A sustainable school – one, like Culver – not only pays attention to its financial health, but also maximizes environmental and social benefits in all that it does.  

In the context of our impact on our environment, sustainability implies we should leave our place – campus, community, country, planet -- a little bit better than when we found it.  Something Culver has engaged in since its founding.

We believe conservation and stewardship are admirable traits which should be promoted and valued.  Culver’s Mission Statement captures this concept succinctly, when it states we educate students to be leaders and responsible citizens. 

To this end Culver strives to: conserve and protect natural resources; minimize waste and emissions from our operations; and educate and raise awareness throughout our community by integrating sustainable principles in curricular and student life.

For students at Culver, sustainability may take any of a variety of roles. From enjoying a naturally beautiful campus or participating in the Green Life club, to studying challenging subjects in sustainability and creating service leadership projects. 

Everyone in our community is expected to demonstrate care for our environment and conserve resources.  Culver recycles.  Culver conserves energy and water. Culver cares for Lake Maxinkuckee.  It’s what we do.  Where you take it from there is up to you, but the options are unlimited

Start Your Journey

Get Involved

Sustainability Leadership Team

The Sustainability Leadership Team (SLT) meets monthly and its purpose is to provide advice and guidance to the Sustainability Director and Head of Schools on sustainability matters.  SLT Members include:  The Commandant; Dean of Girls; Academic Deans; Facilities Director; Facilities Project Manager; Dining Hall Director and Co-Director; Director of Advancement and Culver Fund officer; Science Instructor; Summer School Director; Communications Director and Co-chairs of Student Green Life Committee

Green Life

Culver’s Green Life club is a student-run organization whose mission is to raise awareness about environmental and sustainability issues in our community and around the world – and to have fun while doing it!  The Green Life Club typically has more than 200 student members, with 40-50 students attending biweekly meetings.  A key project of Green Life is sponsoring Green Week. Centered around Earth Day each April, Green Week consists of an evolving series of fun, compelling and informative events designed to raise awareness and appreciation for our home. 

Advisory Council

Culver has multiple areas of opportunity to improve the environmental sustainability of our operations and to better incorporate sustainable behavior into our teaching and learning.   These areas include improving our energy footprint, reducing our waste and emissions, and maintaining and improving the stewardship of our grounds and water resources, as well as raising awareness in our community.  From a broader leadership perspective, Culver should be exploring innovative ways to teach and model sustainability.  As a leadership institution, we should engage our strong Alumni, parent and patron base to move this effort forward. 

In the spirit of continual improvement, Culver has charted a Sustainability Advisory Council consisting of 15 alumni, parents and patrons who have a professional or keen personal interest in sustainability.  This council will study sustainability at Culver over the course of the next two years and provide formal advice and feedback as to how Culver may improve moving forward. 

Advisory Council Charter


Organizing a Zero Waste event

With a little planning and some coordinated effort, it is possible to substantially reduce the amount of landfill waste an event generates.  At Culver we have a number of resource to assist in such efforts.  Examples of these resources include portable water stations, portable recycling containers and a semi portable compost bin.  We also have experienced and dedicated Facilities and Dining staff to assist in the planning and successful implementation of these events.  For more information about reducing the waste your event generates, contact Sustainability Director Chris Kline @chris.kline@culver.org.  

Recycle at Culver

Why Recycle?

  • Culver’s Mission is to educate students for leadership and responsible citizenship
  • Recycling is the responsible thing to do
    • Recycling saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and helps prevent toxic material from entering our air and water
    • At Culver, each student generates about 4.25 pounds of waste per day
    • Of that we divert about 1 pound from the landfill – it either is recycled or composted; our recycle rate is 20%
    • The national recycle rate is about 35%  Some large corporations, like Cummins and Subaru, have recycle rates >90%
    • We can do better; leaders should do better than below average!

What to Recycle?

  • Culver has “single stream” recycling meaning all recyclables can go into a common container
  • Plastics – look for recycling sign on the bottom and the number 1-7
  • Paper – paper, cardboard, magazines – slightly soiled paper food containers (i.e. pizza boxes) can be recycled!  Sandwich wrappers cannot
  • Metal – aluminum cans, tin, steel – flatten if possible
  • Dining Hall composts food waste; but for now, food waste in the dorms and barracks should be thrown in trash bin
  • Disposable batteries should not be thrown in the landfill bins, but instead disposed in marked containers in barracks, dorms, Huffington Library and classroom buildings.

How to Recycle

  • A small blue recycle bin is now in every dorm and barracks room.  Recycling starts in the room!  All recyclable items can be deposited into the small blue bins.
  • Units and dorms have two recycle bins (mixed and paper) plus large grey bin for trash on each hall.  Transfer contents from blue bin in the room to the mixed recycling bin in your hall.
  • Can dispose of paper in both “mixed” and “paper” bins
  • When transferring bags with recycled content from Halls to pick up areas, be sure to mark bags with green labels
  • External bins around campus, “mixed” and “trash”
  • Availability of “modular” recycle bins for events (contact Facilities to reserve)
  • Continue to focus on reducing/eliminating contamination in waste stream, dirty pizza boxes, food containers, etc

