If green is the hue of the future, Middlebury College is well along on the color change thanks to a series of major investments in new facilities and technologies.
Among the most prominent recent projects are a biomass power plant on campus, the state's first LEED Platinum building and an advanced campus-wide recycling and waste reduction program. Even the athletic program is “green,” with facilities utilizing the latest in carbon and waste reduction technologies like ecologically sound Astroturf for the football field.
For the campus dining department, sustainability initiatives include local purchasing, comprehensive recycling and composting, energy-efficient production facilities and a general commitment to waste reduction. The dining outlets all have separate bins to sort post-consumer waste while the kitchens and production facilities aggregate pre-consumer food waste in bins that are then sent to the school's composting site.
Recent construction of dining facilities has utilized local or reused materials and sustainably harvested wood, and incorporated energy-saving design components (such as the “green” roof of Atwater Dining Hall) and energy-efficient production equipment.
Food waste has been reduced through a more efficient matching of production to demand at the dining stations, and through the introduction three years ago of trayless dining. Since these changes were made, the school has seen a 15-percent reduction in the amount of waste going to the compost bins.
The campus centerpiece as an example of commitment to sustainability in construction is the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, which — appropriately enough — houses Middlebury's environmental program facilities. Made with local materials, using ground water exchange air-conditioning and low-flow faucets, and employing solar panels for energy reduction, the Franklin Center achieved LEED Platinum certification (the highest designation) from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Another highlight: Middlebury's biomass gasification plant, opened a year ago, which has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent and reduced fuel oil use on campus by half. The plant burns 60 tons of (sustainably sourced) wood chips a day, producing steam that goes to heat campus buildings. The exhaust is filtered to prevent greenhouse gas emissions, and the resultant ash recycled into fertilizer for local farms.
The campus recycling facility is a busy place where all refuse is sorted by material. And showing that the principle of one-man's-refuse-is-another-man's-treasure translates to the modern sustainability imperative, one corner of the recycling facility is dedicated to a glorified second-hand shop. There, oddities tossed in the trash — from coffee mugs and sweatshirts to cell phones and partially used cans of toiletries — are made available for budget-minded second-hand users to sift through and take for a nominal fee.