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For NMH Students, Sustainability is Still a Top Priority

Dec. 10, 2020 — NMH students haven’t let a global pandemic dim their passion for preserving the environment. Among the initiatives that students — along with faculty and staff — have worked on so far this year: Installing more touch-free hydration stations around campus to fill reusable water bottles; using multiple-use, washable to-go food containers; forming a new student group to monitor water and energy consumption and recycling by dorm; creating a campaign to encourage composting and recycling; and proposing a partnership with the local food community to make Alumni Hall’s offerings more sustainable.

As the campus has shifted many of the ways it operates due to COVID-19, students continue to encourage the community to reduce waste and energy consumption, and collaborate with NMH Sustainability Director Becca Malloy and Dining Services Director Rich Messer to get their ideas closer to reality. “This fall, NMH students have shown more investment in sustainability than ever before,” Malloy said. 

After brainstorming ways to reduce the use of plastic cups and straws, Clara Kennedy ’21 proposed a hydration station in the dining hall. Jeff Seymour, NMH’s project manager, said additional hydration stations have been ordered, and at least one will be placed in Alumni Hall. Clara said, “It will reduce waste, a practical benefit, but it will also be symbolic of what we care about at NMH.”

In response to students’ concerns about plastic waste — which has increased with COVID-19 safety protocols — Messer said the dining hall will soon test the use of multi-use to-go food containers. “I’ve worked with Becca to enlist Ecoleaders to pilot the program and see if their actions stimulate others to participate,” Messer said. “Students are excited about it.” Students participating in the pilot program commit to bringing the containers back to Alumni Hall for washing after use, said Ecoleader Madeleine Yang ’21, who explained that the containers are recyclable but can be used many more times than typical to-go containers. 

Ecoleaders also raised concerns about composting, and Messer said dining services staff have created new signage to educate the community about how to properly dispose of food and containers after eating. Messer said, “I’m thrilled that the Ecoleaders and passionate students are getting behind our composting efforts.”

Students are also interested in the food itself. For his fall-term capstone project, Do Hoon Kim ’21 analyzed about 4,000 dining hall food items, calculated the percentage of sustainable food purchases at NMH, and created a proposal to make the local food purchases economically feasible and benefit local farmers. In the dorms, “EcoReps” — a new club that’s an extension of the work of the Ecoleaders — are reminding students to keep up with daily sustainability practices, such as using the timers in dorm showers to save water and using recycling bins correctly. “It gets even more students involved and gets someone involved from every dorm,” said Ecoleader Izzy Campbell ’21. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure that future generations can see that NMH values this and keep working on making NMH a greener place.”