COVID-19: Essential Information

SSL Blog Archive

SSL Blog Archive

Below you can read archived blog posts from the SSL:

     As the communications team with the SSL this summer, we are lucky to be involved in a large mishmosh of projects. Mainly, however, we are responsible for editing and updating Middlebury’s Sustainability website. This process has involved a great deal of learning about Middlebury’s sustainable practices as well as learning how to edit webpages. 

     Moreover, we are also closely involved with the Energy 2028 team, helping with the social media campaign for the Creative Climate Art Contest. We have gotten the opportunity to spend some quality Zoom time with Midd’s social media manager Andrew Cassel to learn about professional social media accounts and how to make an impact on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. 

      Additionally, we have been working with the director of Midd’s school in Japan Sanae Eda, to help develop a plan for a new website based on their GPS programs. These programs allow for students studying abroad to interact with some of their countries developing sustainable practices. During the fall term, students visit the Chizu Village  in the Tottori Prefecture, where they learn about the dense cedar forest (shown below, photographed by Director Sanae Eda) present in the area and how it is protected via forest thinning. Then, during the spring term, students visit the Nagano Tenryu Village to learn about life on the tea plantation in the area and interact with the youths that are working to preserve it. The goal of the new website is to allow for the programs to build off of the experiences of previous students, instead of just having students duplicate what was done the previous year. 


     Finally, collaborating with other members of the Middlebury community has taught us a great deal about team-work and resourcefulness. Although we are going through a very unstable situation due to the pandemic, it has also been an opportunity to learn to work together effectively through a screen.  Whether it be a director of the Mddlebury schools abroad, a professor or our peer interns, we have had the opportunity to adapt and have a very meaningful experience.


     Hi this is Maya! This summer I have been working with Monique to create some Environmental Study Breaks for freshmen in Stewart and Hepburn dorms. We are trying to engage with the fourth pillar of the Energy 2028 initiative: commitment to educational opportunities. Our goals for the study break include: building community, increasing environmental awareness, engagement in environmental activities and promoting campus sustainability.

     This past week we have been working with ResLife and Freshman Orientation to coordinate how our study breaks will be different due to remote programming. Everyone has been super helpful and we plan to distribute some stickers that I designed to the targeted dorms so that students are aware of our programming and efforts to environmental conservation and sustainability. I also created a resource for new students where I compiled a list of environmental and outdoor clubs on campus (and how to contact them) because we are uncertain the activity fair will happen. It was eye opening to read about how many clubs Middlebury has relating to the environment! Who knew?

     Additionally, we have created and solidified our event calendar and I am currently in the process of working out the details. It's been really fun because I love organization, but I did not realize how much planning it takes and how difficult it is to organize events with such an uncertain future. It has given me much appreciation for Middlebury’s Faculty, Staff and Administration!

     While this summer was much different than I expected, I’ve learned a lot. It started with reading and analyzing various journal articles. At the beginning, it felt long and tedious but I enjoyed learning so much about the Self-Determination Theory, framing, pro-environmental behaviors and more! I also got a lot better at being able to read an article and quickly pull out the main themes and takeaways. I know this will be so helpful in my future. Other skills that I have developed include budgeting and social media! We have been working to “brand” our study breaks and thought that the best way to do this was create an instagram page (follow us @energy_2028_studybreaks). I have yet to post anything but I have been creating posts that will be shared in the future.

We can't wait to meet the incoming freshman and hope that they enjoy our study breaks and reach out to us with any questions!

     What steps can we take on our global journey to a sustainable future for all? The United Nations (UN) created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable world. These goals turn the nebulous idea of a “sustainable world” into tangible actions. Although progress has been made towards each of these goals, there’s still work to be done in achieving the 2030 deadline. Our project centers around devising a “marathon” of fun challenges associated with one of each of the SDGs. For each SDG, we have created challenges appropriate for youth, teenager, and adult participants. Essentially, a challenge will encourage participants to perform an action in their lives that works towards achieving an individual SDG. For example, SDG #13 (action to combat climate change and its impacts) challenges teenagers to eat vegetarian or vegan for one day each week.

     This summer, we’ve been working with the Middlebury Schools Abroad and the Lake Baikal Eco Center in Irkutsk, Russia to create our challenges. Starting August 1st, participants in Russia will have the opportunity to take part in the challenges. This fall, we hope to bring a similar SDG marathon to the Middlebury community. These challenges are meant to be a fun way to both learn more about and work towards the completion of the SDGs. If you’re interested in participating in the upcoming challenges, you can follow us @sdg_2020_! 

Over the past couple of days, we each tried out one of the challenges. Jonna tried making an entirely vegan meal for her family’s dinner. She chose to make a vegan tikka masala with chickpeas, broccoli, tofu and peas. Her parents said the meal was delicious! They said they wouldn’t mind incorporating more meals throughout the week. Here are photos! 

Michael cleaned out his bookshelf and he plans to donate the unwanted books to  a local elementary school. Here is a photo of his newly cleaned and organized bookshelf and the book he will be donating:


 Finally, Ev had a screen-free Saturday! She turned her phone off and spent the day reading, cleaning, cooking, hiking, and relaxing. While she missed the presence of her constant Spotify backtrack, she definitely enjoyed the peace and quiet both her ears and eyes experienced. She definitely recommends taking some time off from devices, especially during such a tech-heavy time for everyone. Below is a photo of Ev enjoying some nature during her time off (don’t worry, she didn’t upload this until after the challenge was over!)

     Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some students are unable to study abroad, specifically in Hangzhou, China and because of this, we have been assigned to work with The Nature Conservancy in China to conduct research for their national park candidate in Baishanzu.  

     For the first half of our internship we have been in the national parks volunteer systems in the United States and Canada. We have been able to meet a variety of people involved with national parks and we discussed the relationships between humans and national parks. The relationship between humans and national parks is complicated and requires balance. The primary objective of national parks is to preserve the cultural heritage of the land and to protect the area for generations to come. However some national parks are places for people to come see nature and appreciate its beauty.

     The balance between humans and nature in national parks is extremely delicate. Tourism is important to help maintain the parks and to also garner excitement about nature, but at the same time, tourism is harmful. For example many of the big national parks conduct bus tours, and while these buses create more accessibility, they also increase the amount of carbon emissions in the area. One could say that we should keep humans from national parks, but when people come to national parks, they often leave inspired. They are inspired by the beautiful nature all around them and hopefully, this intimate relationship with the land inspires them to protect our earth and to become more environmentally conscious. In the end, while conservation is the most important aspect of national parks, allowing people to enjoy it and maintaining a balance in the parks ecosystem is important and both of these aspects play a role in many national parks worldwide.


   Aquaculture Team

     Hello everyone! We are helping the Nature Conservancy in Hangzhou, China, to review Best Management Practices for shellfish aquaculture in North America to help make Chinese aquaculture more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

     First, we want to give a little background on aquaculture. Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, algae, and other organisms in many types of aquatic environments. There is a great deal of variety in the industry; operations can range from large indoor salmon farms to kelp farms that span acres of the coast, to small-scale oyster farms using plastic floats tied to a town dock. Shellfish aquaculture most often involves the rearing of oysters, clams, and mussels. Usually, shellfish aquaculture yields products for human consumption, but there are other types of aquaculture whose purpose is to harness the ecosystem services of the organisms being reared. This is known as “restorative aquaculture”, and in many cases, it involves growing bivalves (oysters, clams, or mussels, typically) that remove pollutants from the water while filter-feeding. Examples of such restorative operations include the Billion Oyster Project in New York Harbor and a similar oyster operation in the Chesapeake Bay.


     Like all farming, aquaculture can be done in ways that can either enhance or destroy the ecosystems with which they interact. For example, many farms add nutrients to their grow-out facilities, increasing the growth rate of their livestock, but if these nutrients are used to excess they frequently accumulate in the estuaries that drain the farms, leading to eutrophication, algal blooms, and hypoxic zones, all of which can destroy an estuarine ecosystem. With proper planning and design, feeding rates can be controlled so that they match the needs of the stock, and eutrophication of the system does not occur. This planning and design is part of what Best Management Practices are all about. 


Best Management Practices (BMPs) are guidelines for a business. In this case, it’s a “code of recommended practices”, and for this project, we were specifically focusing on sustainability-related issues. In other words, these recommendations were created to turn aquaculture farms into making positive changes in the environment rather than adversely affecting it while still making a profit and sustaining a business in the long run. BMPs are becoming more frequently used as the aquaculture business continues to grow for one major reason: each farm is unique. They have different environments, grow only certain species, use varied culture methods, and have more or less access to resources. So, there are no specific laws/regulations that are applicable to every single farm due to the sheer amount of differences between them. Another reason is that each country/state has its own regulations when it comes to preserving the environment, how aquaculture businesses should operate, and what certifications/licenses are required to be formally recognized. Therefore, the BMPs have been most successful as they operate more as “follow and apply the suggestions that are most relevant to you” rather than a “you must do all of this”. Most BMPs promote becoming a sustainable business and environmental stewardship.

how to shuck an oyster

     In this project, we are working with The Nature Conservancy of China (TNCC) on their 5-year plan to revolutionize the oyster farming industry in China. Currently, China is the world’s biggest producer of oysters (~80% of global production). As explained above, oysters are filter-feeders, and usually cause positive impacts on their environment by removing various chemicals and nutrients from the water, from large amounts of phosphorus to heavy metals, phytoplankton, and even radionuclides.However, if the culture of oysters exceeds the carrying capacity of the site, then the oysters can be detrimental to the local ecosystem, which is what is currently happening in China. Our goal by the end of the summer is to have read a large number of BMPs and to make a final report for TNCC based on our readings. This report is for TNCC so that they can eventually make their own BMPs specifically for their farms in China and become leaders in sustainable restorative oyster aquaculture. 


Energy2028 team banner

     Energy2028 has four major pillars—it’s the college’s commitment to reduce energy consumption by 25%, power the campus with 100% renewable energy, divest from the fossil fuel industry, and incorporate sustainability education into everything we do. The Energy2028 Outreach team is working on two projects this summer to engage the Middlebury community in these goals.

Creative Climate Art Contest Poster     On July 3, we launched the Create Climate Art Contest, which is designed to educate and involve members of the Middlebury community around Energy2028 through the visual arts. Current students, alumni, faculty, and staff are all encouraged to submit an original work of art (i.e. a painting, drawing, print, collage, or other visual art form) that relates to Middlebury, showcases their creativity, and calls for climate action and environmental justice on campus. You can submit your work at this submission form (go link: go/creativeclimate/) or at The deadline for submissions is Aug. 1. The winning posters will be showcased around campus and distributed to the class of 2024 with credit for your work. The winning artists will receive $75 to donate to an environmental justice non-profit organization of the artist’s choice (suggested NGOs will be provided).

