Sustainability at Culver

Conserve – Reduce – Educate


Quick Sustainability Update

A good Monday afternoon to everyone.  Culver is enjoying a delightful respite from unrelenting heat, humidity and rain.  Beautiful sunny and pleasantly warm days in the forecast.

Several items to update everyone on…  First,

It’s BACK!!!!!


What, might you ask, is “it”?  Culver’s compost program at the Dining Hall is back on line!  The wood bin above is the repository for a food slurry mix which we generate from our food waste, both from food that is discarded from plates as well as from the meal preparation process.  The blue tub next to the wooden one contains wood chips which we add to the food slurry to aid in the composting process.

Food waste represents a signficant portion of waste we would otherwise send to the landfill.  We continue to work with our compost program to make it a 12 month program at Culver.

Secondly, yesterday Don Fox, Culver’s Summer Schools and Camps Director, and I attended the opening ceremony and lecture of a conference sponsored by Notre Dame. Entitled, “Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous Know-How for Global Flourishing,” this conference is bringing together a diverse group of tribal elders and scholars from across North America to discuss various aspects of indigenous culture and what we may learn from these cultures in our modern world.

Of particular interest yesterday was a lecture presented by John Low, a Potawatomi scholar who has prepared the first comprehensive history of the Pokagon band of the  Potawawtomis.  I recommend his book, Imprints, to anyone who has an interest in this native culture and the upper Midwest.

Lastly, I have been remiss in not posting this fascinating narrated video of a drone flyover of the Lake Maxinkuckee watershed.  The video, funded and produced by the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, is informative and a great view of the tributaries which supply water to our lake.  The video provides a bird’s eye view of the wetlands which provide such valuable service to our water quality.  Check it out!




Leave a comment

Sustainable Wisdom: Indigenous Know-How for Global Flourishing — Conference @ Notre Dame

A fascinating conference will be hosted soon at Notre Dame.  “Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous Know-How for Global Flourishing,” will bring together an interdisciplinary set of scholars and artists ready to integrate first-nation and mainstream contemporary understandings to move toward a flourishing planet.

You must check out the program link above.  There are speakers and programs which connect directly to anyone with an interest or concern for sustainable living.

The conference is sponsored by 24 programs within Notre Dame and is being coordinated with a number of indigenous thinkers and artists.  The conference takes place September 11-15, 2016 at Notre Dame.  The image below is from the conference brochure.

idig image for nd

Leave a comment

Rain Garden Workshop

Saturday morning, Dave Blalock, Culver’s Grounds Supervisor, and I had the chance to participate in a rain garden workshop sponsored by the Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District and put on by Jon Orick and Kara Salazar from Purdue Extension.  John and Kara had support from Sr. Mary Baird at Moon Tree Studios and Matt Linn, a wetland and lake specialist from Cardno.

The workshop, attended by approximately 20 people, was incredibly informativeGraphic.  We learned about the benefits of building rain gardens.  Rain gardens are intentionally designed areas near storm water sources (down spots, parking lots, etc) vegetated with native plants.  Rain gardens treat storm water and provide a number of other ecological services including providing habitat, improving water and soil quality, and reducing silt and pollution into waterways.  In addition, as the photos below illustrate, rain gardens are aesthically attractive.

Jon and Kara provided workshop participants with a number of useful reference sources to help design, build and maintain rain gardens.  Nothing illustrates a concept better than actually seeing it, so after the work session, we all had  tour of several different styles of rain gardens on the Ancilla campus.  The photos below are from the tour.

Culver has a number of potential locations where we could install rain gardens which would provide water quality benefit to Lake Maxinkuckee as well as a learning opportunity for students, faculty and staff.

Many thanks to the SWCD, Purdue Extension,  Ancilla and Cardno for putting on this informative event.



Leave a comment

Sustainability is “stellar” in Culver

Last week, the town of Culver hosted a contingent of state officials who visited our community to evaluate Culver’s “strategic investment plan” for economic and community development.  Culver is one of three Indiana communities under 6,000 popluation left competing for the “stellar community” designation.  The winning community will be announced next month at the State Fair.  For a link to an excellent video describing Culver’s application, click here.

Being named a stellar community is a big deal as it gives the community priority consideration for a number of state-funded programs, including Community Development Block Grants, Historic Renovation Grants, Downtown Enhancement funding, INDOT programs, as well as other programs.

A substantial amount of work under the direction of Culver’s Town Council and Town Manager enabled Culver to get to the finalist stage.  A number of Culver Academies faculty and staff participated in various community efforts to help prepare the strategic investment plan, but credit truly should be given to Town Manager Jonathan Leist for his perserverance and commitment to this effort.

Below are some pictures of Culver Academies campers and staff working on projects prior to the state officials’ visit last week.

woodcraft trail cleanup

Four “Gold C” Woodcrafters from Division 1 show of the trash and recycling they collected during a clean up of the “Indian Trails” section of campus prior to Stellar Community visit.

regina painting

Regina Padilla (CGA ’15) and Summer Sustainability Intern marks a storm drain on a newly paved downtown street. Eric March photo

admiring our work

Erin Pickford, Summer Sustainability Intern, prepares to mark a curb while Regina Padilla, Chris Kline and Ryan March (on cart) look on. Eric March photo.

Leave a comment

Two Interesting Perspectives on Food and Sustainability

One of the many wonderful aspects of living in Culver in the summer is the wealth of delicious food coming out of local gardens and farms.  Blueberries are just now coming into season and the sweet corn won’t be far behind.  At home, have been getting green beans, sugar snap peas, lettuces, onions and lots of flowers out of our garden for weeks now.

