As a haven for indigenous plant life and a natural refuge for animals, Brookgreen Gardens is a sanctuary. Since 1931, its environmental-friendly preservation has been a policy handed down by founders Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington.
In the Gardens
Brookgreen protects over 2,000 species of plants in its nature preserve, and has nine ecosystems that exemplify coastal South Carolina unlike anywhere else. These range from salt marshes to longleaf pine, mixed hardwood, and river bluff forests.
Irrigation is performed only when necessary and only on land areas, not on hard surfaces, to prevent run-off. Brookgreen uses only organic or slow release fertilizers. The latter releases chemicals slowly so they go directly to the plant’s root system rather than to the ground water, which feeds springs and wells. Another way in which Brookgreen also accents its eco-friendly policy is by its composting of materials to use in the planting beds of the gardens.
In the Wildlife and Nature Preserve
“Some people don’t understand why we have to burn the forest,” said Mike Ammons, Director of Landscape, Natural Areas and Security. He explained that prescribed burns benefit all wildlife and improves the palpability and nutrition of understory plants. They reduce stems to new sprouts and reduce the woody rough material that lies on the forest floor. In addition the burns suppress forbs and grasses, and keeps browse foliage within reach of different species of wildlife.
For more than ten years Brookgreen has focused on the restoration of the Longleaf Pine forest. The classic Longleaf Pine community consists of open “park like” woods with grassy, herbaceous ground cover and seasonal wildflowers. It provides habitats for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers – an endangered species which are present at Brookgreen as well as squirrels and songbirds. Burning Longleaf stands on a three- to five-year cycle benefits in both forage and fruit production. It also has the added benefit of fuel reduction on the forest floor and lessens the chance of a catastrophic fire. Also, in the Longleaf Pine forest management, Brookgreen incorporates fuel chipping forestry. This is the removal of the encroaching understory to improve the Red-cockaded Woodpecker habitats and the conservation of the longleaf pines. Another one of the standard management practices in the natural areas at Brookgreen is to leave a continuous supply of snags and downed logs to sustain populations of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that use these resources to survive.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Brookgreen’s reduce, reuse, recycle initiativet requires we monitor the garbage and remove cardboard, plastic, and aluminum that should have been recycled. It involves support from our staff, our volunteers and our community leaders because although our RRR policy is not easy, it must be done.
For many years Brookgreen had recycled office paper and cardboard but we expanded our recycling efforts to include the public areas. Containers were purchased and placed throughout the gardens and zoo. Later, Brookgreen received a grant through Georgetown County Environmental Services from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for roll-off containers. The containers provide on-site collection of plastic, aluminum, glass, and cardboard. Georgetown Environmental Services picks up and transports the recycled materials to Georgetown’s Materials Recycling Center. The containers are now widely used on property for daily operations, as well as for the collection of materials during special events.
Brookgreen’s three restaurants do not use Styrofoam but use instead biodegradable “to-go” supplies that can be recycled. Plastic food trays are used instead of paper trays and the staff washes them so they can be used again. The staff also recycles the restaurant fryer oils. A company picks up the used oil and transfers it to be recalibrated for use as car fuels and to sell to pet food companies.
Old computers, monitors, printers and other miscellaneous equipment are also recycled. Brookgreen has contracted with a Creative Recycling to pick up these materials and they certify the equipment was processed and recycled in accordance with all environmental laws and regulations. Since we began this program several years ago, thousands of pounds of used equipment have been recycled.
The Finance department recently began using a Paper Save software program that reduces paper in the accounts payable department. Purchase orders and invoices are submitted and approved electronically and we have asked our vendors to e mail their invoices rather than sending them through the mail. In the first few months of programs it has drastically reduced the paper waste. The Marketing department has reduced its use of paper by sending press releases by e mail. Distributing press kits by e mail or CD and using e-blast to communicate with members and constituents rather than post card mailings.
“Brookgreen’s initiatives for preservation and conservation tell the story of our stewardship of the land,” said Bob Jewell, Brookgreen’s President and CEO. “It is a tremendous responsibility, one that our trustees, staff, and volunteers do not take for granted. We have sculpture exhibits, festivals, educational programs, and dedications for new buildings, all of which are very important, but our efforts in preservation, conservation, and education are the foundation of everything we do. It’s the reason why we’re here and the reason why Brookgreen will remain a sanctuary for generations to come.”