EcoDorms 2025

Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Behaviors in First-Year Students

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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:

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:

If you want to get to Burlington, take the Burlington link! Here is the bus line’s schedule and list of stops: 

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: 

If you want to go farther than the Tri-Valley Transit can take you, you can use Vermont Translines (, Dartmouth Coach (​​, Greyhound Lines (, or Megabus ( 


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:

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. 


Public Transportation’s Role in Responding to Climate Change. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration, Jan. 2010,

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

Transportation Options | Middlebury Offices and Services. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2021, from

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. 


Giving Up Palm Oil Might Actually Be Bad for the Environment | Science | Smithsonian Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from

How do we go palm oil free? – BBC Future. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from

The environmental impacts of palm oil in context—CIFOR Knowledge. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from

Which Everyday Products Contain Palm Oil? | Pages | WWF. (n.d.). World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from

Water-Conscious Laundry

Top-Loading Machines vs. Front-Loading Machines

  • Front loading machines, like the ones here at Middlebury, use less energy and water.
  • About 85% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating the water, so switching to cold water saves more energy!
  • Wash agitators in top-loading machines require more energy and induce more wear and tear on clothing, while also providing less room for larger items like rugs and comforters.


  • Emissions from washers and dryers include components have been shown to classify as hazardous air pollutants and known/probably carcinogens.
    • In a 2011 study, investigators identified 29 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the dryer-vent emissions.
    • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies seven of the VOCs found in dryer-vent emissions–acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, methanol, m/p-xylene, o-xylene, and toluene–as hazardous air pollutants.
  • One laundry detergent brands’ acetaldehyde annual emissions is 1,660lb. Automobile emissions of the same chemical are approximately 56,000lb/year. Looking at the top 5 laundry detergents, emissions of acetaldehyde represent 6% of automobile emissions.
  • Mice exposed to emissions from fabric-softener products experienced trouble breathing and other irritation.

What You Can Do

  • Do fewer laundry loads!
    • This will use less water and less energy.
  • Switch to cold water (save energy!).
  • Continue using front-loading washers.
  • Stop using fabric softeners, or switch to more environmentally-conscious brands.
  • Stay away from laundry products packaged in plastic.

Boronow, K.E., Brody, J.G., Schaider, L.A. et al. Serum concentrations of PFASs and exposure-related behaviors in African American and non-Hispanic white women. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 29, 206–217 (2019).

Kessler, Rebecca. “Dryer vents: an overlooked source of pollution?” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 119, no. 11, 2011, p. A 474+. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Lamarre, Leslie. “The new line on laundry.” EPRI Journal, vol. 22, no. 6, 1997, p. 14+. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Steinemann, A.C., Gallagher, L.G., Davis, A.L. et al. Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 6, 151–156 (2013). 

Is Indonesia Really Sinking?

Indonesia has varying water quality and accessibility throughout the country, but Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, provides valuable insights into one region’s specific situation. Over forty percent of Jakarta is below sea level as a result of land subsidence and sea level rise. The lack of piped water leads many individual households and even large industries to drill wells so that they can access groundwater. As the water underground is being depleted, sediments in the subsurface experience compaction, causing the city to sink, leading to even more flooding. In the past ten years, Jakarta has sunk more than two and a half meters (Lin & Hidayat, 2018). Small homes, closer to the sea, are experiencing a magnified impact. Residents are moving their furniture to second floors, finding cracks in the foundation of their homes and some even live with permanent, stagnant floodwater on their ground floors. The relaxed regulations allow almost anyone to drill a well and extract water, and because Jakarta’s water management authorities are only able to meet 40% of the city’s water needs, the population resorts to taking unregulated water straight from the ground (Lin & Hidayat, 2018). Moreover, there are no city-wide solid waste management plans in Jakarta. The city’s waste collection is mainly contracted out to private companies; wealthier areas pay more, leaving poorer locations full of garbage which is often discarded in the streets or nearby canals and rivers (IFRC, 2013).

