduce our impact on the environment. As part of this, we encourage Pare employees to expand our sustainability efforts beyond the walls of our office.  For World Environment Day last June, we led our coworkers on a lunchtime nature walk on the outdoor trails nearby and shared recommendations of nearby hiking trails for employees to explore with their families.

Pare’s lunchtime nature walk for World Environment Day

And, of course, we encouraged everyone to appreciate biodiversity this year with our 7th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest. You can review the photo entries here.

Congratulations to Brian Dutra, an engineer in Pare’s waterfront group, who won the contest this year with his photo “Green Sea Turtle”!

Looking outward in addition to inward, we’ve spent time this past year giving back to our local communities through education, service, and activism. We have made presentations this year at local schools to show how new development can be kind to our water resources and nature. For example, we led an activity at Lincoln High School to demonstrate how mindful site selection can reduce the impact of a new building on the surrounding environment. We also shared with the 11th and 12 grade students at Blackstone Valley Prep High School how the rain that falls on their new school reconnects into local drinking water supplies. We tried to help them see the role that engineers have in design for the environment. In 2018, we are building on the momentum we have created to encourage students, the community, and ourselves to think sustainably. We have a distinct interest in helping create a future world of bright minds and friendly spaces.

Finally, to further our dedication to provide quality services, we have compiled what we’ve learned at building industry and infrastructure events and are adapting them in ways to share with our peers at Pare.  For example, at the ASCE International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure  in October we learned from leading cities in the world about how they are using the Envision rating system and other sustainability tools to guide development.  At the Greenbuild International Expo, in Boston in November, we joined in on the enthusiasm of the motto, “all in for green buildings.” We attended presentations on natural alternatives for resilient infrastructure, soils restoration, and water neutrality, among many others. We are committed to staying current with the most innovative case studies and design practices.   Our goal is to help guide our communities and clients to make decisions and pursue development that consider wholistic impacts on environment, society, and economic factors.

Greenbuild International Conference and ABX2017 Expo

Our efforts over the past year have outlined a three-pronged approach in our current goals. We will endeavor to apply innovative sustainable design concepts in our projects, to inspire and enrich our community through outreach, and to improve internal operations to make the work place more sustainable. While we will be working hard to achieve our goals, we will be having fun and enjoying nature on the way.  We look forward to sharing some of the details with you!

Exploring Foxborough’s Biodiversity for the 2018 City Nature Challenge

By: Lauren Gluck, Senior Environmental Scientist and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

This past weekend, Pare’s Sustainability Committee hosted two BioBlitz events in Foxborough as part of the Boston Area City Nature Challenge (CNC). It was a great opportunity to get outside and explore biodiversity in a town that Pare calls home! The events were open to Pare staff, family and friends, and to the public.

Exploring the Canoe River Wilderness

The CNC is an annual international competition to see which metropolitan area can photograph and document the most species in one weekend using this iNaturalist app.

Screenshot of iNaturalist City Nature Challenge 2018 App

None of us had used iNaturalist prior to the CNC; however it is safe to say we are hooked. Not only does it let you record your observations, but it also assists in species identification using photo recognition and input from the iNaturalist community! We highly recommend it for nature lovers of all experience levels.

Screenshot from the iNaturalist app. Check out our observations!

The Foxborough Conservation Commission has an excellent “Guide to Conservation Land & Open Spaces” which we used as a resource to plan out our BioBlitz destinations.

On Saturday we explored the Canoe River Wilderness, an expanse of diverse conservation land that extends into several neighboring towns. We followed the trail around Greeley’s Pond on East Street, where we explored forested uplands, wetlands, and riverine habitats bordering the pond.

Capturing some plant observations by the Canoe River

We veered off the trail to explore a vernal pool. we found spotted salamander egg masses and a newly hatched wood frog tadpole.

Discovering vernal pool wildlife in the Canoe River Wilderness

On Sunday, we visited the site of the Lincoln Hill Camp on Oak Street, a former children’s camp which is now protected as a conservation area. Remnants of the past were found throughout the property, making it a very intriguing site to explore.

After exploring the ruins of the camp, we found a trail down through the woods to a certified vernal pool on the property. There was an abundance of species to be found here, from salamander egg masses to fairy shrimp!

Spotted Salamander egg mass found in the vernal pool

Next, we wandered down toward the Rumford River, where we found a variety of different environments including a beautiful Atlantic White Cedar swamp.

Our team of observers contributed 117 observations to the challenge throughout the weekend. I am proud to say that the Boston area ranked consistently high in the CNC competition! Of the 69 participating regions, we had the 10th highest number of observations, the 13th highest number of species, and the 3rd highest number of people participating in the challenge! Not bad when you consider that the growing season has just begun here in Massachusetts.

