How RTB strives to be sustainable
Everyday Practices to Promote Sustainability
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
At Round the Bend Farm (RTB), our team thinks of creative ways to make our work (and living) spaces sustainable and restorative by implementing innovative solutions. We are taking the theory of “walk your talk” to a whole new level!
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans, it is the potential for long-term improvements in well-being, which in turn depend on the well-being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.
In addition to working in a green building, we at RTB have implemented (and continue to implement) everyday practices that will make our office, our Learning Center, and the entire 115-acre farm more sustainable. Below is a growing list of practices that we hope can serve as a model for others looking to do the same.
RETHINKING “REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE”
Here at the farm, we think beyond the 3 R’s (“reduce, reuse, recycle”)- while they are a great stepping stone, we have grown to look a little further outside that box. We prefer the model and philosophy pictured to the right- 7 R’s, including “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Re-gift, Recover and Recycle”. We like to refuse and reduce what we do not need; reuse, repair and re-gift what we can… and recycling comes last in our cycle- recycling only what we cannot “refuse, reduce or reuse”. It is our effort to reduce our consumerism….
THINK BEFORE YOU BUY
Utilize your purchasing power! Support local, ethical and socially-responsible businesses. Whenever possible, buy locally to reduce your carbon footprint, while supporting the local economy. We are selective about the companies we support, and think about the companies’ philosophies, shipping practices and whether they choose eco-packaging as well.
- Buy in bulk so that shipping and packaging wastes are reduced, and reuse shipping boxes/packing materials included in boxes. If not able to use, recycle appropriately.
- Use all green cleaning products that are purchased locally. Or take a stab at making your own, which is what we do here at the farm. See how we make our own liquid hand soap. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ2zS51J50o
- Buy local soap and use a refillable container. Have you read the ingredients in your soap? If you can’t pronounce it, it is probably not good for you- or the planet!
- Buy used furniture, and make your own items when possible (for example, build shelves using local wood).
- Buy Fair Trade Certified items. Fair Trade is an organized social movement that uses the market to aid developing countries in utilizing more sustainable farming practices. A common goal of this initiative is to increase the money returned to the farmers. The Fair Trade Certified™ seal represents thousands of products, improving millions of lives, protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting. Purchases have sent $551 million to farmers and workers since 1998. Equal Exchange, located in West Bridgewater, MA is a co-op that has partnered with farmers to provide high-quality products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, olive oil and snacks to its patrons. The owners have vowed to provide goods based on a system that balances the values of the farmers, consumers, and the Earth. What makes Equal Exchange unique is that it is worker owned- meaning that the farmers and the workers have just as much of a say in what happens with the company, and are entitled to the same shares of the company as the owners. This is very democratic and requires all involved to work together to be profitable. Currently, Equal Exchange is one of the largest democratic work-cooperatives in the country.
- Decorate spaces with artwork made by local artists. Here at the farm, we frame all of our photos with handmade wooden frames made by our teammate with local wood from the farm.
REDUCING OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
RTB Farm has a huge element of “Rot”- a very important zero waste element.
We REUSE as many items as possible in the Learning Center- and all over the farm- almost nothing has one life or purpose. If you are unsure how to dispose of something, ask the team (you never know who might be able to REUSE something)!
- REDUCE and eliminate unwanted junk mail, catalogs and magazines by calling and asking to be removed from their lists, saving hundreds of pounds of paper a year.
- Save padded envelopes, boxes, packing peanuts, bubble wrap and other shipping materials for REUSE. We drop off any extra bubble wrap that we accumulate at the UPS store for REUSE.
- Save animal feed, bulk food and wood shavings bags. These large paper/plastic bags are REUSED as drawing paper; for storage; and as threshing bags for seed saving (their large size help to catch and contain seeds as we remove them from the dried plants).
- Utilize the FREE, mail-in, product recycling programs offered through TerraCycle in order to RECYCLE items that would otherwise be thrown out. This enables us to RECYCLE Clif Bar wrappers, Late July chip bags, Arm & Hammer pouches, and more.
