Robinson Nature Center
6692 Cedar Ln
Columbia, MD 21044
Central Maryland
Our mission is to facilitate the enjoyment and understanding of our natural resources and to bridge the gap between people and nature.
Management and Leadership
We use the following best management practices:
bullet Environment Policy Statement:
bulletEnvironmental Team: Robinson’s staff of educators, maintenance workers, administrative techs and management team work together to ensure a focus on sustainability in both behind-the-scenes operations and front-of-house outreach and education. Behind-the-scenes, we implement sustainable cleaning, recycling, waste reduction, energy efficiency and water conservation techniques. We educate and conduct outreach about greener living in our communities, homes, businesses and institutions of learning throughout the state. We meet monthly as a staff to ensure progress in our mission and address any challenges related to our sustainability goals. Additionally, we develop and utilize Partnership Groups: strong, likeminded organizations with high visibility and a good track record of accomplishments. Robinson partners are concerned with the natural world and environmental sustainability issues. These partners conduct seminars, programs and meetings at the center promoting the implementation of practices geared to foster engagement with nature and to attain a more sustainable/greener environment. A list of our partner groups can be found here:
bulletSet Annual Goals: In order to achieve one of the LEED credits that allow Robinson to carry the distinction of being one of only a few LEED Platinum certified buildings in the state, the architects of the Center created a Measurement and Verification system for the building. Howard County’s Facility Operations and Maintenance staff is responsible for reviewing the trended data and determining corrective measures when energy/water usage is higher than expected. Ongoing monitoring and goal-setting is achieved by: - Comparing the estimated energy/water usage to the building’s actual energy/water usage. We can compare values projected by the Measurement and Verification system model simulation to actual energy/water consumption noted on monthly billing statements. - Performing a conditions assessment (including analyzing weather patterns and verifying the building’s hours of operation including after-hours events) to determine why the estimated energy usage differs from actual energy consumption. - Determining ways the building can be operated differently to improve the energy efficiency. Strategies include turning off computers and equipment when not in use, adjusting lighting occupancy sensors, fine tuning lighting, checking air filters for excessive loading and checking thermostat set points.
bulletWe have a purchasing policy to encourage the purchase of environmentally-friendly products and services
bulletList of our environmentally friendly products and services: In addition to environmentally-friendly products used in the office, the Robinson Nature Center has a Nature Gift Shop. It is our priority to buy and sell sustainable and earth-friendly products through this gift shop. When purchasing items from vendors we are careful to choose products that represent our commitment to community and sustainability so we can pass these products and their message of environmental consciousness on to our visitors. Totally Bamboo, one of our product suppliers, uses bamboo as an alternative to precious hardwood trees. We sell bamboo cutting boards, salad bowls, utensils and plates. Our commitment to sustainability also includes our search for local and handcrafted items. Items that are purchased locally are typically made with local materials and don’t require traveling extensive miles to reach us, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, packing materials, congestion and pollution. While protecting the environment is important buying local products simultaneously stimulates and supports the local businesses in our community. Michele’s Granola, Sunrise Soap, Garden Path Pottery and Medina Apiary Honey are all locally-owned business that we support by carrying their products.
bulletEnvironmental Restoration or Community Environmental Projects: Robinson Nature Center staff is involved with numerous restoration projects both on-site and at outreach locations. On-site restoration efforts include participation in “Project Clean Stream” during which staff worked with community members of all ages on projects by which 3 tons of trash were removed from the nature center grounds and 120 native trees and shrubs were planted to serve as a riparian buffer zone. Staff works with community members and students from middle schools, high schools and colleges to weed, plant and mulch native wildflowers and grasses on the Center’s green roof and various rain gardens during weekly “Gardening Get-togethers” that maintain the functionality of these important environmental management tools. Additional on-site environmental restoration efforts include reforestation of the property (over 300 native trees and shrubs have been planted with the assistance of community members), invasive plant removal events, and trail maintenance and construction projects that address erosion issues. Off-site restoration efforts include assisting schools certifying or recertifying as “Maryland Green Schools” with trash clean-ups and native plant lessons on their school grounds as well as helping Howard Community College students plan and execute a rain garden planting.
