Sustainability at Culver

Conserve – Reduce – Educate

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Dinner and a Movie? How Inconvenient!

On Friday, November 10th at 7pm in the Roberts Auditorium, please join Culver Academies’ Green Life Club and the Global Studies Institute for a viewing of the recently released film, An Inconvenient Sequel.  This highly-regarded documentary addresses the latest issues concerning global climate change.  A discussion focusing on what we can do at Culver — and as individuals — will follow.  Pizza will be served!

Inconvenient Truth



Where does our trash go?

If you live near Culver, you have likely driven by Republic Services County Line Landfill hundreds of times.  And if you are like most people, if you have thought about the landfill, it has probably not been with the most charitable of intentions.  Today, three members of Culver’s Sustainability Committee, Chad Gard, Don Fox and Chris Kline,  took advantage of a break in classes and some periodic rain showers and attended a fascinating tour of this facility.

Republic Services handles more than 1 million pounds of waste from Culver Academies every year.  Our waste that isn’t recycled ends up at County Line.  (Republic runs a different facility which process recyclables.)  We wanted to see what happens when the trash trucks leave our campus.

Our hosts were Bob Shoots, Operations Manager of County Line, and Cody Humphrey, General Manager for Republic Services. Both men and the entire team of Republic Services were quite gracious and very open to answering our questions.  Joining us on the tour were other Republic customers, including Marianne Peters, Director of Marshall County Solid Waste District, and Lyn Ward, MCSWD Citizens Advisory Committee Member.

group photo

l-r Chad Gard, Lyn Ward, Don Fox, Marianne Peters, Chris Kline


From a distance, County Line is truly a big pile of trash.  Up close, it’s even bigger.  Covering more than 200 acres, the landfill is a remarkably complicated operation.  Scores of monitoring wells and air sensors cover the facility and data is collected for both management and regulatory purposes.

landfil profile

County Line Landfill looking south from the waste-to-energy plant.


top of landfill 1

A few of the large vehicles at the top of the pile.

Dozens of large vehicles — semi trucks, earth movers, large trash trucks and other equipment — move across the facility, managing the tons of material deposited there on a daily basis.  From this vantage point, I’m quite certain we were at the tallest point in both Marshall and Fulton counties.

top 2

Trash compactor vehicles, weighing more than 100,000 pounds, help manage the “air space” at the landfill,

Landfills are a significant source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, particularly methane.  Methane is produced when organic material, like food waste, breaks down in an anerobic environment (like that found in the cell of a capped landfill.)  Typically the methane escapes through vents and goes into the atmosphere where it disproportionately contributes to climate warming.

Not the case with the methane from County Line.  A waste to energy plant operated by Aria Energy, generates up to 6 MW of electricity from this gas, enough to power more than 3,000 homes.  This schematic from the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, depicts what is happening at County Line.

waste to energy schematic


Based on EPA calculations, Republic Services said that the County Line Landfill gas-to-energy project prevents carbon emissions equivalent to the consumption of more than 32 million gallons of gasoline.   Here are some pictures from the Aria facility.

Our group came away from the tour with a greatly expanded appreciation for the complexity of managing a modern landfill.  We certainly appreciate the work provided by Republic Services, particularly its efforts to prevent methane from getting into the environment.  And we appreciate the advice from landfill manager Bob Shoots, “Keep Recycling!”

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Green Life Club Underway!

green life first meeting pano

Culver’s Green Life club had its first organizational meeting of the 2017-18 school year this past week.  More than 50 students made it to the 7:45 am meeting, notwithstanding the fact a regimental sleep-in had been declared the night before! That’s dedication!  With more than 200 students expressing interest in Green Life, the club is poised to hit the ground running in 2017-18.

The full club meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:45 am in Roberts Auditorium. Club leaders for 2017-18 are Adam Davis ’18 and George Cruikshank ’18, co-presidents, and Molly Kubaszyk ’18, communications.

green life officers 2017 2018

Green Life officers at first meeting of 2017-18 School Year

The club also has two working committees, one focusing  on education and outreach and the second focusing on projects.  The education/outreach committee is led by Helen Johnston ’18 and Nora Kline ’19.  This committee will meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month for breakfast in the Dining Hall.  This committee will focus on providing information to the community on sustainability and the Green Life!  If you have an idea for films, speakers, or other outreach activities, this is the group for you.

The projects/outings committee will meet on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm in the Dining Hall mezzanine.  This committee is led by Goldie Blackson ’18 and Henry Stewart ’19.  This group will work on setting up specific projects for the community, including volunteer trips to the Recycle Depot, trail maintenance and cleanup, camping trips and other outings.

Very excited about the club and its prospects for the upcoming year!


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Green Life and Community Service Council Volunteer at Blueberry Festival

Culver students volunteered their time for a good cause at Indiana’s largest 4 day festival, the Blueberry Festival in Plymouth.  Members of Culver Academies Green Life and Community Service clubs spent the afternoon assisting in the Festival’s recycling efforts.  Coordinated by the Marshall County Recycle Depot,  eight students  wore visible recycling uniforms and checked  bins across the park over the course of a lovely summer afternoon.  The added benefits of blueberry shakes, lemon shake ups, roasted ears of corn and  pretty much any kind of deep fried treat helped make the effort worth while.

Check out our intrepid volunteers!

Berry two volunteers

Getting geared up!

Berry volunteers

Ready to promote recycling!

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Hoosier Riverwatch — A Great Program for Indiana!

This past weekend, I had the good fortune to participate in the Hoosier Riverwatch training program.hooisers river watch graphic  Sponsored by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management,  the purpose of Hoosier Riverwatch is to encourage Indiana  citizens to become active stewards of our water resources through watershed education, water monitoring and cleanup activities.  The training was hosted by Deb Palmer from Marshall County’s excellent Soil and Water Conservation Office , and was expertly taught by Jennifer Krauser, a volunteer  with Hoosier  Riverwatch.  We spent the morning in the  classroom, reviewing basic elements for determining water quality in our area streams by examining physical, chemical  and biological properties of these systems.  Lots of great hands-on learning.  Watershed PresentationHere’s an image of a rudimentary, but effective way to model a watershed.

In the afternoon, we headed out to a nearby tributary of the Yellow River where we put our training to practice.  This particular stream flows through Plymouth’s Centennial Park and will be surrounded by Blueberry Festival-goers this coming weekend.  Over the course of 3 hours under Jennifer’s and Deb’s guidance, we measured the aforementioned parameters and, while we haven’t crunched all of the data just yet, it appears this 200′ section of stream was in pretty good shape.

Below are more images from the  day.  A great tutorial and wonderful folks with whom  to learn!  If you have the opportunity to participate in this training, I encourage you to do so!