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Campus Operations: Behind the Scenes

This February, the Sustainability Corps Program within the Sustainability Office, in partnership with the Dartmouth Energy Club, organized “Dartmouth Campus Operations 101.” The series gave participants a behind the scenes look at Dartmouth’s operational systems through on and off campus field trips and a panel.

Soon Young Shimizu ‘TH signed up for the series to gain a better understanding of how Dartmouth operates, and how campus operations are connected to broader systems. “We are all tangentially connected to these systems and rely on them, but don’t have a good understanding of what really happens. And I felt that we should.”

Series participants tour Dartmouth's cogeneration plant

The series focused on two of the more visible campus operational systems: energy and waste. Attendees included undergraduates, graduate students, Tuck students, faculty, staff, and community members.

The first portion of the series was a visit to Dartmouth’s cogeneration plant, which burns No. 6 fuel oil to power the campus steam and electrical distribution systems. Given Dartmouth’s energy transition to biomass, Sustainability Corps intern Kate Salamido ‘19, the primary organizer of the series, says, “it made sense to frame the energy portion of the series as a ‘where we are now, and where we’re going’ evolution.”

Series participants tour Dartmouth's cogeneration plant

The visit to Dartmouth’s cogeneration plant was complemented by a tour of Middlebury College’s biomass gasification plant, which burns ~60% wood chips and ~40% natural gas to generate steam and electricity. Participants were also invited to a panel on the town of Hanover’s renewable energy goals, where speakers discussed how Dartmouth’s energy future and the Town of Hanover’s are connected. Panelists included Julia Griffin, Hanover Town Manager, Judi Colla, Hanover Energy Subcommittee Co-Chair, and April Salas, Hanover Sustainability Manager and Director of the Revers Center for Energy at Tuck. Rosi Kerr, Director of the Dartmouth Sustainability Office moderated.

To learn about Dartmouth’s waste system, participants visited Casella Zero-Sort recycling facility in Rutland, Vermont and toured the Lebanon, New Hampshire Solid Waste facility, the end of the road for Dartmouth’s landfill waste. “The main goal of this arm of the series was to let people actually see where waste generated at Dartmouth ends up, since most people throw their waste in a collection bin and never think about it again,” says Salamido.

Casella Zero-Sort recycling facility in Rutland, Vermont

Shimizu says the waste portion of the tour challenged assumptions she’d made about sustainability solutions. She was surprised to learn that recycling doesn’t happen at the Casella recycling facility. “They only sort it… and sell it. The process of recycling material happens elsewhere. Recycling is a business, so priorities aren’t always aligned with sustainability. Recycling is not really the best alternative to disposing stuff. The best alternative is to not buy stuff at all.”

Lebanon, New Hampshire Solid Waste Facility

In all, the series had 64 people sign up. “There is definitely a need for this kind of programming at Dartmouth,” says Salamido, who believes this series will become a regular event. Future series will be announced on the Dartmouth Sustainability website. Stay tuned!

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