Sustainability Consultants Program poster     Also in the works is the Sustainability Consultants Program. Sustainability consultants will be students hired by the SSL to help student orgs, staff departments, and academic departments better incorporate sustainability practices and the goals of Energy2028 into how they operate. This could mean anything from overseeing a plan to reduce energy consumption and waste, to helping develop syllabi or programming that is climate-conscious and sustainability-centered. The launch date for this program is still TBD.

Kat Finck, Winter Term 2020

A Step Too Car: Green Your Commute

Green your commute! Within the United States 77% of us drive to work alone. Road vehicles –cars, trucks, buses– account for nearly three-quarters of transport CO2 emissions. Biking, an alternative to gas powered road vehicles, not only offers you a fresh start to your morning, but often gets you to your desired destination faster than you would think. Citi Bike, the nation’s largest bike share program, has offered New Yorkers sustainable and affordable alternatives. In Manhattan’s congested Midtown, average trips between 1-1.5 miles are more than 5 minutes faster and $10 cheaper by Citi Bike than by taxi. But the benefits extend beyond time efficiency and economic advantages.

First benefit why you might want to green your commute: better health. Biking or walking to your desired destination not only permits you to eat that extra cookie you were contemplating, but regular physical activity in general can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Traffic-related air pollution in New York City is responsible for about 2300 deaths and 6300 hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease each year.

Second benefit of a green commute: more money. Transportation is the second largest household expense in the United States. The economic benefits of choosing an electric vehicle results in less money spent on gas and car maintenance costs. In 2018, University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found the average cost to operate an electric vehicle in the United States to be $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle was $1,117.

Third benefit of green commute: Cleaner air. Biking, walking and electric vehicles all play an important role in improving the quality of our lives because they help keep the environment clean. In the United States, air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year.  If the average American didn’t drive three days a week, we would avert 50 pounds of pollutants from being released into the atmosphere and reduce adverse health effects. 

Slow-moving cars cause stressful traffic jams, are costly in gas prices and emit unsustainable fumes which contaminate our lungs and the environment. If you can’t limit your driving time, try utilizing a car sharing service or become a public transportation pro, you will be able to take a snooze on the road!

Jaden Hill, Winter Term 2020

We need to eat less meat. Globally, two billion people are overweight and 795 million lack adequate food and nutrition. Livestock production and consumption threaten public and environmental health and require high financial, health, and natural resource costs.

Eating less meat benefits human health. In 2018, the average American consumer ate 222.2 pounds of meat, twice the amount recommended by the Department of Health. Even replacing one or two weekly meals with plant-based options could globally save 5.1 million deaths per year. Reducing meat consumption lowers inflammation, improves metabolism, and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Some individuals are concerned by the elimination of animal protein and fat from their diets; however, all necessary nutrients can be reasonably sourced from plant-based foods.

Decreasing meat consumption is an economical choice. Meat products cost United States consumers up to $289 billion per year and the global economy spends nearly $1.6 trillion annually, which is significantly higher than plant options. Furthermore, Americans could save $250 billion in healthcare expenditures by eliminating meat from meals and lose fewer workdays due to health issues from a poor diet. Therefore, transitioning to a plant-based diet lowers individual costs from meat purchases and medical treatment.

The animal agriculture industry significantly impacts the environment. Livestock operations occupy over a quarter of planetary land and the production of animal feed alone uses one third of arable land. Producing and transporting meat constitutes 70 percent of total human freshwater consumption and is responsible for around 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The resources used to grow animal feed, land required for and degraded by grazing, and pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, and livestock make meat a much more environmentally costly food option. The energy and resources saved through meat reduction can be used to reduce world poverty and hunger, while improving human and environmental health.

Reducing meat consumption does not require a complete shift to vegetarianism or veganism; however, small dietary changes can be made to favor plant products that bring health, financial, and ecological benefits. This could be accomplished by having meatless days with plant-based meals built around beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, or following an “80–20” approach, in which 20 percent of daily calories come from animal products and 80 percent from other sources. Eating less meat is helpful and healthful on personal and larger scales—start phasing it out today.

SUMMER 2019 - Below are weekly blog posts from summer interns about their experience in the SSL

August 23, 2019

With two weeks until the new school year starts, Max and I are the only ones still left in the SSL. Max is continuing full time right up until the very end, while over the next two weeks I’ll be in and out of the office since I’m leading new first years on a MiddView trip!

Last week we met with the commons residence directors for Ross and Brainerd and have finally finalized plans for environmental first year programming in Stewart and Hadley for the coming year. We’re super excited about working with these residence halls and the new SSL interns we’ll be hiring to run the program! Keep an eye out for posters in these dorms as well as some exciting new Energy2028 stickers coming soon.

Construction is being done outside right now and the water for Hillcrest has been shut off, and Jack and Eva were both on vacation last week so Max and I worked remote a lot of the time. On Tuesday though, we took a field trip with Sachi on her second to last day to the groundbreaking of the anaerobic digestor at Goodrich Farms. It was great to be a part of something with such an exciting future for Middlebury, as well as meet all of the people involved in different aspects of the project. Middlebury has posted a video about the project on their YouTube and Facebook sites, and stay tuned some videos from Max as well.