Thank you to those who participated, and we encourage everyone to give the iNaturalist app a try during your next walk in the woods.

How Much Does Your Caffeine Routine Contribute to the Waste Footprint?

By Victoria Howland, Civil Engineer and member of Pare’s Sustainable Design Committee

Each morning you wake up, get ready for the work day, and reach for that delicious, aromatic and caffeinated beverage…which is filling our country’s landfills. Yes, I’m talking about coffee. An estimated 83% of adults in the United States drink 587 million cups of coffee a year. Coffee provides us with caffeine to keep us alert through the day and antioxidants to keep us healthy. This miracle beverage has even been linked to reducing our risk of getting (liver) cancer. So if you drink coffee, there’s no way you could be doing any harm, right? Wrong.

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Coffee has become a large contributor of waste. Every time you go to a coffee shop and grab a cup to go, your cup contributes to the waste footprint. Some companies use paper cups, which is an easy material to recycle. But do you recycle it? Other companies use Styrofoam for its insulating properties. It’s understandably difficult to turn down a cup option which keeps both your hand and the precious liquid a desirable temperature. And these environmentally unfriendly options are of low cost to the coffee shop and consequently to you.

Professor David Tyler, a chemist at the University of Oregon, addressed Styrofoam’s “worst material” stereotype by conducting a life-cycle assessment. The results of his study demonstrated that Styrofoam cups are no worse than paper cups for the environment. The carbon footprint of a Styrofoam cup (i.e., its contribution to greenhouse gases) is less than a paper cup. However, it does take Styrofoam longer to degrade. The choice is up to you; do you care more about carbon footprint or garbage reduction?index

Before we’re able to take a sip, we need to address another important coffee waste concern which is infamous in the New England region: the double cup. Found in both icy and sweltering temperatures, Dunkin Donuts and other coffee shops allow you to request your iced coffee in a cup within a cup. In the colder weather, your plastic drink cup is slid into a Styrofoam cup to keep the iced coffee from chilling your already chilled hands. In the warm weather, the Styrofoam second cup catches the condensation from your refreshingly cold drink. In both cases, the Styrofoam cup is being added as an insulator. And in both cases, you are contributing twice the amount of waste to the garbage.IMG_0829

And it’s not just cups that are filling our landfills.

In recent years, the single-serve coffee brewer has been at the forefront of home brewing. Keurig (now owned by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) developed the K-Cup brewing system in the mid-1990s. As most of you know, it consists of a brewer and a K-Cup – a plastic container with a filter and 11 grams of ground coffee beans, vacuum sealed to prevent oxidation. The plastic container is made from a special plastic mix designed to withstand the heated brewing process. The brewer punctures a hole in the top and bottom of the K-Cup and passes hot water through the cup and into a mug. Once the K-Cup is brewed, it is disposed of, and it becomes a component of our waste footprint. While coffee grounds are compostable, K-Cup plastic containers are not. That isn’t to say they aren’t reusable though! Click the image below for ways to reuse your office’s K-Cups.

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John Sylvan was the brains behind Keurig and what he calls the “single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.” He created Keurig in 1992 and sold off his share of the company in 1997 for a mere $50,000. Keurig is now generating $4.7 billion in revenue. Now that the K-Cup has received backlash from consumers, environmentalists, and more, John Sylvan states, “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.”

Coffee grounds are compostable, however the K-Cup plastic container is only recyclable in a few Canadian cities. The good news: Keurig Green Mountain has taken a pledge to create a fully recyclable K-Cup. The bad news: It won’t make its debut until 2020. Until then, we’ll have to be conscious about how we make our coffee!

Now that we’re finally ready to take a sip, cherish that taste of sweet…guilt! But perhaps there are ways we can lessen the guilt and lessen the environmental impact of drinking coffee. Coffee has always served as a treat, an energizer, and it is known for bringing people together. Consider bringing people together for an even greater benefit by encouraging environmentally responsible caffeinated practices in your office, whether it is supplying company-wide reusable coffee cups that all coffee shops are eager to fill, or by using a coffee-koozy to substitute the Styrofoam cup. Hey, there are some great opportunities for company branding here!

Use these links to read the details of Professor Taylor’s research, and the fascinating story of John Sylvan’s remarkable invention:
http://cascade.uoregon.edu/fall2012/expert/expert-article/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/

The Upcycle Series: Bourbon Barrels

By Tim Thies, Managing Environmental Engineer at Pare

There have been other posts on this blog about recycling, upcycling, and downcycling, each espousing the virtues of re-use.  Whether you’re re-using a product for a higher or better purpose than it was originally intended, or simply trying to salvage a small amount of value out of a product before throwing it away, any type of “cycling” gives new life to a product and ultimately increases the usefulness of the resources and energy that were used to create it.  The more use that we can extract from the resources and energy we spent making a product, the lower the overall impact that product will have on our environment.