Waste Reduction
We use the following best management practices:
bulletHave a plan in place to reduce property waste
bulletSet a numeric goal of overall waste reduction
Kitchen and Prep / Dining / Catering / Meetings and Events / Campground Snack Bar
bulletCompost food waste and other compostables
bulletUse effective food inventory control to minimize waste
bulletDo not use polystyrene coffee cups
bulletUse disposable food service items are eco-friendly - polystyrene is avoided
bulletIf disposable containers are used, they are made from - bio-based materials, recycled content, and/or compostable material
bulletUse cloth napkins and tablecloths
bulletUse reusable dishware and glassware and minimize use of disposables
bulletUse non-bleached napkins and coffee filters
bulletUse water pitchers and filtered water to minimize the use of single-use bottles
bulletProvide organic, local or sustainable food choices
bulletUse bulk soap dispensers in public restrooms
bulletPurchase recycled-content paper towels and toilet paper
Registration / Office
bulletUse electronic, paperless registration
bulletUse electronic correspondence and forms
bulletPurchase from vendors and service providers with a commitment to the environment
bulletPurchase recycled paper with a high percentage recycled content
bulletMake 2-sided copies / printed materials and avoid making extra copies
bulletUse recycled content paper for copies / printed materials
bulletReuse scrap paper for notes
bulletOffer Leave No Trace tips and green travel education to guests
bulletPromote other green attractions, activities and Maryland Green Travel facilities
bulletSell environmentally friendly products
bulletSell sustainable, organic or local products
Buildings and Grounds
bulletUse green cleaning chemicals
bulletDispense cleaning agents in bulk to reduce quantities used
bulletPurchase durable equipment and furniture
bulletPurchase low-VOC carpets and fabrics
bulletUse low VOC adhesives
bulletUse reused building materials or those from sustainable sources
bulletUse latex paints that are low or no-VOC
bulletProperly recycle and/or dispose of thinners and solvents - required by EPA regulations
bulletPerform preventative maintenance on all appliances, HVAC systems, plumbing and vehicles
bulletUse less toxic materials
bulletUse Organic Farming Principals
bulletUse integrated pest management - IPM
bulletMinimize the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers in landscaping
bulletTrain staff effectively to use agrochemicals correctly and in proper applications
bulletUse natural fertilizers instead of synthetics
bulletUse composted production materials for fertilizer
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics in Waste Reduction:
bulletEach week, the Center recycles about 1 cubic yard of materials. Education is essential: we host free composting workshops and we incorporate the importance of recycling, reusing, and composting in our field trips and summer camps. In addition to recycling, we reuse many materials. Some examples include the reuse of printed paper from office “waste” for drawing/coloring in our children’s “Discovery Room” and creating hand-made paper using shredded office “waste” paper to make native seed paper covers for children’s journals. We also try our best to reduce paper use: our front desk has the capability of emailing visitors’ receipts instead of printing them.
Our guests can recycle their disposable items at various locations around the Center. We participate in the Howard County single stream program (no sorting of materials required) with receptacles in every room inside the building and strategically placed on the grounds. In addition, we have collection bins for the following items at the front desk and in our volunteer break room: - Batteries - lithium ion, nickel cadmium, button style. - Cell phones donated to Port Discovery Children’s Museum for use in their exhibits/programs. - Toilet paper and paper towel roll tubes, as well as aluminum cans that are used in various programs to make children’s crafts - Eyeglasses in conjunction with the Lions club
bulletWe have clearly marked recycling bins or provide convenient drop off locations
We are recycling:
bulletAluminium Cans
bulletElectronics equipment
bulletFood Composting
bulletFood Wastes
bulletFluorescent Lamps
bulletOffice Paper
bulletPacking Supplies
bulletSteel Cans
bulletOther: eye glasses (donation program)
bulletWe participate in the Howard County single stream program.
