Students employed by the college as Environmental Quality Assistants, or EQAs, have been an integral part of sustainability programs at Marlboro for several years. But this year there is a bumper crop of EQAs on the job, six in all, rising to address several environmental challenges at once. They report directly to the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) on a range of projects from improving energy use on campus to researching the Climate Action Plans at other colleges.
“The EQAs are essentially the day-to-day action arm of the EAC, which advises the president on issues of policy and planning,” said Matt Ollis, math professor and chair of the EAC. “I was thrilled with the number of people interested in the position, all of them with talents to bring, and I continue to get inquiries.”
Among the valuable projects the EQAs are working on, they are assessing and applying weatherstripping around doors and collecting data on windows left open (and shutting them) and lights left on (and turning them off). They are installing LED light bulbs all around campus, with the goal of removing nearly all incandescent light bulbs by the end of the academic year. Members of the team are developing helpful signage for recycling bins, and to remind people to close windows and doors tight. Along with the dining hall staff they are launching the self-assessment required for participation in the Real Food Challenge, and collecting mugs and plates that find their way into dorms. They are even designing and building a tricycle cart for collecting compostables at events.
The dining hall staff has made great gains in buying more local foods, in line with the recent Real Food Campus Commitment, but not all their efforts have been local. A new partnership with Lotus Foods, an importer of ecologically sustainable whole-grain rice varieties, provides a wholesome option for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free students.
Lotus Food’s “More Crop Per Drop” rice varieties are grown with 50 percent less water and 90 percent fewer seeds, requiring less land, less labor, and lower costs for smallholder farm families. They also produce less methane than conventional flooded rice fields, so contribute less to global warming.
“We’re just making every effort to find as many ecologically sustainable food sources as possible, so when our distributor offered this rice we jumped right on it,” said Benjamin Newcomb (pictured), chef manager at Marlboro through Metz Culinary Management. Marlboro is the first Metz location to order Lotus Food rice, and is regarded as a pioneer in the company for introducing more local, organic, and other sustainable food options.
Bicycles are not only good for the environment, they are a great way to get exercise and blow off steam after 300 pages of The Brothers Karamazov. It’s therefore not surprising that Town Meeting voted in favor of paying $1,000 from the “Washer and Dryer Fund” to obtain three shiny, new mountain bikes. The proposal, which was presented to Town Meeting by Randy Knaggs, director of the Outdoor Program, met with unanimous approval, even raising the fund request from $750 to $1,000. The new bicycles, Raleigh Talus 3.0s purchased from Burrows Specialized Sports in Brattleboro, will be added to the growing stable of bicycles for students to borrow from the “bike shed” next to Random North.
“These are definitely the shiniest bikes we have had in the bike shed in a long time,” said Max Foldeak, director of the Total Health Center. Max leads a weekly bike trip on nearby dirt roads and trails that he refers to as “cycle therapy,” enjoyed by students, staff, and faculty alike. “This fall we had three new students show up wanting to ride, but they didn’t have bikes. Now we’ll be able to accommodate more interested students. It’s a great way to get off campus, to get to know the neighborhood, and figure out where you are geographically…as well as psychologically,” added Max.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the solution to our troubled food system,” said Benjamin Newcomb, chef manager at Marlboro through Metz Culinary Management. On April 15, Benjamin and Marlboro President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, joining more than 100 colleges and universities across the country.“The Real Food Challenge permits us to create a fair, sustainable food culture that celebrates the student, the local farmer, and the best of what New England agriculture has to offer—farm to table.” The signing of the commitment was followed by a community dinner of mostly regional or ecologically sound foods, part of Marlboro’s events leading up to Earth Day.