Mount Auburn & Sustainability

January 1, 2013

Did you Know…?

Greenhouse Cistern

1.)    Water Conservation.  Since 2004 rain barrels at the greenhouse have collected almost 10,000 gallons of water per year for watering plants on the grounds.  With the opening of the new greenhouses, a 30,000 gallon cistern located below the ground will collect rainwater for irrigating the plants growing inside the greenhouse. In the past, Mount Auburn has used potable water for irrigating plants inside the greenhouses.


Curbed Lot with new Plantings

2.)    Turf Reduction.  Although grass was popular in the 1930’s landscape lawn style and is maintained in most areas of the grounds, in recent years Mount Auburn’s horticulture team has worked to replace turf with alternative ground covers like barren strawberry (Waldsteinia ternata) and myrtle (Vinca minor) which require less water and no mowing, and they enhance the character of many historic areas.


Floral Tributes

3.)    Organic Growing.  The greenhouse staff has eliminated its use of pesticides in managing pests.  Now, natural methods like companion planting are used to attract a diversity of beneficial insects.  Also, through an experimental garden program, the resiliency of plants is tested to learn about the requirements and resources needed by particular species and varieties.


Composting in-progress

4.)    Compost & Mulch Production.  All of Mount Auburn’s staff is committed to composting. All four kitchenettes in our buildings have 5-gallon buckets used for composting kitchen scraps like rice, beans, apple cores, tea leaves and coffee grinds. These buckets are emptied into the home-garden-sized compost bin located at the experimental garden adjacent to the greenhouse.  Additionally, we make our own high quality compost and use it as a top dressing for re-seeding, as fertilizer, and as a soil amendment for any new shrub and tree plantings.  The compost comprises green material (grass clippings, funeral flowers, shrub pruning waste) and brown material (leaves, wood chips, and hay).  We also produce our own mulch by mixing fallen leaves with woodchips produced onsite.  This organic material is used in landscaping throughout the grounds.  In the past, 200 yards of mulch per year was purchased.  Now all mulch is produced in-house.


Bird Watchers at Willow Pond

5.)    Wildlife Habitat Restoration.  Mount Auburn is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Massachusetts Audubon Society for its bountiful, diverse, and expanding bird habitat.  We have worked to improve wildlife habitat in Consecration Dell, which is home to a rare spotted salamander and Great Horned Owls; Willow Pond, which has many resident and visiting aquatic species; the Wildflower Meadow which attract butterflies and dragonflies; and most recently the hill between Beech Avenue and Narcissus Path which provides food for over twenty species of birds.  Our commitment to the resident and visiting wildlife has made us a destination for bird-watchers.


American Toad

6.)    Introduction of Toads, Frogs and Turtles. Initiated through a citizen-scientist proposal by Joe Martinez (New England Wildlife Center’s outreach educator) and Patrick Fairbairn (a member of the Watertown Conservation Commission), Mount Auburn hopes to repopulate the grounds with American toads, gray treefrogs, and spring peepers. Each of these amphibian species was undoubtedly present in the cemetery at its inception; their disappearance from the cemetery is probably due to earlier landscaping practices that eliminated suitable habitat for the juveniles and adults.


The Preservation Workshop utilizes Solar Power

7.)    Energy Conservation.  Through a combination of updates in our historic buildings and solar panels on newly constructed buildings, we have reduced our fuel consumption by 43% since 2007.




Greenhouse under Construction

8.)    New Greenhouses Built.  Mount Auburn is on its way to having a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Horticulture Center. The completion of the new greenhouses with open-roof venting, computerized climate controls, heat-saving shades, and an underground 30,000 gallon cistern ends the first phase of a two phase Horticulture Center project.


Mobile Tour & Kiosk available

9.)    Paper Use Reduction.  In an effort to use less paper, the Visitor Services staff has been working to upload our interpretive brochures to the media archive on our website. (You can find our mobile app there too)!  To add a fun competitive goal for the entire staff at Mount Auburn we have initiated a “paper challenge” to see which building can reduce its paper use the most.  In addition to reducing paper, our purchasing habits have changed to paper made from 100% recycled content.


Dave Barnett

10.)  “Green” Staff Leading by Example.  Mount Auburn’s president, Dave Barnett holds a B.S. in environmental horticulture and a doctorate in ecology.  He leads a team of staff that are experts and industry-leaders in arboriculture, conservation, education and other areas that help us to be more sustainable.  Mount Auburn seeks to improve its own practices as well as educate the public through programs, workshops and publications on how they can be more sustainable in their own lives.  Additionally, a cross-departmental “Green Team” meets regularly to “help the Cemetery align its commitments to long-term preservation and horticultural excellence with its desire to demonstrate responsible stewardship for the environment.”

About the Author: Jessica Bussmann

Director of Education & Visitor Services View all posts by Jessica Bussmann →

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