Outside of the office I’ve also spent some time outside doing some fun things. I volunteered at the Knoll twice over the past two weeks; the first day I got lucky and helped make (and eat) some yummy food in the pizza oven, and the second day I volunteered I pulled weeds as well as helped construct a new stone staircase. I’ve also just gotten a new project started monitoring bees at the site where Middlebury is building a new solar farm. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a baseline of bee numbers and species there this summer before construction is started, and continue tracking over the next few years as the site is built and pollinator friendly flowers are planted beneath the solar panels.

This is my last blog post as well as the last summer intern written blog post of the year! I’ve had a great summer in Hillcrest as well as exploring Vermont, and although I may not officially be affiliated with the SSL this fall, I’m excited about pursuing more sustainable initiatives on campus!

August 16, 2019

Hi! It’s Sachi and I’m back on the blog this week! Since my last blog post, we have made great progress in finalizing the structure of freshman programming and working on finishing touches in time for first-year arrival on September 2. We are so excited to welcome the first years into this pilot program of sustainable living. 

On Tuesday, Cathleen and I hosted a Paint and Plant event for summer workers. We had a very relaxing afternoon with snacks and music while painting flower pots that students could take back to their dorms. Studies have shown that the presence of plants (fake or real) in your living spaces have positive effects academic performance as well as mental health! Not only was this workshop a great way to spend time with friends, we were able to gather feedback on events, like this one, that would help people become more aware of the effects of their interactions with the environment. 

I was also able to meet with Mike Kirenan from BeeTheChange this week. BeeTheChange is a company based in Weybridge that plants pollinator gardens in solar fields to repurpose the otherwise unused space. I met Mike at the New Haven solar field where he took me on a short tour of the pollinator garden BeeTheChange had set up in that space. It was really interesting for me to learn the processes of planting as well as hear Mike’s passion for the work that he does. He was passionate about storytelling. He knew the names (including the latin name) of every pollinator that flew by and every plant in the garden! BeeTheChange is hoping to set up a garden in the 5MW solar field that Middlebury is building on South Street Extension. 

Later in the week, we said a sad goodbye to Cathleen and Ben as they close out their time as interns at the SSL this summer. Ben is spending a couple weeks at home before coming back to Middlebury this fall and Cathleen flies home to L.A. before heading off to Nottingham, England in September for her semester abroad. However, this week we welcomed back Max from his trip to Uganda! He had the incredible opportunity to do human geography research with a professor and a couple other Middlebury students. Their research was focused on topics such as wood lots, land use change, and human/wildlife conflicts.

This is the last blog post from me this summer as I end my last full week here at the SSL. I hope to stay involved with the SSL this coming fall and I am excited to see what becomes of our projects in the future, as well as what more we decide to tackle. 

Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride with me! Check back in next week for more news!

August 9, 2019

Hello! It’s Gabe and I’m back for what is not only my final blog, but the final day of my internship. As I write this, I’m sitting in the Burlington Airport on my way back home to Washington State for a couple of weeks before the school year starts back up.

Since my last blog, my main focus has continued to be on Middlebury’s internal carbon pricing initiative. This has entailed many hours on excel. Over the past three weeks alone, I have processed almost 40,000 lines of travel expenditure data! As such, I have finally completed a baseline of each Middlebury department’s carbon emissions from travel for the past 3 years. This data will be crucial for having an equitable carbon fee that does not disproportionately affect certain college departments. Going into the fall, we will be able to start piloting this program to work out any kinks before the full carbon pricing program goes into effect the following year.

Along with that, I have been collaborating with several members from SNEG (Sunday Night Environmental Group) and SGA (Student Government Association) on other environmental initiatives. One such endeavor is planning out what a proposed environmental activism conference might look like. The other focus is to help mobilize and support a school-wide climate strike in solidarity with other climate strikes happening across the country in September.

Yesterday, we all went out to Sabai Sabai to have a wonderful lunch in celebration of what has been a very rewarding summer. The whole office (minus Max who is currently doing research in Uganda) had fun bonding over delicious food (pictured below). I am so grateful to have spent the summer in Middlebury working with the SSL. I have learned a lot about Middlebury’s energy usage and am very excited to continue doing important work for the SSL in the fall!

August 2, 2019

Greetings dedicated SSL blog followers and happy August! While all the interns have been a bit spread out recently, project work has continued to get done. 

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on the videos explaining our energy system. The final products will involve a mix of animation and video. In addition to working on some of that art, I’ve also been out of the office a few times this week to film. On Tuesday, Jack and I drove and visited the Goodrich Farm for the second time this summer. It was a hot Vermont summer day, but it was fun filming around the farm and saying hello to the cows that will one day help us regulate the temperature on our campus. 

At the end of the week, I also went back to the biomass plant and met Mike and Doug to get an in-depth tour. The biomass plant is currently shut down for a routine maintenance period. Since the plant was turned off last week, it had cooled down enough to go inside the gasification chamber (pictured below)! 

Following the appropriate safety protocols, Mike and I climbed inside for a whole new perspective on the biomass gasification process (see next photo below). Inside the chamber, we stood on the grates where the wood chips are usually piled high and heated to extreme temperatures. Air is brought in from below the grates to facilitate the gasification process. Once the gas is released it rises up into the boiler where it ignites with the introduction of more oxygen (the opening above our heads). The remaining ash is cleared out by a large auger (which we’re standing on in the picture).