I recently learned about an interesting example of recycling that adds real value to a very specific product.  During a recent conversation with my brother-in-law about beer and whiskey (because what else is there to talk about), I learned about the not-so-secret second life of bourbon barrels.  My brother-in-law has a family maple sugar farm (Baker Farm in East Dummerston, VT) where they recently produced a bourbon-flavored maple syrup (which is quite delicious I must say).  He told me that they buy the bourbon barrels from a distillery in Kentucky after they’re used in the bourbon making process.

Bourbon whiskey barrel

While each barrel is carefully crafted out of oak, they’re only used once in the bourbon making process.  In the past, the bourbon barrels were often burned for fuel after their first and only use.  However, some barrels find a second life at the Baker Farm.  After the distiller is done with a barrel, the Baker Farm fills that barrel with maple syrup and lets it age for a year, infusing the syrup with the smoky bourbon flavor that once filled the barrel.

Bourbon whiskey barrel 2

In terms of recycling, this process is great because it doubles the life of each barrel, which means it doubles the usefulness of all the resources and energy that went into making the barrel.  But wait, it gets even better.  After the Baker Farm is done with the barrels, they give them to the Harpoon Brewery in Boston MA and Windsor, VT (www.harpoonbrewery.com), who in turn uses them to make a maple bourbon barrel-aged beer.  Each barrel is now used three times, effectively tripling the usefulness of the resources and energy that went into their original creation.  Amazing!  This conversation with my brother-in-law got me thinking, what else could bourbon barrels be used for?  Well, a quick internet search reveals that bourbon barrels can be used for any number of things, including meat smoking, wine making, and antique-looking hardwood floors, just to name a few.  Apparently I stumbled onto a very poorly kept secret about the second life of bourbon barrels.  I found this cool infographic on tastingtable.com (http://www.tastingtable.com/bourbonbarrels) that shows how barrels from just few bourbon distillers find second, third, and even fourth lives.  So next time you’re drinking bourbon, order a second and rest easy knowing that the barrel that gave birth to your bourbon probably found a second life beyond your favorite distillery.

Bourbon barrel bottle

 

An upcycling experience by one of Pare’s civil engineers, Victoria Howland:

The three R’s, “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” is a common phrase coined by the environmental movement. This message encourages us to reduce those things we buy, use and throw away. Recycling promotes the separation of trash materials such as paper, plastic and glass, which can be re-manufactured to provide a new use. Reuse however, combines the principles behind reducing and skips the step of recycling. It involves thinking ahead and outside of the box. While tricky to start, it may be the most rewarding “R” of all.

RRR

“Upcycling” is a glorified term for reuse. How can we alter the function of an object that has already been used for its primary purpose? How can we take a common household item that is taking up space in the house, and prevent it from taking up space in the trash? Can this item surpass its original function? This blog begins a series of upcycling posts, because one of the most helpful contributors to upcycling is sharing ideas!

Herb Gardens

Herb gardening is an easy way to consistently add fresh greens to a meal. Better yet, an indoor herb garden can function as an air purifier! I brought a few seedlings home from the store in an attempt to start my garden, only to realize I had nothing to plant them in. Looking around my kitchen, I noticed a ton of mismatched glassware that I hadn’t used in years. Each was a different shape and size, all holding fond memories from different places, yet taking up space in my cabinet. Cue upcycling idea! I decided to plant my herb garden in my old glassware.

Items you will need:
1. Assorted Glassware
2. Proximity to window or ample sunlight
3. Potting soil
4. Herb seedlings of your choice (or seeds, if you’re feeling patient)
5. Enough flat pebbles/rock/slate to create a thin layer at bottom of glass
6. Newspaper (or any type of barrier used for easy clean-up after potting, especially indoors)

Step-by-Step:
1. Rinse Glassware
2. Add layer of flat pebbles to bottom of glass for drainage
3. Fill glass 3/4 full with potting soil
4. Plant seedlings or sprinkle seeds (check seed package for more detailed planting info)
5. Water (more thoroughly than often)
6. Take pride in your upcycling efforts, and enjoy extra flavorful meals!

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Before

In order to finish the project, I did have to visit my local Savers (a store dedicated to reusing) and purchase two additional glasses for under $2.00. I also needed more potting soil than anticipated.

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Final product

Overall, the final product came together just as I had hoped! In this case, upcycling was a benefit to my cooking, the environment, and don’t forget, my wallet!