18. IslandWood

Outdoor learning center

LOCATION: Bainbridge Island, WA
BEST PERKS: Alternative work environment, Community & environmental support, Swag
HIRING? YES! islandwood.org

IslandWood is a nationally recognized outdoor education facility located on Bainbridge Island, Washington, across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. IslandWood’s mission is to provide exceptional learning experiences and to inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship. Each year, more than 17,000 adults and children visit IslandWood’s private 255-acre campus for a wide variety of programs. IslandWood was founded in 1999 on the belief that today’s children need opportunities to explore the natural world if they are to develop a commitment to environmental stewardship. Through our flagship School Overnight Program, 4,000 elementary school students each year participate in learning adventures that integrate science, technology, and the arts while allowing them to discover connections between themselves and the natural environment. In addition to our school programs, IslandWood offers a graduate program in partnership with the University of Washington, spring and summer camps, conference programs for nonprofits and corporations, and community programs for families. Our wooded campus also is available for corporate and nonprofit retreats and weekend celebrations, including weddings, reunions, and bar mitzvahs. Our site features leading-edge green building design and meeting facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technology that can accommodate a small intimate group or a conference for 175 guests. Guests stay in lodges (with private rooms and baths), and our culinary team creates meals that feature seasonal, local produce and sustainably raised meats and seafood. All events and community donations help finance our outdoor programs for elementary school students, including a significant percentage who come from low-income communities.

IslandWood’s staff is a community of dedicated, hardworking, respectful, people who share a commitment to our mission. Our 2010 annual staff-survey results indicate that 95 percent of staff either agree or strongly agree to the statement “Given the opportunity, I tell others great things about working here.”

IslandWood recognizes and celebrates achievements in a number of ways. IslandWood has a “Sunshine Committee” that plans regular morale-boosting events and activities. The organization holds at least two parties per year to thank staff for their amazing work. During bimonthly Art Happy Hours, staff can meet in the Art Studio for weaving, printmaking, drumming, and other art activities and to connect with one another. IslandWood also provides time at all staff meetings for “shout-outs” and appreciations of one another. The organization also has a board where staff can post thank-yous to other staff members, and IslandWood regularly uses the announcement section of our intranet to post messages that recognize a job well done by an employee or a team.

IslandWood’s most unique offering is our beautiful wooded campus, which allows employees to step out of the office into a second-growth forest highlighted by two tree houses, a canopy tower, suspension bridge, and a teams course. IslandWood encourages all staff to take time during the day to go outside for a walk on our six miles of trails. Many departments also use our teams course for team-building activities.

We have made a commitment to ensure that children from underserved communities have opportunities to participate in our summer camps. Partnerships with several local community organizations have enabled hundreds of teens to attend weeklong camps at no cost to their families. In partnership with the Sierra Club, IslandWood employees participated in an inner-city environmental cleanup-and-restoration project on the Duwamish waterway. Our employees also contribute time and effort to an annual roadside cleanup not far from our campus. IslandWood regularly hosts events for other local community organizations, including Bainbridge Island Land Trust, Rotary Awards Banquet, Japanese-American Community Mochi Festival, Sustainable Bainbridge, One Call for All, the Chamber of Commerce, Land Trust, and many more. 

IslandWood’s Learning Studios use solar energy for electricity and hot water. We have a robust recycling and composting practice that operates across all of our programs. Food waste and compostable material decomposes in bins for use in our organic garden. A composting bin handles up to 100 pounds of food waste per day. Our facilities include composting toilets and a “living machine” that processes 3,000 gallons a day of sewage, allowing IslandWood to reuse some of the resulting water for irrigation. IslandWood also uses cisterns to capture rainwater for reuse. The organization also practices local sourcing of food and teaches children about the food cycle in our Garden Classroom. IslandWood’s Green Team takes time at all staff meetings to educate everyone on actions they can take to decrease their environmental impact. IslandWood has reduced paper consumption by switching to a Web-based system for payroll, using recycled paper, and defaulting to double-sided printing on copiers. Staff place a marker in a jar each time they walk, bike, or carpool to work. Once the markers reach a certain level, a celebration is planned for all participating staff.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web