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics in Recycling:
bulletThis year, the Center became an Oyster Shell Recycling location through the Shell Alliance of the Oyster Recovery Partnership. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Natural oyster shell is the best material on which to raise new oysters and restore oyster reefs. For generations, oyster shells were used to build roads, driveways and in housing construction. Today, shells are an extremely limited natural resource and a valuable one for improving waterways. Given the critical shortage of shell for use in restoring the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population, any shells that can be cleaned, allowed to become substrate for oyster larvae (spat) and returned to the Bay are a great asset to the Bay’s water quality. As an Oyster Shell Recycling location, Robinson Nature Center houses oyster shell recycling bins in its parking lot which, when full, are retrieved by the ORP. Shells from the bins are then cleaned, implanted with oyster larvae and returned to planting grounds in the Bay where the oysters can grow and reproduce on their own.
Water Conservation
bulletHave a plan in place to reduce property water usage
bulletTrack water bills and established baseline data on water usage and wastewater generation
bulletPerform preventative maintenance to stop drips and leaks
bulletDiscourage water-based cleanup, ie. sweep first
bulletUse microfiber technology mops
Use or installed the following devices:
bulletlow flow restrictors on faucets and showerheads
bulletaerators on faucets (0.5 gpm or less for lavatory and 2.2 gpm or less for kitchen faucets)
bulletlow flow toilets (1.6 gpf or less)
bulletwaterless urinals
bulletautomatic or sensored faucets or toilets in public restrooms
Have an effective landscape management plan which utilizes:
bulletnative species
bulletdrought tolerant species
bulletminimizes lawn areas
bulletlandscaping using BayScapes techniques
Have an effective storm water plan management including:
bulletRain gardens
bulletPervious pavement, and/or minimization of impervious areas like paving, concrete, etc
bulletHave a green roof
bulletUse rain barrels
bulletMaintain vegetative buffers around streams and ponds
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics in Water Conservation and Efficiency:
bulletIn addition to the water conserving features checked off on our application, we use landscaping techniques on our grounds that help to conserve water and protect water quality. We have four rain gardens at various locations on the grounds. These gardens capture run-off before it can get to the Middle Patuxent River. We conduct regular tree plantings on our property, involving our community, to enhance stream buffers and to reduce erosion of sediment. We have designated “no mow zones” at several locations on the property to reduce storm water runoff and create better, healthier habitats for animals. To compliment and highlight all of the water conservation features used in the building and on the grounds (waterless urinals, low-flow faucets, dual-flush toilets, rain barrels and rain gardens, porous concrete etc.) we use various forms of education. Stickers above dual-flush toilets let visitors know to “Make every drop count” when they are choosing between the ½ flush and full flush option. Interpretive signage on our green roof, near the porous pavement and in our “backyard demonstration area” reveal how various techniques such as native plantings, rain barrels and rain gardens can be used in large landscapes and small backyards to help curb stormwater run-off. Our Chesapeake Bay exhibit and many of our field trip programs raises awareness about water pollution, water quality issues, aquatic animals, and how students can help improve local water quality. Students are not the only patrons that we educate; Robinson participates in Project Clean Stream, a Bay-wide, educational community stream clean-up. Additionally, our staff conducts Project WET Trainings for teachers through which they can become certified in the Project WET curriculum, giving them the tools to appropriately teach water quality and conservation.
Energy Efficiency
We use the following best management practices:
bulletHave a plan in place to reduce property energy usage
bulletTrack overall energy bills and establish baseline energy usage
bulletHave had an energy audit to identify efficiency opportunities
bulletHave an energy management system in place to track and meter energy usage
bulletConfirmed that all refrigerator, freezer and oven gaskets provide a good seal, or replaced
bulletRoutinely clean condenser coils on all refrigeration equipment
bulletImplemented a startup / shutdown procedure which specifies timing for lighting, kitchen equipment, room temperature, etc.