In the boiler, water is turned into steam and distributed around the campus to control the temperature in our buildings (see below to see inside of the boiler). 

Also on our tour, we looked inside the wood chip bunker--which was jarringly empty--and checked out the filter where the exhaust air passes through before leaving the plant. Usually the wood chip bunker has enough wood chips to last three days (that’s probably around 250 tons of wood chips during a busy time).



The plant should be up and running again soon, and I look forward to going back once all the parts are moving once again! Thanks to Mike and Doug for taking the time to show me around and answer questions.

We were undeterred by the weather on Wednesday as we went as a team with Jack and Geology Professor Will Ammidon out in the rain to visit the site of our future solar farm. At the site, we met with the team from Encore Renewables who will be developing the project. We had a great discussion about the design of the site and possible opportunities for integrating the project into different classes and programs at the college. We also heard about all of the steps that still have to be accomplished before they can break ground. It’s a long process, but the outcome will be local, renewable electricity for our campus and a major boost in helping us meet our 100% renewable goals. It will be great to continue to follow the project and see how everything, quite literally, develops.

Thanks for reading and look for more updates from our team next week!


July 26, 2019

Hi y’all! I’m Cathleen, and I’m back on the blog. As Raechel said in the last blog post, we’re continuing to develop programming for first years, analyze recycling data, and update the kiosk display in Hillcrest. We’ve also hiked Camel’s Hump and Mount Abe!

This is a close-up of lichen on Camel’s Hump.

These are some stacked rocks on Camel’s Hump. I really like how serene it is. 

This is the cloudy summit of Mount Abe. We met a hiker who told us he was able to solely use solar power for his electricity needs. 

I’ve been working from home this week, and I miss the office and team. Thanks to Raechel, Ben, and Tyler from Green Mountain Club for helping me get off of Mt. Abe! Kudos to Tyler for the work he does on Mount Abe. There are four privies he takes care of (3 composting ones and 1 moldering one), so if you happen to use privies while hiking, make sure not to throw things like socks in there!

Raechel, Max, and I visited the Recycling Center, and I’m filled with even more respect for the MRF employees for the work they do. There were some interesting trash bags that we went through; one of them had copious amounts of beer and golf ball boxes. After those educational hours at the Recycling Center, I’ve updated the website (go/sort) that helps people learn how to better sort waste at Midd. 

I’ve also been diving into the world of kelp farming (on the Internet). Professor McCauley sent the team an article about kelp farming, and the simple ingenuity of it drew me in. I’ve been eating kelp all my life (if you haven’t eaten it, I encourage you to give it a try), but I didn’t know that kelp was actually good for the environment. Land-based agriculture can be destructive, but kelp farming is restorative. Seaweed (kelp is a subgroup of seaweed) absorbs five times as much carbon dioxide as land plants, which is great because less carbon dioxide in the oceans means less acidification of the oceans.  

We’ve also been working on an event for summer residents. To prepare for the event, we went and picked up some plant pots from Hope Resale Store (a great place to snag some sweet deals and help a good cause). Then, we picked up some art supplies at Aubuchon Hardware, and we got some potting soil, plant saucers, seeds, and plant food at Agway. We’re still ironing out the details of that event, but be on the lookout for it in August, especially if you like flowering and herb plants!

July 19, 2019

Hi everyone! We’re halfway through the summer here in the SSL (I’m roughly on week 8 of 14) and that means the blog has come back around to me (Raechel). Beyond continuing work on developing programming for first years, analysing recycling data (hopefully Cathleen and I will have a complete data set soon!), putting together the final pieces for the energy-use display in the lobby of Hillcrest (thanks to Max for some really cool diagrams), and our other summer projects, we’ve been up to some fun stuff. 

I started last week by volunteering at the Knoll, the campus’s organic garden, on Monday morning. I helped the summer interns at the Knoll uncover and weed the corn, harvest snap peas, and clear thistle from several vegetable and flower beds. The Knoll mostly provides local, sustainable food to the dining halls, a local food shelter, and a few Middlebury residents. It was a gorgeous morning and spending it in the sun and dirt was a great way to start my week!

On Thursday, Max, Cathleen, and I traveled down the hill to the recycling center and helped sort waste for a few hours. We learned exactly what happens to the different types of waste that we throw into recycling, trash, and compost bins. Sorting through our trash is not a clean job (we each got a few fun, smelly surprises) and I’m very thankful to the awesome employees at the MRF that do it every day and have helped us divert over two thirds of our campus waste from the landfill! After we worked we also got a chance to look through the reuse trailers for some fun stuff that students left on campus at the end of the year.

To couple with the tour we went on to Goodrich Farms (the site of the college’s future biodigestor) a few weeks ago, we went on an energy tour of campus last week. We got to explore the energy and heating systems inside of BiHall and our home at Hillcrest, took a look at the small solar farm on campus down towards the Knoll, as well as checked out the South Ridge solar farm a couple miles away that Middlebury also buys green energy from. In addition to these already completed solar farms we took a look at nearby site where Middlebury plans to lease land to build a 5 Megawatt solar farm soon to get us closer to our 100% renewable goal.

