Our Sustainability Trail will take you on a tour of some of the sustainable projects and locations on campus.
The College has long been a leader in sustainability. Starting in 1931 with the founding of our Arboretum, through 1969 when we started offering one of the first Environmental Studies majors in the country, to 2011, with the hiring of the first Sustainability Coordinator, the College has been committed to a broad view of sustainability – with the recognition that the wellbeing of both the environment and people are critical to the continued thriving of the college, as well as society and the planet. This commitment was further strengthened in the fall of 2013 when the Office of Sustainability was formed to help bring together students, faculty and staff to continue to advance on sustainability on campus.
Take the tour virtually below or visit the signs at each location on campus.
Geothermal Well Field
Under the north end of Tempel Green, an energy-saving geothermal system provides heating and cooling to New London Hall. The 45 geothermal wells, drilled 500 feet into the ground, were installed during an extensive renovation and extension completed in 2012.
Geothermal systems work by using the consistent temperature of the Earth to change the temperature of water that is pumped into the building’s heating and cooling system. In the winter, the temperature of the Earth warms the water for heating and in the summer the water cools down underground before being pumped back into the building for cooling.
New London Hall
From 2011-2012, New London Hall underwent an extensive sustainable renovation and extension. The installation of a geothermal system made the building the first on our campus fully heated and cooled by a renewable energy source. Other sustainable feature include high-efficiency lighting and laboratory hoods, water saving plumbing, and the reuse of historic wood trim and doors. The building was certified LEED Gold by the US Green Building Council in 2013.
Lillian Niederman Garden
Located next to the Crozier Williams Student Center, the Lillian Niederman Garden is an example of an "old field," an open landscape dominated by meadow grasses and flowers, periodically interrupted by scattered drifts of trees and shrubs. Commonly occurring after agricultural abandonment, they are one of the signature landscapes of New England, and reflect both the agricultural and ecological heritage of the region. Today old field habitats have become increasingly rare, an unfortunate development, as they are crucial to the survival of many species of insects, mammals and particularly birds.
A bequest from Miriam Harris ’55 established this garden in her mother’s memory. It was designed by award-winning ecological landscape designer Larry Weaner and planted in 2012.
Sprout Garden is a space in which students can practice gardening and gain hands on experience with sustainable, small-scale agriculture. Sprout strives to build community and empower individuals by planting, growing, and sharing ethically produced food. Originally planted in 2004 on the east side of campus, the garden moved to this location in 2011. It was expanded to over half an acre in 2019 through a partnership with the Botany Department. Food from the fully-functioning farm can be found on our dining and catering services and for sale at a local farmers market.
The Camel's Reef project, led by Professor Maria Rosa, uses reef balls to minimize erosion and buffer wave activity that could cause damage to our docks and boats. Reef balls are creted by pouring marine-friendly concrete into molds to create a hollow center and voids for marine life to grow in. Our reef balls were constructed on campus by students, faculty and commnunity volunteers from Marine Max. The first reef balls were deployed into the Thames River in October 2021.
Ann and Lee Higdon Fitness Center
Completed in 2009, the fitness center is a LEED Silver building. The project included appro square feet of new construction and a renovation of an existing building and lobby. Sustainable features include daylight sensors to reduce energy consumption, a high-efficiency Energy Star rated roof, and the use of environmentally preferable and regionally produced construction materials as well as low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints, sealers and adhesives.
Steel House serves as the home of our Office of Sustainability. Originally erected in 1933, the College acquired the building in 1949 and it served faculty housing for over 50 years. A historically-sensitive renovation, which involved completely disassembling the building, took place from 2011-2013. Since being reconstructed in 2013, Steel House has won several preservation awards.