Taking steps to steward our common food, water, and landscape resources
Clark has joined the Real Food movement, which is designed to nourish everyone — including producers, consumers, communities, and the earth. Our water filling stations save water and cut down on waste. These initiatives are just two of the reasons Clark has won national and regional EPA awards.
Clark signed the Real Food Challenge in 2013, committing Clark Dining to invest 20% of all annual purchases as ‘real’ food by 2020. RFC defines real food very carefully with consideration to social and economic justice as well as sustainable growing or manufacturing conditions.; it is not just abut certification. The commitment was the result of many years effort by a dedicated group of students, key faculty, Sustainable Clark, and the interdisciplinary Food Systems Working Group. Academic classes and student teams continue to investigate possible ‘product shifts’ that will responsibly and fiscally move us toward the ultimate goal.
As of last count, there are 27 hydration stations to refill your reusable water bottle with chilled, filtered water all over campus including in all of the residence halls (except Blackstone), Goddard Library, Jefferson, Dana Commons, Jonas Clark University Center, Kneller Athletic Center, Traina and ASEC. The ones in the residence halls were funded through student project awards from the Student Sustainability Fund!
The water bottle filling stations filter and chill municipal water and many are integrated into existing water fountains. Their internal filter is monitored and replaced frequently. The filling spout is motion-activated and dispenses 12 ounces into refillable water bottles, eliminating the need to purchase wasteful and costly single-serving plastic water bottles. An automatic counter on the units shows how many disposable water bottles have been avoided by using the filling stations.
The Environmental Protection Agency awarded Clark a coveted National Achievement Award in 2013’s Food Recovery Challenge, one of only 9 such awards across the entire US! The Food Recovery Challenge measures efforts to reduce and manage food waste from dining and other functions. Clark composts all food waste from the Higgins Cafeteria, and at the time was ahead of the curve because we also composted soiled paper waste from the University Center, the Recycling Center, residence hall bathrooms and other locations. While residence hall composting began in fall of 2013 with the student-led Clark Composts! program, it ended in 2019 due to external circumstances. We still compost around 200 tons per year! If it was ever alive — you can compost it!
Clark’s first (and Worcester’s third) rain garden was installed by a group of students who had researched the pollution-filtering technology in their Sustainable University class the previous semester. Will Maxwell, Samantha Sandella, Kerry Burke and Samantha Boyle (all ’15) collaborated with graduate student Ya’ara Persing (IDCE CDP ’12), the Clark Sustainability Collaborative, Clark Grounds Department and the Blackstone River Coalition to design, fund and install the rain garden in front of Admissions where it will capture and bio-filter storm water runoff from the roof. Native species in the garden will attract wildlife. A primary goal of the project is to provide an educational demonstration to encourage homeowners to help reduce pollution in local waterways.
In the summer of 2014, a persevering student team that began their research in Fall 2013’s class The Sustainable University collaborated with Clark Grounds Dept., the Herban Gardeners, and RLH to install three new biodiversity “edible landscaping” gardens outside the AC, Wright and Dodd Halls. The gardens are full of native species that provide food and shelter for birds, insects and other wildlife — replacing monoculture grass and bringing an oasis of color and biodiversity to the urban landscape! Erin Wirtemburg ’15 and Samantha Dokus ’15 received funding from the SSF for their project, and the plants now in those gardens served double-duty during Commencement 2014 by decorating the stage.
Inspired by an initial SSF grant won by Melissa Miller ’16 to conserve water, between 2015 and 2019 Clark upgraded technology in all irrigation zones. A remote control and monitoring system uses flow meters to precisely monitor water overuse, and can be expanded to run off a weather-based model. Grounds also replaced and added rain sensors to complement the automated system; the rooftop-mounted sensors override automatically programmed irrigation in the case of sufficient precipitation. Water savings from these two upgrades is conservatively expected to be 15-20%, more as we expand the system.
Water efficient shower heads and toilets were installed across campus in 2011 and 2014. The upgrades will help Clark reduce water consumption by an estimated 4 million gallons a year — that’s equal to a line of tanker trucks over 2 miles long! Dual flush, low tank volume and other appropriate toilet technology is in use; check the handle or the button on the toilet and make the wise flush to save water. The new shower heads provide the same shower experience while reducing flow from 2.5 gallons per minute to 1.75 GPM.
A comprehensive bathroom inventory in 2019 pointed to opportunities to upgrade many more toilets to dual flush, and prompted Facilities Management to make it policy that any new or replacement toilets will be water-efficient.
Worcester boasts several farmer’s markets, but they can be hard to get to on an academic schedule. From 2012 – 2018 a student run venture The Local Root provided students, faculty and staff fresh and local foods at weekly farmer’s market-style tables on the Green and via a subscription and on-campus delivery service.