In addition to exploring the solar energy system of the college, we also took another trip to the biomass plant (the second for Cathleen and I!) and then to Lathrop Forest Products in Bristol where we source 100% of the woods chips used in the plant! At Lathrop’s we learned a little more about the process that produces our chips, from the surveying that is done where trees are being cut down to the final wood chip that lands in our gasifier. No tree is cut down solely for the purpose of landing in our biomass plant; most chips are mill residue from logs that have been cut into boards, or trees from prescribed cuts to improve the health of a stand that aren’t mill-grade. 

Outside of the office I’ve also been having some fun exploring Vermont. In the past two weeks the SSL interns have gone on 2 hikes together: on one warm Sunday I hiked Camel’s Hump with Sachi, Max, Cathleen, and Frost the dog. Then last Thursday Ben and Cathleen and I hiked Mt. Abe. Unfortunately Cathleen rolled her ankle on our way down the mountain (no broken bones thankfully) and we’re going to miss her in the office this week while she works remotely!

July 12, 2019


It is week six of eleven for me, and we’re going strong here at SSL HQ- making sustainability happen. My gig is a little different from the five other wonderful interns in the office this summer. I’m in the office only on Fridays, working strictly on TEMPO (Townhouse Energy Monitoring PrOject). If you don’t know what TEMPO is, Jack will make you read the entire project documentation packet (all 33 pages – and don’t worry, there’s an electronic copy).

The majority of my work has been fixing bugs in the software components of TEMPO (i.e. checking wireless connections between the RaspberryPi microcomputers and the virtual network computing application), recreating the in-house prototype LED that lives in the SSL office, and rebooting some hardware units for more trouble shooting.

Thomas Wentworth (TEMPO founder) has been in and out of the office, but he’s been a HUGE help with all this troubleshooting. Most of this work has been pretty unglamorous, especially because Thomas and I combined have only a few classes worth of computer science experience. That said, it feels great to keep making progress towards our project goals!

Next steps: all systems need to be prepped for launch. That means have the capability to turn on all the microcomputers in the Townhouse suites. It should have been done a long time ago, but progress is slow, and life happens. Our goal is to have all 12 LED’s on by the time seniors move in on Septemeber 9.

To the incoming Townhouse Suite occupants, some ultra-ambient energy feedback is headed your way.

Have a great summer, everyone!

Ben Glass

July 8, 2019

Happy Friday everyone! I’m Sachi, one of six SSL interns this summer. I started working with the SSL this past spring, specifically with the Waste Team. However, the SSL looks a little bit different during the academic year. Students (around 12) are broken up into three smaller groups that focus on waste, energy, and transportation respectively. In the spring, I dove deep into improving waste management on campus, helping to organize monthly Repair Cafes and our first annual SSL Spring Yard Sale. I am excited to broaden my knowledge to include all aspects of sustainability practices on campus working closely with the other five interns -- I have already learned so much!

 Personally, I have been working with Cathleen on freshman programming in living/learning dorms. It is exciting for me to use the knowledge that I have learned as part of my studies as a Conservation Psychology Major at Midd for real-life application.

 This past week at the SSL, we delved deeper into learning about Middlebury’s business with carbon offsets. Lizzie Aldrich from BlueSource spoke with us on Monday about the complicated realm of carbon offsetting. Following that conversation, on Tuesday we took a field trip to look at the sites that will be contributing to Middlebury’s digester project. Middlebury is teaming up with the Goodrich Family Farm and Green Mountain Compost to run an anaerobic biomethane digester in an effort to reach 100% renewable energy as a part of Energy2028. Below are some pictures of what we saw at both the farm and compost facility (including some cute cows!)

On Wednesday, we enjoyed celebrations kicking off the 4th of July by going up to the observatory at the top of Bihall. We watched fireworks and were able to look through telescopes to see Jupiter. We had the day off on Thursday for the holiday and took advantage of the hot Vermont summer weather by going to the 4th of July parade in Bristol and then relaxing at Lake Dunmore in the afternoon.

We continued our support of the US Women’s National Team this past week in their semi-final game on Tuesday and can’t wait to cheer them on in the World Cup Final on Sunday!

 And… that’s a wrap on this week! Be sure to check back next week for more updates from our final SSL intern!

June 27, 2019

Greetings! I’m Max, another one of the summer interns in the SSL. This marks the end of my third week on campus and in Hillcrest for the summer; however, I started working with the SSL back in J-Term of 2018. At that point, Energy 2028 was still just a proposal, and now, thanks to the hard work of so many different people across the institution, this plan serves as the foundation for all of our summer projects! 

All of the interns have been in the office in Hillcrest this week, working together on a number of projects. Progress has continued on planning first-year programming, researching energy and water monitors, and getting the townhouse lights working. Pictured below is Ben practicing his electrical engineering skills on the Raspberry Pi.

Personally, I’ve been working on a few projects since rejoining the team. One was rather short and involved looking at the language and messaging of the Energy 2028 plan in comparison to the Envisioning Middlebury strategic framework. This involved the parsing of several documents written and presented by President Patton on Energy 2028 and the statements prepared by Jack Byrne and Mike Shank. I also read through the Envisioning Middlebury website. In both cases, I extracted key phrases and powerful or exemplary words found within those phrases. This resulted in a sort of dictionary (really a giant Excel spreadsheet) that highlights ways in which the words we use to talk about our energy goals are similar to or different from Middlebury College’s broader strategic goals. This stems from discussions about how Energy 2028 supports and is supported by Envisioning Middlebury and the institution’s guiding mission and vision.

