Before classes started this fall, thirty First Year Counselors (FYC's) got a first hand look at some of the accomplishments that make Middlebury a leader in sustainability. This sustainability tour was an initiative led by junior Kate Lupo with support from the Sustainability Integration Office, Facilities Services, and the Student Government Association's Environmental Affairs Committee. Students visited the Biomass Gasification Facility, the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, the Materials Recovery Facility, and the Middlebury College Organic Garden.
The tour began at the College's new biomass gasification system, which uses wood chips to produce steam and electricity to heat and power the campus. The FYC's learned about role this new heating system plays in Middlebury's commitment to reach carbon neutrality.
Next the FYC's walked to the Franklin Environmental Center where they were introduced to the many green features that qualified the building for Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The FYC's learned about the use of local materials, deconstruction and recycling of a building, energy conservation through design for daylighting and passive solar, geothermal systems, and how to construct a well insulated building.
From there, the group continued to the Materials Recovery Facility for a firsthand look at where the College's waste and recycling is processed. Middlebury's recycling rate this year was a record breaking 65%. The FYC's learned how to sort their own waste in their dorms, and learned how paper, glass, tin, plastic, food scraps and other materials are sorted, baled, and processed into recycling, compost, and trash.
The last point on the tour was the Middlebury College Organic Garden, which was in full harvest mode for the fall season. Garden Manager, Jay Leshinsky, talked about how to get involved with the garden and pointed out the many varieties of plants. There were some tasty cherry tomatoes to sample and lots of root vegetables ready to be picked. The garden was also full of fall flowers and a few of them went home to brighten up the rooms of the FYC tour takers.
To encourage others to trek down to the recycling center or over to the biomass plant, the SGA Environmental Affairs Committee put together goodie bags with recycled plastic pens, coupons for a free item from the reuse trailer, and green living tips to promote the tour. As this project expands, FYC's will begin giving tours to their freshman residents over the course of the fall semester. Additionally, the Admissions Office is considering offering sustainability tours to prospective students.
The tour sponsors will check-in with the FYC's at the end of the semester to assess the effectiveness of this effort in giving freshman a better understanding of what sustainability looks like and how they can contribute to making Middlebury a stronger leader in this area.