bulletSetting / installing defrost timers for freezers
bulletDesigned use of natural lighting
bulletUse lighting sensors to turn on/off lights
bulletUse occupancy sensors to turn on/off lights
bulletTurn off lights in unoccupied rooms
bulletMinimize the use of lighting during night cleaning
bulletUse of directional, downward-facing, lighting in parking areas and other outdoor areas
bulletUse high efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs in rooms, canned lighting or wherever possible
bulletUse high efficiency fluorescent ballasts and lamps - T-5's & T-8's
bulletUse LED Exit Signs
bulletUse LED lighting for:Exhibit lighting
Heating and Cooling
bulletHave a high efficiency heating and air-conditioning HVAC system
bulletRegularly perform preventative maintenance on HVAC system
bulletHave geothermal heating and cooling
bulletHave a centrally controlled HVAC system that is activated only when occupied
bulletMinimize the use of lighting during night cleaning
bulletKeep office doors and windows closed if HVAC system is on
bulletHave ENERGY STAR rated windows and doors
bulletHave installed additional insulation
Energy Efficiency:
bulletGenerate electricity from photovoltaic solar panels
bulletENERGY STAR computers, appliances, office equipments etc.
bulletHave thermal-rated windows and insulation
bulletTurn off all electrical items in unoccupied rooms when not in use or at the end of the day
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics in Energy Conservation and Efficiency
bulletMany of the features inside and outside of our building allow us to conserve energy. We use occupancy sensors for lighting in many of our rooms, and sensors control room temperature based on movement, so the building does not heat/cool or light empty rooms. Our solar panels cover 40% of our rooftop. Another portion of our roof is a green roof that covers the classroom and auditorium wing of our building. This feature helps to regulate building temperature and reduces our need for heating/cooling energy. Windows cover a large portion of our above-ground areas, allowing for plenty of natural daylight and the reduction of indoor lighting. For maintenance needs, the Center has an electric golf cart rather than a diesel vehicle. In addition to our building features, we conduct educational events, tours and volunteer opportunities that educate our patrons about ways to conserve energy. We have worked with a local nursery and a pool of volunteers to plant trees near our building that will eventually shade the building and reduce our energy use. We use a live website that displays output from our solar panels to calculate energy savings from our solar panels with students during their field trips. We offer our LEED Platinum Building tours as a learning tool for interested community members and school groups.
Minimize Disposable Food Service Items
We use the following best management practices:
bulletUse disposable foodservice items made from bio-based, renewable materials (corn, bamboo, etc.)
bulletUse disposable foodservice items made with recycled content
bulletUse recyclable foodservice items and actively recycle them
bulletUse compostable foodservice items and collect such items for composting or direct this material to available composting operations in your area
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics in Minimizing Disposable Foodservice Items:
bulletFor our campfire programs, we purchased reusable marshmallow roasters. We also have a set of serving platters, serving utensils and tablecloth linens that we use for special programs in our auditorium.
Green Events
We use the following best management practices:
bulletUse ideas set forth in Maryland Green Travel's Checklist for Planning Green Events
bulletSupport event planners who want to hold green events
bulletTrain all event planner staff on green event techniques
bulletProvide visible recycling at all green events
bulletMinimize the use of disposable food service items
bulletUse electronic registration, correspondence and forms
bulletUse double-sided printing and copying
bulletUse green signage at the event
bulletActivities we undertake to make our events green are:We offer pitchers, drinking carafes and access to tap water so bottled water can be avoided. We provide an ice-maker in the building so that bagged ice does not have to be purchased. Recyclable receptacles are next to every trash can.
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics regarding Green Events:
bulletWe provide a tip sheet for planning green events to our renters. The sheet includes suggestions encouraging the use of reusable flatware as opposed to disposable flatware. When reusable flatware is not an option, we suggest recyclable flatware. We also suggest that renters encourage their guests to carpool and that they consider using paperless invites including evites and paperless posts. We have a list of local caterers that we have worked with that we share with renters so they might support the local economy and lessen fossil fuel consumption.
Other Green Practices
We use the following best management practices:
bulletMinimize the Comute of our Employees-Our staff commutes from various locations in Maryland. To ensure non-personal vehicle transportation options for staff, the Center was placed on a public Howard County Transit bus route (the Orange Line) connecting it to various other locations in Howard County. For bikers and walkers, the Center is connected via sidewalk to Columbia’s extensive pathway system. Additionally, bike racks and low-flow showers are provided for those that would like to bike/walk to work. For all work-related trainings and trips, staff arranges carpools from the Center to the destination.
bulletAddressing Efficient Business Travel-Our staff works with members of other departments to share vehicles and minimize empty space in vehicles. For summer camps, we borrowed vans from another department to transport campers rather than hire larger school buses that would have not been filled to capacity.