I found it fascinating to go through these documents and dissect their messaging and word usage. I think that there are further possibilities for the two entities to co-exist and for our messaging around Energy 2028 to reflect language already carefully considered and curated by the college. There was a lot of alliteration and ample application of multi-syllabic words.

My main project for the summer is based off of work that I started back during my first stint in the SSL. Then, I was inspired to create an animated video that explained the Middlebury College Energy System to people outside of the SSL. We were lucky to spend a lot of time gaining in-depth knowledge of how Middlebury’s electric and thermal energy is created and distributed, and we thought that others might benefit from that knowledge as well. Since Energy 2028 was officially adopted, the old video is out of date and needs to be updated.

I recently met with Professor Daniel Houghton, who runs the animation studio on campus, to get some advice on how I could improve the animation process. I am now working on background research and coming up with the stories and designs for the videos. I’m excited to learn some new tools and to continue trying to tell the story of Middlebury’s ever evolving energy system.

It hasn’t been all work for the interns this week: we’ve also been supporting the US Women’s soccer team in their pursuit of World Cup glory, and on Thursday we took a field trip after work to the Shoreham Strawberry Festival! (Pictured below)

We have some interesting meetings and field trips coming up in the next week, so be sure to check back in on the blog for more updates.


June 21, 2019

My name is Gabe Desmond, and welcome to the third sustainability solutions lab blog! I’m a rising Senior Feb (three semesters left) pursuing a joint major in Environmental Studies and Philosophy, and am finishing up my third week with the SSL. As of this week, our complete team of six interns has arrived, so we are now working full steam ahead. Amidst mapping out the summer and building relationships with the rest of the office, I have primarily been focusing in on two projects: Middlebury’s internal carbon price and the electrical renovations going on in Stewart Hall.

Developing Middlebury’s carbon pricing system is actually something I’ve been working on for over a year now. I first got involved back in the Spring of 2018 when the project was being spearheaded by Max Greenwald ‘18 and Michael Shrader ‘18. This fall, I stepped up to fill the vacuum they had left behind after graduation. As the Co-Manager of the Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG) and the Co-Chair of Environmental Council’s (EC) committee on carbon pricing, I helped integrate work between the two groups to devise an equitable and effective way to pay the social cost of carbon.

With Energy 2028 passing in January, carbon pricing was integrated into the plan as a way to help reduce our energy consumption by 25 percent. Along with a wonderful team of SNEG and EC members (special shout-out to my EC Co-chair Will Amidon!) I helped develop a system that sees the college committing to spending at least $40/MTCDE (Metric Ton of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) emitted on sustainability and energy-efficiency projects. Our plan also sees transportation being charged by department, but some specifics are still being worked out. Over the rest of the summer I will continue crunching numbers and working with folks across the institution to make sure that our system is fair to everyone and inspires real behavioral change. Tune into my next blog for an update!

Working on the electric renovations of Stewart Hall has also been very rewarding. Mike Moser, Director of Facilities Services, has been kind enough to give me a crash course in electrical engineering and teach me about the Middlebury electrical system. Stewart will have some of the most advanced electrical metering on campus, providing real-time, floor-by-floor data on electrical usage. It’s even being wired so that one day information might be available to students on a room-by-room basis! This granular data will allow students to be even more informed about how their actions impact energy consumption, hopefully spurring more conscientious behavior. I will be working with fellow intern Raechel to make the data to be accessible and useful to those living in Stewart next year. 

Beyond this we’ve had the chance to explore other parts of Middlebury’s sustainability infrastructure. On Wednesday, all of the SSL interns did a tour of the compost facility along with four farm interns who are working up at The Knoll. Kim Bickham, the Waste Management Supervisor showed us how they manage all of the campus’s food waste and turn it into the black gold compost that gives nutrients to our farm and others. I was particularly surprised at how quickly the compostable cups, boxes, and utensils break down. After 6 weeks, the compostable items are not even identifiable!


With two full months of work ahead, I am very excited to see all that we will accomplish this summer. I’m consistently impressed by the quality of the work my fellow interns are producing, so tune in next week to read about what Max Borrmann ’20 has been working on. Hint: besides smelling compost he has been working on some amazing animations for an upcoming video!

June 14, 2019

Hi! I’m Cathleen and I’m a rising junior from the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. It’s hard to believe, but this is the end of my fourth week here. I’ve learned so much while I’ve been here: how to sort waste (I also made a website to help those who’d like to learn how to sort their waste at go/sort), how much waste we produce, how the biomass plant works, how cow poop and food waste can help us heat our campus, and the list goes on and on.

As Raechel said in her blog post, we analyzed data from the Recycling Center as one of our projects. When we looked at the difference in total weight (which includes recyclables, compostables, and waste) between May and April, the results were a little shocking. On average, the recycling center receives 118,205 pounds more waste, recyclables, and compostables in May compared to April. For reference, an adult blue whale weighs anywhere from 110,000 - 330,000 lbs.

This diagram shows the difference in how much material the Recycling Center receives in May compared to April.

