Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Middlebury College and Green Dining

As one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges, Middlebury College has a (comparatively) long history of sustainable development practices. It also boasts "the oldest undergraduate environmental studies program in the country." DailyGreen ranks Middlebury as number five among the top "green" colleges in the States. The school's commitment to sustainability is evident by many of its green dining practices.

With an emphasis on using local foods, Middlebury College contributes to the economy by sourcing food from 47 Vermont food producers. 25% of food at the college is from local sources including the school's student-run organic garden. Since its introduction in 2003, the organic garden has grown to 3-acres, where students and interns volunteer and grow a combination of fruits and vegetables. To make getting to the garden easier for students, there is a walking/biking path from the campus to the garden, which is located about a half-mile away from campus (which encourages students to consider alternative transportation as well).

To encourage broad student involvement and support for the garden, weekly meetings are offered during the school year providing information about the school's garden and general farming practices. In addition, the school holds a weekly "farmstand" in September and October, where students can buy fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the garden.

According to its website, "food waste comprises upwards of 70% of the municipal solid waste stream." Middlebury College is a leader in food composting and composts 300 tons of food each year. "Food prep scraps, postconsumer food residuals, waxed cardboard, paper towels, napkins and food prep waste paper -- some 70% of the College's food waste--is composted. Plate waste (post consumer food residuals) is run through a pulper to remove excess water." ( ).

For large events, paper products and biodegradable trash bag liners are used which in turn go "directly into the college's composting system instead of the landfill". When possible, the college's dining services also make an effort to use silverware instead of paper products. The website states that roughly "90 percent of waste from large events is composted".

Another exciting way the college employs green dining is by turning food waste into biodiesel. "The Nordic Ski Team partners with Dining Services to use waste vegetable oil to fuel their biodiesel truck".

Finally, the college belongs to the Terra Madre slow food network, a global network of 100,000 members committed to sustaining local farming methods and environments. The Terra Madre network grew out of the "Slow Food Movement" founded by Carlo Petrini in 1989, to counter the spread of fast food restaurants and chains.

It is clear that Middlebury College is a leader of sustainable practices in "green" dining among academic institutions. The school's commitment to providing information, education and opportunities for engagement to students and others that are interested in learning more, is most obvious by the added fact that the college's homepage includes a "sustainability" link.

As a small school with a large endowment, it is not surprising that Middlebury is able to implement these initiatives, many of which most likely require huge initial investments, but the fact that the college has chosen to use its financial and human resources to bolster sustainable practices on campus is inspiring.

DePaul University has implemented many of the same initiatives as Middlebury on campus by working with its local food provider, Chartwell's. The university might also consider building an on-site composting area as well as working with lcoal neighborhoods/community organizations to build and maintain an organic garden. The food could be used on campus and if sold, proceeds could go to either expanding sustainable development initiatives on campus or donated to local chairities/food pantries. Finally, DePaul should better highlight its sustainable initiatives on the website and consider adding a direct link on the homepage.

Submitted by: Julie Felix
Photo: Bing clip art

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