- Utilize store take-back programs. This enables us to RECYCLE plastic film and bags at our local grocery store; all types of batteries at Interstate Battery; electronics, ink and cords at Best Buy; compact fluorescent light bulbs at our local home improvement/hardware store.
- Why not consider purchasing clothing, shoes and household items second-hand at local thrift stores? We love Savers and The Salvation Army, to name a few. They will even take any items you may be looking to get rid of!
- Use 100% post-consumer* recycled paper for all paper needs, including copy paper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.
*Post-consumer content is a material that has served its intended use and instead of being disposed of, it is reused in a different product. If a product is labeled “recycled content”, the material might have come from excess or damaged items generated during normal manufacturing processes, not collected through a local recycling program.
- RECYCLE all materials that the town accepts, including glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, metal and even styrofoam (Dartmouth transfer station accepts styrofoam in blocks only.)
- All the wine corks used at RTB events are saved to be REUSED for kids crafts or RECYCLED through the cork reharvest program. You can find this collection box at Whole Foods in Providence.
For a full list of how to recycle everyday items locally to Dartmouth, MA check out our document How to Recycle Just About Everything Here
SUSTAINABLE TIPS FOR THE KITCHEN
- Use reusable dishware and cloth napkins at all times, eliminating the use of disposable items. (*Note: We even require anyone having an event here in our new space to use reusables for their dining/drinking needs.)
- Bring reusable take-out containers to restaurants for leftovers, eliminating the use of Styrofoam or other disposable containers (and prevents overeating!).
- Use cloth towels & rags instead of disposable paper towels.
- Compost all kitchen waste for use on the farm (for our gardens and/or our animals).
- Use dehumidifier water for plants.
- Have a water purifying machine, which eliminates the use of individual water bottles, while at the same time promoting better health for our team and guests.
- Use a high-heat dishwasher which reduces the use of unnecessary dish detergents.
- Make your own laundry soap and hand-washing soap.
- Make your own sanitizing cleaner for multiple surfaces.
- Use food we grow for meals, and support other local farms when needed.
SUSTAINABLE TIPS FOR THE OFFICE
- Office printing
- Edit on-screen as much as possible, printing only what is necessary.
- Print in black & white whenever possible and in color only when necessary.
- Print double-sided whenever possible.
- Save all one-sided printouts and either reuse them by printing on the other side or turn them into notebooks, to-do lists, or coloring pages for kids.
- Carpool to meetings and events that are away from the farm; plan “errands” off farm appropriately to group as many meetings/errands into that one departure from the farm.
- Promote cycling to work.
- Turn off all lights when not in use.
- Turn off computers (and printers) at the end of the day. Do not turn off the main (HP) printer- it turns itself onto a sleep mode that saves more energy than turning it on/off daily.
- Use power strips on all equipment that can be powered down at the end of the work day.
- Use as much natural lighting as possible, increasing the overall working conditions and saving on the amount of electricity used.
- Use heat and air conditioning systems sparingly. Instead, open the greenhouse doors to the office to help warm that space up. Dress accordingly and use natural cross breezes and ventilation for cooling. Open windows for ventilation, but be sure to close them when you leave for the day. Use ceiling fans in the Learning Center, which were purchased for their energy efficiency.
- No WiFi- we plug in instead! In 1996, the World Health Organization began the International EMF Project to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMF. In June 2011, they released the “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones fact sheet” in which they state that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has “classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.” Dr. Thomas Rau, world-renowned biological medicine practitioner and director of the Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland speaks publicly on the degenerative and damaging effects of EMF radiation on the human body. In response to this information, as well as several studies performed in Europe, RTB does not use a WiFi router and only uses ethernet cords for internet service. In addition, some of our teammates have found that turning off their cell phones and home internet routers at night significantly improves their sleep and they wake up feeling more energized.