Here on Culver’s campus, our local food initiative is continuing to develop.  Over the past few weeks, we have purchased hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers from local farmers.

All of us think about food — whether it is as dire as where our next meal might come from to the more luxurious question of which “farm to fork” restaurant we might chose to dine this evening. Working on a campus with more than 1,300 campers and hundreds of faculty and staff, we also constantly think about food safety, reliabilty and cost.

My cousin recently forwarded me a pod cast from a program called “Good Food” produced by KCRW, the National Public Radio station in Santa Monica, California.  There are two excellent stories from the July 2, 2016 program.

The first story looks at the impact of Brexit on Britain’s food economy.  Britain imports 40% of its food from the EU.   The consequences, and opportunities, for Britain to develop a more local food economy are discussed in this interview with food policy expert Tim Lang of City Universty of London.

The second story is an interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was first published 10 years ago.  Pollan reflects on the changes in the US food economy since the book was first published.

Enjoy these two interviews.  I’m going to go home and have a piece of blueberry pie!

Leave a comment

10, 7, 1

Back in March at the Green Schools Conference, we heard a compelling presentation by John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer at United Technologies.  UTC is a large, industrial firm with several hundred thousand employees and >$60b in revenue.  Some of their brands include Otis elevators, Carrier air conditioning and Pratt & Whitney jet engines.  Hardly a “mom and pop” shop, yet it is a firm that takes sustainability quite seriously.

Mr. Mandyck plays a key leadership role within the company and in his address to the Green Schools Conference he described how he came to co-author the book, Food Foolish.  The numbers in the title of this post eloquently make the case for the title of the book.

As a global community, we produce enough food to feed 10 billion people; yet there are currently about 7.4 billion people on the planet.  And more than 1 billion are food insecure.

10, 7, 1.  Food, which takes tremendous resources, time and energy to produce, is simply not getting to the people who need it.  When I share this information with students, the reactions vary from stunned surprise to outright anger.

The inefficiency and waste surrounding our global food production and distribution system is truly astonishing.  The March 2016 issue of National Geographic looked at this issue in detail.  The graphic below from that issue illustrates some of the parameters of the problem.

Nat Geo Food Waste Graphic Closeup

Another article from the National Geographic website illustrates the consequences — and opportunities — for addressing the food waste challenge.  Simply put, reducing food waste would have a significant impact reducing green house gases which are linked to climate change.

How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change

Like many large-scale problems, one may be tempted to throw up one’s hands declaring the issue too big or too complex to tackle.  How can one person’s actions possibly make a difference?   However, I think the Nat Geo graphic above gives precisely the opposite message.  There is opportunity for each of us to make a positive impact all along the food cycle.  As one example, buying locally grown food, reduces food waste during shipping and storage.  At Culver Academies, we are trying to increase the amount of locally grown food we are serving in our dining halls.  close up 2 delivery

Here’s an image of one of our most recent deliveries!

Shopping at farmer’s markets or requesting locally grown foods from your grocery store is another way to help reduce food waste.  Culver’s Farmers Market is now in full swing.  Its hours are from 9am-1pm on Saturday and Tuesday evening from 5pm-7pm at the pavillion on the west side of the Culver Town Park.  The market has an excellent selection of locally grown food and locally made products.

Unused food is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean it has to end up in a landfill.  Composting your food waste is a great application for unused food.  If you are in the area, stop by Culver Library this Saturday, July 2.  From 11 am to noon the Purdue Extension program will host a discussion on composting and soil health.  Norman Goodsell will lead the discussion.  Hope you can make it, if you have question about the program you can email Bob Yoder at the Purdue extension office in Plymouth at .

Leave a comment

Small, Sustainable Steps…

Summer is just around the corner and Culver is prepping for the start of Camp.  Summer staff have arrived and are preparing for the arrival of more than 1,300 campers.

As we dive into summer, I wanted to share some recent sustainability images from our campus.

First, greeting our campers will be 10 new external water stations. Pictured below is one of these stations outside the Naval Building.  water stationThese stations effectively turn one hose spigot into an eight nozzle drinking fountain.  This equipment will help us reduce our useage of disposable water bottles and help maintain healthy, hydrated campers and staff.




Pictured below is our first delivery of fresh, locally-grown produce from the Oberholzer farms a few miles outside of Culver.  close up 2 deliveryThrough an arrangement with the Academy’s Dining Services and the Oberholzers, we will begin serving locally grown tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers and peppers in our dining halls.

By all accounts, the tomatoes and lettuce were excellent toppings for the hamburgers served on Tuesday evening.


Culver’s pollinator prairie is also taking off.  Several images here…  the first three below were taken earlier this week in our “old” prairie.   We are seeing some pretty cool diversity, lots of color and lots of pollinators.

Last Fall, after some maintenance mowing, the “old” prairie, first established under biology instructor Kris Little’s leadership several years ago, was overseeded with a forb (wildflower) heavy mix.  A recent walk through the prairie revealed a range of pollinator species and a variety of blooming native wildflowers.  Later this week, Culver’s bee hive will be relocated to this part of the prairie.

Our new prairie, 3 acres of converted hayfield, was planted earlier in May.  These two images show the cover crop coming in as well as some native milkweed (a favorite of the Monarch butterfly).

I’ll leave you with this image.  Strolling back from town yesterday through the Indian Trails, I starteld these two soft shell turtles, who scooted quickly into the water.  The softened shoreline (no sea wall) along the Indian Trails and in front of the Culver motels provides habitat for many species, including these turtles.

softshell closeup