Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Behaviors in First-Year Students

Author: Scottie Farrin

Composting!

Benefits of composting

In the U.S., about 30-40% of food supply is wasted every year, and it contributes to almost 20% of U.S. methane emissions that come from landfills. Some of this waste comes from early stages in the production process, but a significant amount of that waste comes from consumers themselves, so your choices can make a difference to fix this problem. One way to help is by composting! When you compost your food waste, you significantly reduce the methane emissions of that waste, and it works as an effective fertilizer. It helps soil retain more water, yield more crops, and it can even eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers altogether. 

Composting at Middlebury

Luckily, by eating at the dining halls on campus, you are already composting! Middlebury’s composting program is so effective and well-known that it is featured as a composting success story on the EPA’s website! When you put your dishes on the dining halls’ conveyor belt, you are sending your food scraps and your napkins off to be pulverized and composted, using horse manure and wood chips. The college composts using windrows, which are turned consistently to ensure they maintain a good temperature. After that, the compost is screened, and then it rests for up to a year before being used as fertilizer at the Knoll and the athletic fields. 

If you want to contribute more to Middlebury’s compost, you can put your personal food waste in the little green compost bins around your dorm. They are collected and added to the compost piles!

Sources

“America’s Food Waste Problem.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 2016, https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/americas-food-waste-problem.

“Composting: Middlebury Offices and Services.” Middlebury, Middlebury College, 4 Oct. 2021, https://www.middlebury.edu/office/facilities-services/maintenance-and-operations/composting.

“Food Waste FAQs.” USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs.

“Open Unpaved Windrow Composting.” Compost Systems, https://www.compost-systems.com/en/solutions/open-unpaved-windrow-composting.

“Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/reducing-impact-wasted-food-feeding-soil-and-composting.

Eco-Friendly Travel Around Middlebury

Why Eco-Friendly Transportation Matters

Transportation is a leading cause of climate change, accounting for 29% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, reducing your personal carbon footprint through transportation could go a long way. 

Public Transportation Options in Middlebury 

One way to cut down on carbon emissions is by using public transportation. Using a personal vehicle releases 0.96 pounds of CO2 per passenger per mile, while commuting on a bus could reduce your carbon emissions significantly, releasing only 0.64 pounds of CO2 per passenger per mile. 

In Middlebury, you can make use of Tri-Valley Transit, the local bus system. All bus fares are suspended until June 2022, so you can ride for free! Here is a map of their bus lines, centering on Addison county: https://www.trivalleytransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/map_system.svg

You can take the bus around Middlebury on the Middlebury shuttle line. It includes five loops around town, and here is a link to the schedule and list of stops: https://www.trivalleytransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/MSB-effective-7.9.21.pdf

If you want to get to Burlington, take the Burlington link! Here is the bus line’s schedule and list of stops: https://www.trivalleytransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/LINK-effective-8.26.21.pdf 

To get to another Vermont town, you can use one of their many of their other bus lines, and you can visit their webpage for more information: https://www.trivalleytransit.org/ 

If you want to go farther than the Tri-Valley Transit can take you, you can use Vermont Translines (https://www.vttranslines.com/), Dartmouth Coach (​​http://www.dartmouthcoach.com/), Greyhound Lines (https://www.greyhound.com/), or Megabus (http://www.megabus.com/). 

Biking

Another way to reduce your transportation carbon footprint is to bike around town instead of driving or taking the bus. Biking doesn’t release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere! The Middlebury Bike Sale just happened on September 19th, so if you got a bike there, ride it around! If not, check out the frog hollow bike shop in town if you’re considering purchasing a bike or fixing up an old one. Visit their website here: https://froghollowbikes.com/

Reduce Unnecessary Driving

If you have a car on campus, it is totally okay to drive it from place to place, but if you want to reduce your footprint, try to limit unnecessary trips. For example, walk to the Athletic Center or into town instead of driving. 

Sources

Public Transportation’s Role in Responding to Climate Change. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration, Jan. 2010, https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010.pdf.

Stagecoach Transportation | Serving Orange & Windsor Counties | Vermont. (n.d.). Tri-Valley Transit. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://www.trivalleytransit.org/

Transportation Options | Middlebury Offices and Services. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://www.middlebury.edu/office/franklin-environmental-center/sustainability-action/living-sustainably-campus/transportation

Palm Oil

What is it? 

Have you heard of palm oil? Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably eaten it or used it before. It’s a vegetable oil that is so ubiquitous, it’s in 50% of all consumer products, including processed foods and cosmetic products. Here are just a few examples of products that typically contain it: 

  • Lipstick
  • Instant ramen
  • Pizza dough
  • Ice cream
  • Shampoo 
  • Chocolate 
  • Cookies 
  • laundry detergent
  • Soap 
  • Packaged bread 
  • Pet food 

Why should I care?

Palm oil is everywhere because it’s a highly profitable and productive plant. So much so that the palm oil industry is worth $40 billion, so it can be difficult to avoid. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that the industry is also notoriously unethical. Most palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, and over the years those countries have become systematically deforested to make way for palm oil. Through deforestation, the palm oil industry has displaced thousands of indigenous people and endangered many species, including the orangutan. To make matters worse, the industry produces greenhouse gases at an alarming rate because clearing land for palm plantations requires burning rainforest. On peatland, the burning process releases 100 times more greenhouse gases than typical forest fires. 

What can I do? 

It can be difficult to cut palm oil out of your diet or self-care routine altogether—it’s everywhere! Even worse, other vegetable oils are not always better for the environment (palm oil uses less land and requires less fertilizer). 

An easy step is to become more aware of the problem, so start noticing and checking for it in ingredients lists. You can also look for the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) seal of approval on your favorite products or try out new products that they approve. 

It’s also important to realize that the palm oil industry is unsustainable, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s bad for the environment because of its ruthless deforestation, but if we shift planting to already cleared land and make sure the farming is sustainable so we can continue to use that land, the environmental concerns could significantly decrease. So, advocating for sustainable palm oil production could go a long way. Alternatively, you can donate to organizations that protect rainforests and the species that live within them. 

Sources

Giving Up Palm Oil Might Actually Be Bad for the Environment | Science | Smithsonian Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/giving-up-palm-oil-might-actually-be-bad-environment-180958092/

How do we go palm oil free? – BBC Future. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200109-what-are-the-alternatives-to-palm-oil

The environmental impacts of palm oil in context—CIFOR Knowledge. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.cifor.org/knowledge/publication/7898/

Which Everyday Products Contain Palm Oil? | Pages | WWF. (n.d.). World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil

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