- Use a standing desk. Most of us have heard that “sitting is the new smoking”. Research shows that the cumulative impact of sitting all day for years is associated with a range of health problems and that standing at work may reduce your risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
- The connector roofs between buildings intentionally link the areas of the Learning Center, which require outdoor passage between “rooms”, allowing teammates to connect with the natural farm environment.
Sustainable building is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources- energy, water, and materials- while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment during the building’s life cycle. This is accomplished through better siting, design, construction, materials used, operation, maintenance and removal. Visitors to RTB can learn first-hand about restorative living, from a building that is thought-provoking and educational in its mere existence.
RTB’s Learning Center was designed and built with a focus on sustainability. Key features that made this project more sustainable include:
- Conscious design, including southern orientation and architectural style, allowed us to work with the elements and geography of the land
- Integrating natural materials, such as stone, wood and metal, wherever possible
- Use of stones instead of pavement/concrete in the driveway diminishes the impact rainwater runoff will have on the surrounding environment. It allows water to naturally move through it while purifying the water and diminishing drainage issues.
- Cotuit Solar of Cape Cod installed the 49.8kW DC (39.6kW AC) PV system, which is capable of producing up to 66,000 kWhs of energy each year. Our three sub-arrays are “grid-tied” to Eversource, meaning that on the days we produce more energy than we need, RTB is able to gain “credits” toward future use.
- Double & triple-pane windows are super insulated, creating a U-value** of .22 to .3, which translates to energy savings.
- Greenhouse made of glass & aluminum allows RTB to get a head start on producing enough food for the entire team with no fossil-fuel energy use. The greenhouse doubles as a passive heating source.
- The CoolBot system allowed RTB to build a custom, walk-in, three-bay food cooling system, using simple AC units that allow for structural and functional flexibility, and the ability to switch units off when not in use. North-side orientation and extra insulation also resulted in the most energy-efficient system possible.
- Composting toilets and a waterless urinal help to conserve massive amounts of water. The Phoenix Composting Toilet System Model 201 uses no water or chemicals, only flaked (local) pine shavings to support the breakdown and inhibit odor. This system transforms human waste into a rich, well-stabilized soil that will be buried in the forest (away from wetlands, crops, and foot traffic) under 6” of dirt to further break down. The Sloan Waterfree Urinal WES-1000 conserves up to 40,000 gallons of water per year, and does not require costly supply plumbing.
- Interface carpets use modular tiles made from repurposed carpets and minimal amounts of organic glues. As tiles age, recycled tiles can replace them, reducing waste over time.
- Landfill liner shingles were created through an experimental process, resulting in over 6,000 upcycled roof shingles, transforming unused local landfill liner into an essential resource.
- Rock wool insulation is more sustainable and longer-lasting than commonly used cellulose, and resists mold, mildew fungus, moisture, fire and rodents. It is produced with natural stones (60% recycled) which don’t off-gas harmful chemicals and offers an R-value of 4.13 per inch, and STC ratings as high as 69.
- Heritage Natural Finishes for wood are non-toxic, biodegradable and sustainable. They are made primarily of orange oil, tung oil, linseed, pine resin and beeswax. They utilize no heavy metals or drying agents, and because of this, they penetrate deeper than other finishes.
- No-VOC*** paints eliminated harmful, volatile chemicals that paints often off-gas, making the most environmentally (and human) friendly option for use on our building ceilings.
- Repurposed items, including furniture, a commercial-grade oven, double oven, three-bay sink, stainless steel prep/work tables and more!
*R-value: the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
**U-value: a measure of the flow of heat through an insulating or building material. The lower the U-value, the better the insulating ability.
***VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. Household products that emit VOCs include paint, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, glues & adhesives, building materials and furnishings.
To learn more about the choices we made with the building of our new Learning Center, please request to see our Building Pamphlet in print (we can mail you one!) or find it here.
For more information- or to chat about our Everyday Practices- or if you know anything more we can be doing, please contact us at 508.938.5127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.