A Case Study: Indonesian Water Management

Indonesia has almost 8,000 watersheds, and 5,700 rivers, divided into over 131 river basins. Three key institutes help monitor and manage water quality in Indonesia. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry monitors water quality and pollution control and reports findings annually. River basin organizations also assist in conducting sampling, laboratory measurement of water samples, and water patrol. Lastly, the Ministry of Health is tasked with the protection and improvement of public health, regulation of drinking water standards, and monitoring of drinking water quality provided by water supply agencies (Asian Development Bank, 2016).

The government is responsible for setting water quality targets for individual water systems and rivers. The targets can be changed every year if the water quality has improved. Some local governments choose to set more strict effluent targets for industrial discharges into water resources within their jurisdiction. In Indonesia, water quality is classified into four groups. Class I is the water that can be used as standard water for drinking purposes; Class II is the water used for water recreation, fresh fish preservation, livestock, water for irrigation, and other usages requiring the similar quality; Class III is water that is used for machinery or at facilities of fresh fish preservation, livestock, water for irrigation, and/or other usages requiring the similar quality; and finally, Class IV is water that is used solely for irrigation, and other usages requiring similar quality (Asian Development Bank, 2016).

Low-Waste Middlebury and What You Can Do

Humans are depleting Earth’s resources faster than it can replenish them. If everyone lived like the average American, we would need about 5 planets to replenish the resources and absorb the waste generated in one year. You can calculate your Ecological Footprint here.

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste aims to transform our linear economic practices to a cyclic system, where nothing is wasted and every resource is reused, repurposed, and recycled.

Zero Waste Home outlines the process:

  • Refuse what you do not need
  • Reduce what you do need
  • Reuse what you consume
  • Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse
  • Rot (Compost) the rest. 

Middlebury’s Efforts to Reduce Waste

At Middlebury College, the dining halls compost 99% of pre-consumer food waste totaling at 300 tons of food waste every year. Middlebury dining also uses reusable to-go containers and has a 100% recycled paper policy.

How You Can Help

One billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US every year. Switching to degradable toothbrushes or saving toothbrushes for cleaning can make a big impact. Find out more in this toothbrush infographic

The next time you’re in the dining hall, think about reducing your plastic use and food waste. And the next time you use go/papercut, remember the trees being impacted and don’t forget to recycle.


Addison County Recycles – Zero Waste 

List of Some Zero Waste Swaps 


10 Ways to Reduce Waste

Eco-Friendly Tips for Students

It’s not a bird! It’s not a plane! It’s an air plant!

Written By Monique Santoso 

This week’s activity is air plants! We are so excited to have you participate in an air plant making activity with us!

What are some benefits to air plants? We are so glad you asked! 

  1. Stress Reduction

With midterms behind you and finals ahead of you, we are all slightly on edge. Surrounding yourself with some greenery in your room can really help combat this stress! Psychological research on attention restoration has shown that plants help you focus, which might be exactly what you need! Plus, they make you feel happier, calmer, and more optimistic. This study shows how hospital patients with green spaces and plants were found to recover faster. 

  1. Air Purification

Although we live in Vermont far, far away from the city, one could always have better air quality and lucky for you, air plants help do the job. This study shows how air plants help absorb mercury in the air. No wonder people keep snake plants, spider plants and pothos! 

  1. Easy to Take Care Of! 

Air plants don’t need much or any soil to grow, which means that you are mess free! They are epiphytes, which means that they can grow without soil, so long as you provide it with the support structure it needs! Cue wires! 

  1. Very Cute! 

Although the aesthetic purposes may not be what you are looking for, you cannot deny how cute they look! (See pictures below). They give you, the designer, a chance to get creative and play around with them! 

Amazing Benefits of Air Plants
  1. Dorm-Friendly Size! 

With our dorms being ever so large, we need to save space and look for creative alternatives. Air plants are a great choice! They are soil-free and container free! 

