From Sawdust to Sustainability

Local artist and OAP gardener Kira Mardikes preps for a plant dye workshop.

If you can transform sawdust into alcohol, can you also conjure a modern resort dedicated to sustainability and community service out of a one-hundred-plus year-old manufacturing plant?

Sure. Assuming you have more than a century, several changes of ownership and one fabulous building to do it with.

This, in short, is the history of the resort-cum-gardens-cum- low income housing service known as the Old Alcohol Plant (OAP). Overlooking Port Townsend Bay from its perch in Port Hadlock, this rambling building came to life in 1911 as a manufacturing facility designed to turn sawdust from local mills into alcohol. That lasted only a few years before a cutthroat competitor bought up its stock options and shut the place down.

Enter a long period of slow decay until the late 1970s when an investor bought the plant, refurbished it and opened it as a resort. That phase lasted a bit longer. Several decades and a succession of owners passed before a backlog of taxes shut down the facility, then known as the Inn at Port Hadlock, in 2011.

Enter another, much shorter derelict period until a group of philanthropists purchased the building, renovated it, and re-opened it in 2016 as the Old Alcohol Plant.

Focusing on both eco-tourism and transitional housing, today’s OAP stands out for its plethora of sustainability initiatives, which, notes Director Gary Keister, “allows us to . . . become a driver of sustainable practices in the hospitality business.”

Thanks to a multi-talented team, the Old Alcohol Plant has scored a considerable number of energy reduction achievements. These include LED lighting and low-flow plumbing throughout the building, a complete switch to non-toxic cleaning services, a host of composting and recycling efforts plus, of course, home-grown foods from the Plant’s backyard garden. (According to sustainability manager Jocelyn Moore, produce used in the resort’s kitchen travels all of .04 miles from backyard to cutting board.) In addition, the OAP is now partnering with the Olympic Carbon Fund’s biochar “bucket share” project. The OAP has amended the gardens since 2019 using biochar which has helped create increasingly rich soil and nutrient-dense plants.

Last, but definitely not least, the OAP continues in its daily meal and housing support of the Bayside Housing project for those in need of temporary housing. Located on OAP property, Bayside offered nearly 10,000 nights in a safe bed and more than 6,000 meals to its guests in 2020.

For upcoming offerings from the OAP, watch for outdoor workshops this spring including herbal workshops and flower arrangement classes. New sustainability initiatives include installing rainwater catchment, EV charging stations and a fresh-produce farmstead starting in mid-spring.