Questions?  Chris Kline, Sustainability Director, chris.kline@culver.org,  574-261-2740 or Darrell Garbacik, Facilities, Darrell.Garbacik@culver.org, 574-842-8277

Compost at Culver

Since 2014 Culver’s main Dining Hall has composted food waste.  Prior to 2014, food waste represented as much as 40% by weight of the waste we sent to the landfill.  The composted material is stored in our Facilities maintenance area and will be used for landscaping projects on our campus.  We are continually working to expand and improve our composting program.  Possible options include: providing composting options in dorms and barracks, expanding composting year round, expanding composting to include our Woodcraft Dining Hall, and developing compost options for catered events for food served outside our Dining Halls.  For more information on our compost program, contact Chris Kline, Sustainability Director, chris.kline@culver.org,  574-261-2740

Protect the Lake

For a fascinating “bird’s eye” look at Lake Maxinkuckee and its watershed, check out this video shot during the spring of 2016.  https://youtu.be/XU4UVpaT2o4.  After more than 30 years of intensive effort to improve the environmental health of Lake Maxinkuckee, recent studies have indicated the lake is approaching the water quality which existed prior to 1850.  Constructed wetlands and efforts to reduce phosphorus and nutrient loading are main contributors to this welcome trend.  However, we must continue our efforts.  What can you do to protect the lake?

  • Remember that most storm drains connect directly to the lake.  Whatever you dump outside will likely end up in the lake.  Think before you dump anything into a storm drain.
  • Use recycle and landfill bins to keep trash out of the lake.
  • Enjoy a walk around the lake!  Swim in it!  Paddle on it!
  • If you are boating in the summer remember these tips
    • Start skiers in deep water.
    • Only tube, ski, wakeboard and surf in the deeper parts of the lake.
    • Idle-only speed only with no wake until 200 feet from shore.
    • Make sure you are in at least 20 feet of water before opening up throttle.
    • Plane your boat as quickly as possible to protect the lake bottom.
    • Respect buoys and protected areas

For more tips on protecting the lake, check out this recent Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council newsletter.  http://www.lakemax.org/wp-content/uploads/LMEC-vol-22-iss-3.pdf

Eat a Sustainable Diet

Perhaps no issue resonates more with Culver students than the topic of food. While we may engage in endless debates over just how tasty the baked ziti really is or how often is too often to order Papas, increasingly our students are moving beyond the menu and showing greater interest in some of the more challenging aspects of food, namely food insecurity and food waste. Our diverse, international and engaged student body is continually seeking out avenues to understand, discuss and act on these issues.

Numbers help frame the challenge:

  • Worldwide: 800 million people on our planet are food insecure (lack access to adequate food) with children bearing a disproportionate impact of food insecurity with 1 in 6 children worldwide are underweight and 1 in 4 stunted physically, mentally or emotionally due to malnutrition.
  • United States: 42.2 million Americans live in food insecure households including 13.1 million children;
  • State and Local: Over 15% of people living in Indiana are food insecure and right here in Marshall County, over 12% of the population is food insecure.

Demographers project our global population to grow from the current 7.3 billion to above 10 billion by 2050. Unless something changes, the number of people who are food insecure will grow accordingly. While the global population grows and food insecurity remains a critical issue, we are also confronted with the growing dilemma of food waste.

The facts and figures are stunning:

  • Between a staggering 30%-40% of the food produced globally is wasted – never eaten, and here in the US – the estimate tops 40%;
  • The value of wasted food is over $1 trillion and when one considers the inputs to produce food that is wasted such as labor, energy, or water – the figure is incalculable.

So how might high school students, however engaged or motivated, tackle such daunting issues? As a school which fosters and encourages young people to lead, how might we best approach these matters? We are, after all, a school. So first, and most importantly, becoming informed on food insecurity and food waste is a critical step. In the classroom, several humanities courses address these issues in focused units, examining for example how food shortages influence global and cultural conflict. Our introductory leadership class and several Wellness classes focus on the importance of developing healthy eating habits, including being mindful about food waste.

Several years ago our Dining Services opted to move to a trayless system. Studies show that removing trays results in less food waste. Over time, trayless dining systems also save a significant amount of energy from not having to wash the trays.

Culver students are increasingly becoming more creative with how they learn about these issues. In the last year, Culver students have hosted a hunger banquet and sponsored a film on food waste, entitled “Just Eat It.” This Fall several seniors and first classmen are engaging the community in food insecurity and food waste issues, with several innovative and thought provoking exercises. Ultimately though, leaders need to act. And Culver students are acting to help address food insecurity locally. Over the past several years Culver Academy and Culver Community High School students have been actively engaged in our local Backpack program where low income elementary school students are provided a bag of food to take home over the weekend when they don’t have access to healthy school meals. A number of seniors have taken on projects to address food insecurity – we hope more do the same in the future. We urge you and all students to connect with us on food insecurity, food waste and health issues. And please do what you can to be aware of food insecurity in your home town, limit your own food waste, and talk to your students about what they are learning about these important issues.

Noemi Adame, MD, Physician -- Noemi.Adame@culver.org
Tracy Fox, MPH, RD Academy Wellness Consultant -- tracy.fox@culver.org
Chris Kline Sustainability Director --  Chris.Kline@culver.org

Helpful Resources:

Food Insecurity

Food Waste: