The sustainability movement has taken hold at Middlesex this year with a brand new community garden, an on-campus composting program, and a switch from oil to natural gas.
The community garden is a testament to the school’s commitment to developing a sustainable campus. Support for the garden has come from all corners of the community: on a sunny afternoon last spring during finals week, a group of volunteers that included students, faculty, alumni, facilities staff, and friends came together to build a fence, plant a pumpkin patch, and outline faculty plots. Covering a hillside that overlooks the tennis court, the garden bloomed all summer long with crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, okra, string beans, and basil.
After a successful fall harvest, the work on the garden continued. On community service day, students and faculty members toiled all morning digging rocks—some the size of a basketball—out of the soil. Throughout the fall season, French teacher Carrie Bolster volunteered to work with a small group of students twice a week to ready the garden for next spring. These dedicated gardeners continued to dig up rocks, spread compost, lay out new plots, create paths, and plant a winter crop of rye grass.
In the first season alone, the garden has become part of the fabric of the school. Students can sign out to work in the garden as part of Recreational Fitness; a math class has studied volume, area, and unit conversions while helping to plan the layout of the garden; and next spring we may all be able to enjoy the reward for all the hard work: plans are underway to have a Community Garden station at the dining hall’s salad bar that will feature fresh vegetables and herbs.
The school’s on-campus composting program kicked off this fall with the participation of more than 25 faculty families. Every Thursday afternoon a student volunteer makes her rounds collecting nearly 40 pounds of kitchen scraps secured in biodegradable bags from faculty homes. She hauls the bags up to the compost bin next to the garden and mixes in some soil and leaves. The dining hall already composts food scraps by sending them to a pig farm, but Flik has supported the Middlesex composting program by donating their egg shells and coffee grounds to the cause. The faculty program has been such a success that it may expand to include dorms next year.
In addition, the Sustainability Task Force (composed of student and faculty) is pursuing several projects designed to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint and save the school money and resources going forward. These projects include lighting, water, resource awareness, and insulation projects throughout the school, but the biggest project of all is the conversion of our heating systems from a centralized No. 2 fuel oil-based system to a decentralized natural gas-based system. In aggregate, these projects should reduce our carbon footprint by about 25%.
The students in Common Sense, our environmental club, have plenty of ideas to keep up the sustainability momentum throughout the year. One is planning to build a vertical farm in the spring after having worked on a similar project in a research lab in Korea, another hopes to start a campaign to cut down wasteful use of paper towels, and the group has laid out plans to streamline recycling in the dining hall. The sustainability movement at Middlesex is quickly growing as the entire community engages in this important work.