Sustainable Pulse Profile: Rich Dirks

Rich Dirks name is all over the conservation map in Door County. He has served as president of Door Property Owners. He’s worked to control invasive species like phragmites and planted trees with the nature conservancy. He’s also a member of the Door County Silent Sports Alliance.

Rich Dirks

In 2001 he retired from his job in the information technology department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He and wife Sandra moved to their new home on a wooded lot in Jacksonport and set about integrating themselves into the peninsula’s environmental community.

Picking the right spot: The Dirks bought the lot where they built their home in 1995 specifically because it was wooded. Now they get shade to cool in the summer and sun to heat in the winter.

If I knew then: “We built too big,” Dirks says of their home. If he had to do it again, he’d go much smaller, so they try to make up for the size with little steps. “We have an efficient fireplace and burn a lot of fire wood harvested here. We also recycle everything we can.”

Getting outside: Dirks has been lauded for his work as a volunteer groomer of ski trails at Whitefish Dunes State Park. He estimates he spends 40 – 50 hours a winter grooming, then gets the skis on himself three days a week. In the summer, he’s found road biking around the county.

On four wheels: Most of their driving is done in a Ford Focus that averages about 33 mpg.

Wind powered: An avid sailor for 35 years, Dirks has been in the process of building his own 15’ sailboat for a number of years. “Progress is slow, but the hull is mostly done,” he says.

For the birds: Dirks has a 10-box bluebird trail around his property, which yielded 28 bluebirds last summer.

Diet: “I don’t eat beef,” Dirks says. “Beef has the largest carbon footprint of any food source, plus it has all that fat.” He tries to buy local and organic when possible, frequenting farm markets in season.

Pet peeve: Dirks says anytime he sees someone throw away a perfectly good recyclable item, it gets his goat a little; but he doesn’t dwell. “I try not to let it bother me, because life is too short, and full of too many other things that can get to you.”

Still striving: Last year Dirks and his wife stopped drinking bottled water, getting a couple of reusable bottles and cutting back drastically on their recycling.

Special satisfaction: Since they moved to Door County, the Dirks have volunteered to read to Sevastopol first graders every Wednesday, and once a year they take the kids out behind the school to go snowshoeing. “It’s great to give them that kind of experience.”