For guests:
bulletEncourage energy efficient vehicle usage
bulletProvide preferred parking for hybrid or other fuel efficient vehicles
bulletEducate guests on the availability of mass transit
bulletOur innovative ideas to minimize the impact of Transportation:We promote the use of fuel efficient vehicles by our patrons and staff by offering premium parking incentives for these vehicles. For certain special events, we instruct patrons to carpool if possible or take public transportation.
Green Building:
bulletOur building is LEED certifiedx:
bulletLEED Platinum
bulletHistoric Property:Prior to construction of the Nature Center, a team of archaeologists from the State came out to determine if there were any areas of archaeological significance on the property. This team identified two archaeological “hot spots” on the property that contained a significant amount of artifacts. To ensure these areas were protected, a large retaining wall was constructed along the driveway to the Center. The Center now works with a professor of Archaeology at the Howard Community College (HCC) to conduct thorough, documented excavations of portions of these hot spots that will minimize impact on the surrounding environment. As an added bonus, this opportunity not only allows the excavation of significant artifacts – a button from a Civil War Union soldier’s uniform was recently uncovered – but is also provides an opportunity for HCC archaeology and anthropology students to gain valuable field experience helping out with the dig. In addition to the archaeology that occurs on-site, staff has been working to restore the garden of the property’s former land-owner, Annie Robinson, with native plants and plants she chose to propagate for her enjoyment and those of her visitors.
bulletSustainable Building Materials:Robinson Nature Center was reducing waste even before it opened its doors. The construction of the Center was managed in such as way as to recycle 85% of construction debris, resulting in 293 tons of waste diverted from landfills. Material used in the construction of the Center was selected with environmental benefits in mind. Nearly 14% of the materials included recycled content. For another 26% of the materials, the supply was from regional sources to reduce fossil fuel consumption during transportation. Another nearly 3% of the materials are rapidly renewable, with less than 7 years for each harvest cycle. 82% of the wood used in the project came from sustainably managed forests and carries the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal.
Our Innovative Ideas and Specifics regarding our Green Building techniques:
bulletHealthy Center Environment - At Robinson Nature Center, we take a team approach to improve the environmental health of all guests and staff in the main building as well as Howard County residents living nearby and visiting the property. Inside the Center, we have a ventilation system with 30% fresh air intake and 70% of the Center has access to natural light. We provide opportunities like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified tours to help people improve their lives and neighborhoods. We also increase public awareness for environmental health issues and exposure prevention techniques by focusing our educational efforts on the home use of pesticides/herbicides, consumer choices of household products, water management including water quality, stormwater runoff, and water contaminants. On our grounds, we use integrated pest management (IPM). Our IPM includes elements such as the preferred use of non-chemical methods, and – if chemicals are necessary - keeping chemical use to a minimum while using least-toxic chemical pesticides, and universal communication and notification strategies.
bulletPrograms:MAEOE Green Center Certification
bulletAwards:Certified Merit for Excellence in Construction (Awarded by Associated Builders and Contractors in 2011) 2011 Washington Contractor Award for Best Sustainable Projects New Construction (Awarded by the Associated General Contractors of America) People’s Choice and New Construction Wintergreen 2011 Award (Awarded by the US Green Building Council) LEED Platinum Building Award (Awarded in 2012 by the US Green Building Council) Landscape Site/ASLA Award (Awarded by the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association in 2012)
Measurable Results
• Geothermal heating and cooling allows us to reduce our energy use by 30% each year. • Our water-conserving features inside the building enable us to save 50% more water than another building of the same size. • Our aqua box rain barrels gather 150 gallons of rain water from the portion of our roof that is not a green roof. • The Center recycles about 1 cubic yard of materials each week for a total of 52 cubic yards a year.