This picture shows a size comparison between a human and a blue whale. Imagine adding a blue whale’s weight (a blue whale’s tongue alone weighs as much as an elephant) on top of the waste that the Recycling Center already receives; that’s the impact of move-out! Donating unneeded items at the end of the year or selling items to incoming first-years at the beginning of semesters would be a great way to mitigate your impact during move-out season.

I visited the recycling center on Wednesday the 12th, when they reopened. I got there around 7:20 AM, and the line (comprised of both students and townies) was already so long! According to a Recycling Center employee, the line began forming at 5:20 AM, which was shocking. Once I looked at what was offered though, I could see why. There were multitudes of fridges, suitcases, clothes, food (I think I got enough for the whole summer), pots, pans, kettles, Swiffer mops, drying racks, mattresses, microwaves, chairs, utensils, binders, books, stuffed animals (I got three), toiletries, and so much more.

This picture shows the prices for the sale at the Recycling Center. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes when you visit!

The Recycling Center is amazing for so many reasons, and after that sale, I’m filled with appreciation for them. Kudos to them for helping us divert so much waste from the landfill. In 2017, they diverted 68.1% of Middlebury College’s waste from the landfill, which is an incredibly high number! And as the sale shows, they’re also great for providing resources for students and the Middlebury community.

Another one of our projects was/is updating the kiosk and dashboard. Among other things, the kiosk in Hillcrest displays information about the building, such as how much electricity is being consumed. Our dashboard previously ran on flash, and since Adobe is planning to remove support for flash by the end of 2020 (by the way, RIP flash games like Tetris), we have to update our kiosk and dashboard. I wrangled with the kiosk for a while, but finally managed to update it to the newest version, just in time for it to be ready for any curious alumni that were present during the Energy2028 presentation during Reunion. Our next step will be to roll out a dashboard that is flash-independent, so be on the lookout for our new and improved dashboard!

Speaking of alumni, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of them went to the Energy2028 presentation. I was even more surprised at how engaged they were with the topic. One particularly memorable moment was during introductions; while we were all introducing ourselves, an alumnus spoke about how he had witnessed the detrimental effects of climate change on coral reefs for the last 50 years. The presentation also helped me appreciate how Middlebury recognizes climate change as a human problem, not a political problem. I particularly value how Middlebury incorporates the well-being of the community as part of its approach to Energy2028. For example, when considering the location of the solar field, the College found a location that would impede Middlebury citizens the least.

As part of Energy2028, Middlebury intends to reduce energy consumption on its core Vermont campus by 25% by 2028, and this reduction will come from changes to campus infrastructure as well as behavioral changes. As Raechel said, we’re developing some sustainability programming for first-year dorms in the fall. This programming will help with behavioral changes that will contribute to Midd’s energy consumption. This programming also aligns with Middlebury’s commitment to expanded educational opportunities, as the programming is part of a 6-year study conducted by the psychology and economics department.

I’m excited to work on programming with the other interns! Last year, I was fortunate enough to benefit from some pretty nice programming from the Gifford RA’s (planting seeds and drinking boba were some of my favorite events). I hope that I can use my experiences to help make the programming for the first-years as enjoyable as possible, and I’m sure that I’ll learn even more about sustainability as we work on programming.


June 7, 2019

Welcome to the Sustainability Solutions Lab summer blog! My name is Raechel and I’m a rising sophomore at Middlebury from Western North Carolina. I’ve been given the honor of writing the first SSL blog post of the summer. I’ve been working in the SSL for about two and a half weeks since exam week ended at Midd and though summer hasn’t quite kicked into gear yet in Vermont (yesterday was cold and rainy and the heat has still been turning on in my summer housing), we’ve been busy and already had a great start in the SSL!

Cathleen started the summer off at the beginning with me and in our first full week in the office we went on a field trip with Eva to Middlebury’s biomass plant. Brad Bauman, who manages the plant, gave us a tour of the facilities and explained the process that uses locally harvested wood chips to produce energy that generates steam to heat the buildings at Middlebury, and also produces some of the electricity used on campus.

The biomass plant played a key role in Midd reaching our carbon neutrality goal in 2016 and will continue to play an important part of our goals for Energy2028.

In the office we’ve been kept busy with other things. Middlebury has a wonderful Recycling Center where everything thrown out on campus is sorted and some fantastic employees work to divert as much waste away from the landfill as possible. They also weigh and keep track of everything that goes through the center and Cathleen and I were lucky enough to get access to over 20 years of data to start off our summer! We spent a lot of time the first week or so sorting through all of the data and organizing it so that we can look at trends in the school’s consumption over the years as our population and other aspects of campus have changed. Some things we’re interested in looking at are: how much extra waste is generated when new buildings such as BiHall and the Athletic Center are constructed?; are we throwing more things out in May when students leave campus for the summer?; has the rise of delivery services and websites like Amazon increased the amount of cardboard and other packaging material that we’re consuming? Now that we have all of this information catalogued in one place, we hope to use it in the future to inform goals and strategies to reduce consumption and waste at Middlebury.

This week Cathleen and I were joined by two more SSL interns and we’re excited for three more to arrive in the coming weeks to round out the summer crew. We’ve been working with Jack and Eva to create a list of projects that largely revolve around Energy2028 and Middlebury’s goal to reduce our energy use and transition to 100% renewable energy. In the coming weeks we look forward to developing some sustainability programming for freshman dorms in the fall as well working on outreach about what we do here in Hillcrest and how other can get involved!