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Mills listed as one of the greenest colleges in the nation

This year, Mills College has been listed among the 361 most green colleges in the nation because of its sustainability programs and campus farm. 

Mills has been on the list since the list first began, according to a press release on the Mills website. Since 2009, the Princeton Review has ranked the nation’s colleges by their commitment to sustainability. Mills reuses, recycles or composts more than 60 percent of its waste with programs like the Reuse Depot, compost bins for paper towels in the bathrooms, and not using the decorative fountains on campus.

Nicole Gaetjens, sustainability coordinator, is in charge of all the environmental programs on campus. She promotes and develops various environmentally sustainable programs at Mills as well as providing leadership around environmental policies. The fact that Mills has been on the award since its inception means a lot to her.

“It’s important that Mills shows that sustainability is important, not just for our students but within the larger community,” Gaetjens said.

To Gaetjens, colleges represent and show leadership in environmentalism. An example of this is the Farm to Fork movement that was sustained by colleges. That movement has since spread into communities and has increased interests in local produce and where food comes from. The Princeton Review says that 61 percent of prospective students consider how environmentally friendly and sustainable a college is when they apply.

Some of the actions Mills takes to be more environmentally conscious includes turning off the decorative fountains, only turning on the heating if the outside temperature has been below a certain temperature for several days in a row, running a farm, encouraging students to use their AC Transit passes and having the Reuse Depot.

“I think something that’s pretty unique about Mills is the Reuse Depot, because there are a lot of items that are pretty specific to colleges that Goodwill and other stores don’t tend to resell,” Gaetjens noted.

Another way that Mills increases its sustainability is the Farm on campus. It provides food to members of the college as well as educating college and community members about nutrition, health and the environment. In the past, the Farm has grown peppers, tomatoes, basil and other herbs.

The Farm is located by the front gate parking lot and currently has fruit trees in pots as well as a tiny greenhouse where seedlings grow before being transplanted. They are in the process of creating new beds for growing herbs. Sophia Cook-Phillips, the Farm assistant, seeds new plants and tends to the beds.

“We actually gave some of the peppers and tomatoes to Founder’s,” Cook-Phillips says.

 Recently the Farm applied for a composting program grant so they could build an onsite composting system but did not get it because two larger colleges in the midwest jointly submitted a proposal for composting, which was not available to them. In the near future, the Farm hopes to plant fruit trees in their soil beds.

There will be a sustainability forum on Nov. 7 in the Faculty Lounge from 12-1 p.m.