I’ve been travelling so much this spring that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my blogging. I enjoy trying to capture on paper the feel of a place when I visit, so this week I’ll be going back to all the places I’ve missed telling you about.
Although I this post is titled Bar Harbor, it’s really about the college I stay at there. My Maine conference is always held at a little college within walking distance of the town of Bar Harbor. The College of the Atlantic on a beautiful, wooded campus where about 80 students all study Human Ecology, the one and only major they offer. The week-long conference is held in the summer, when maybe three students remain to work the dining hall and manage the dorms. What’s interesting to me, as a person who thinks a lot about environments (and particularly how they affect how people think and learn), is how much you can learn about the philosophy of the students and their school even when no one is there.
While they have one room that can seat the whole student body, there aren’t many classrooms. Although students study the same major, they’re supposed to create personalized classes with their professors. So most of the rooms are sort of friendly meetings rooms where students and a professor can meet and talk.
The communal focus on sustainability is everywhere, and it’s quite interesting to see how a whole institution can really think about sustainability beyond recycling. Of course they recycle extensively and the end of every meal, you scrape your scraps into the compost barrel and place your compostable napkins in a another barrel. You’re forced to think about how much food we waste when you see what’s left after every meal. The food scraps are taken to this enormous silo-like device, where they turn into compost which is used in the large on-site gardens. The human waste makes its way into the ecosystem through composting toilets which generate electricity. You want to know what a composting toilet is? It’s basically a deep hole in the ground, engineered to direct waste and smells away from you. It’s a pretty fancy duct system, though, because they are used in multi-story buildings. I wonder whether these choices represent what we will soon all become accustomed to as we attempt to institutionalize changes to our lives that produce less waste, or whether they will go down it history as good but quirky ideas that never go mainstream.