Sustainability! Maplewood Richmond Heights Visits Middlebury College

Last week, four educators from the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, (MRH), attended the week-long course on Sustainability Education held annually at Shelburne Farms.  As part of their time in Vermont, they wanted to visit the campus of Middlebury College where there are so many sustainability initiatives that it is hard to keep up with them all.  I have the pleasure of working with the MRH district in St. Louis on sustainability education projects that lead toward exemplary student work that contributes to the community in real and effective ways.  The MRH district has made commitment four cornerstones that provide a foundation for all their work with students and with the community:  Scholarship, Leadership, Stewardship and Citizenship.  These cornerstones in practice make the MRH district a leader in sustainability education.   Middlebury College is a leader for higher education as well as K-12 in creating a sustainable future. At Middlebury College, we were fortunate to have an excellent student guide, Jaya Supriti Ghosh, who graduated from Middlebury last May in Environmental Studies.  Jaya is now working as an intern for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship established in January, 2012 at Middlelbury.

We started our tour at The Middlebury College Organic Farm, a garden managed by students that provides fresh produce for the college as well as for local restaurants.  The MRH focus on sustainability includes a well-established seed to table and garden program where students learn all the aspects of planting, growing and harvesting a variety of vegetables and fruits.  From the hill of The Farm at Middlebury we could see the newly installed Solar Trackers that power the equivalent of a dormitory for 250 students.

We proceeded to the Biomass plant where Middlebury College converts wood chips to steam to power the campus. The plant is glass-faced and in a campus hub location so that the workings of renewable energy are a centerpiece.  Middlebury College has a student inspired commitment to be carbon neutral by 2016. The Biomass plant reduced the Middlebury College carbon footprint by 40 %.

From there, we walked over to the Solar Decathlon house that placed fourth overall in September, 2011 at the International Competition sponsored by DOE biannually.  The house is now an operating dorm on campus for 4 people. Middlebury was the first liberal arts college to be selected to enter the Solar Decathlon competition and it surprised everyone that they won 4th place.  Middlebury College has now been selected to compete in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.

Two of the most exciting initiatives at Middlebury are The Center for Social Entrepreneurship and The Project on Creativity and Innovation.  Both of these initiatives support students and faculty in learning and leading with 21st century skills.  Middlebury College is planning to host a conference for K-16 educators in 2013 that will highlight the scope and success of work in all these areas in K-16 institutions that can inspire and guide others.  We will keep you posted.  Stay tuned.