All the benefits here are from, and we cite, the Balcon Garden Web, and you can read their article here.

What’s cookin good lookin?

Potatoes and Nutrition 

Although potatoes are considered a starch, they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also unprocessed making them healthier than say bread or pasta. Some health benefits include improved blood sugar control, reduced heart disease risk and higher immunity.

Potato inspiration, how can you spice up that plain potato? 

  • Butter
  • Salt and/or pepper 
  • (Brown) Sugar 
  • Mashed potatoes 
  • Cheese  

Homemade Potato Chip Recipe (Note: you will need a sharp knife)

  1. Wash potato 
  2. Cut potato into thin slices (⅙ to ⅛ inch thick) 
  3. Put the slices immediately into water and soak for 1-2 min 
  4. Rinse the potato slices until the water runs clear 
  5. Drain the slices and pat dry with paper towel 
  6. Arrange in single layer on paper towel on microwave safe plate 
  7. Season with salt (and pepper) 
  8. Microwave for 3 minutes
  9. Flip the chips and microwave for 3 more minutes 
  10. Remove crispy chips and microwave in 1 minute intervals until desired crunchiness 

Journaling, Mental Health, and Environmentalism

Journaling might not first bring to mind environmental sustainability, but they are more connected than you think. 

Maintaining good mental health is an essential part of activism and caretaking, whether you are involved in climate justice organizing, stewarding the land, or caring for a loved one. Before caring for others, the earth, and the well-being of future generations and ecosystems, we must care for ourselves. Journaling is one of the best ways to do this, as it entails expressive writing, a therapeutic process of making sense of thoughts and feelings on paper. Expressive writing can lower stress and level out strong emotions, as well as increase optimism. Also, writing down negative thoughts and experiences can help us process them and rationalize them, freeing up mental space and energy for other pursuits. 

Studies have shown that regular reflective writing can lower distress and promote resilience in patients with anxiety, and others have suggested that it can even bring about physical health benefits such as immune health, as well as ability to cope with grief and trauma. Considering the often crushing sensation of grief we now experience on a daily basis in response to climate change and a host of worsening global tragedies, journaling could perhaps help us process this pain, allowing us to avoid growing numb to tragedy and instead funnel our emotions into productive action. 

Additionally, on a day-to-day level journaling allows us to heighten and make sense of our awareness of life and our surrounding environments, fostering deeper connection with not only the natural world around us but also with our local communities, encouraging us to build the stronger connections and passions that truly build social and environmental sustainability and justice from the roots up.

Lastly, the piece of dark chocolate you will find alongside your journaling supplies plays a role too. Cocoa is high in flavanols (the darker the chocolate, the more flavanols), which reduce blood pressure as well as help regulate mood and depression.

Information for this article was found in a Mindful blog post, as well as Psychology Today.

The Benefits of Eco-Art

What’s art’s connection to mental health?

Art-making allows you to express emotions without words, process feelings, and reduce stress and anxiety. Creating art also boosts self-esteem, promotes inner emotional discoveries, and stimulates the release of dopamine, making you feel happier. 

Why eco-art?

Eco Artists draw attention to environmental concerns through creative expression. Painting environmental scenes can relieve stress caused by environmental concerns while highlighting the beauty of the natural world. 

Check out some of Middlebury’s environmentally-conscious art on your next walk!

Deborah Fisher’s Solid State Change is at the Hillcrest Environmental Center. Her work was inspired by the geology and topography of Middlebury but constructed from recycled tires and electrical insulation. Fun fact: it was once mistaken for garbage and sent away and the college had to retrieve it from the trash! 

Michael Singer’s Garden of the Seasons acts as a spot for study, reflection and refreshment of the senses next to the Davis Family Library.

Find out more about Middlebury’s public art.


Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy 

What is Eco-Art?

Nepal to Turn Everest Trash into Art to Highlight How Much Trash There is on Everest

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