Antarctica: Go green or go home

By Joyce Lin · November 30, 2010 ·

We have learned so much about conservation since we arrived. Since Antarctica has such a large impact on the earth’s ecosystem, scientists who work here implement stringent measures to protect this continent.  Particularly for those working with Scott Base, everything comes New Zealand, and nearly everything must return to New Zealand. As a result, natural resources and waste production is carefully considered. In fact, at a location in which there may be an opportunity to conserve, there is often posted a little green sticker with a check mark. This is a reminder to simply reflect on how much of a resource one is using.

Light switches in new Zealand turn ‘down’ for on and ‘up’ for off. The check mark on the light switch reminds Russell the Ram to turn the lights off when he leaves the room to save precious energy.

Fuel is transported once a year via an ice breaker. For every liter of water used on the base, 2 liters of fuel is required for filtering/transportation purposes. Thus, water is quite precious. Showers are encouraged to stay under 3 minutes, and dishes are washed with sparing amounts before being sanitized. Recycled water is used in the toilets and other places where pure water is unnecessary. The only liberal use of water is for hydration, as health and safety is paramount.

A place for everything and everything in its place ... recycle EVERYTHING that can possibly be recycled. Cans, for example, have to be imported to Scott Base with food in them, washed and stored, and then exported back to New Zealand for disposal. The only difference between Scott Base and the rest of the world is that we could SEE all of our trash. I think if we had to bag and store all of our trash at home that we would be a lot more careful about recycling.

Waste of any kind must be transported away. All trash is carefully sorted and those that can’t be recycled are taken back to New Zealand to be incinerated or dumped in a landfill.

Energy is also conserved. Lights are not left on in unoccupied rooms (not that it’s really a problem in this season with constant daylight). Scott Base and its neighbor McMurdo Station recently reduced their energy consumption by 10% through the use of windmills, which is very appropriate since Antarctica can be a very windy place.

Most of these measures seem sensible, but bringing it to our attention has made us all think about how we can better conserve our resources when we return home. Scott Base is “not just green on the inside!”

About the author


Joyce Lin.
I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Utah.

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