Sustainability tours, scenic views: Massachusetts as a classroom

As a throwback to my professional fellowship exactly a year ago, I’m continuing a post about Massachusetts which I drafted in June last year–I just never got to upload it. I wouldn’t want the memories to go unwritten, so here’s the last fellowship diary I made.

Our last two weeks in Northampton were just the right mix of studying about sustainability and taking time off for leisure. Joe took us to the University of Massachusetts, which was a learning tour all by itself. 

 

UMass-Amherst Sustainability Tour

The South College Building, the Design Building, Permaculture Garden, Climate Science, Geology, and the Beneski Museum of Natural History

We went to the planning office first. I really liked how UMass has a green program for its different departments. Here’s a certification for their progress.

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We met the director, who told us about green initiatives, from clean energy smoothie making to the reuse of old dorm furniture and equipment to eliminate waste. 

We also went to the South College, which has a couple of cool sustainable features, listed here. They also have a manual

It’s really awesome how systemized the features of the building are, from waste disposal to lights to air systems. Below is the Interior Atrium of the South College.

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We passed by the Old Chapel, below, which is used for student events. While walking down this street, they told us how all the trees within the campus are labeled, each with individual QR codes. 

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(Below are some photos under the bridge with solar panels going to the Design Building, but I’ll get to that later.)

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Aaand, here’s the Design Building! Almost all (if not all) the features have ecosystem services and multi-use functions, from downspouts recycling water to go into the gardens, to tracking the solar output from the installed panels of the campus, to the many uses of their many rooms.

This is the lobby, which also serves as an events or lecture area (like an amphitheater).

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We also went to the roof, where we learned about water retention basins. The collected water keeps the garden green. The pattern on the materials used also help with the management of heat and solar flare, as explained in the video below.

 

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You could see some of the thousands of solar panels installed on campus from the laboratories of the Design Building. 

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Here’s where they track the solar panel energy generation and use. A summary of the installed panels are here while the real-time monitoring may be found here. The panels have greatly reduced the CO2 emissions of the university.

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This permaculture garden below used to be a parking space. It’s located near the canteen, so herbs that are grown on the patches are harvested and directly thrown into dishes served by the kitchen.

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If you zoom closely into the next diagram, you’ll see how UMass made their public spaces utilize a natural ventilation system.

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After lunch (at a very enticing canteen), we went to the Beneski Museum of Natural History, to learn more about DINOSAURS. ❤ 

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(Yup, we strolled through the museum, which took us 500 million years ago!)

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The different cabinets with all the labels and information was pure fascination. These fossils made me reflect how small humanity is in the timeline of natural history, we’ve just been here a few millennia, and the world has been living for millions of years. (Yeah, I know that as a fact, it’s just, seeing all the evidence makes you ponder on your life. That effect.) 

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After the dino treat, we visited the Climate System Research Center, then the Geology laboratories. 

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Look at the bioluminescence. Just lovely.

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If we had forever, I would’ve stayed to read all the labels and compare the different formation and textures. 

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The quartz sample was one of my favorites. 

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Sugarloaf Mountain and Connecticut River

Joe took us to the most breathtaking views in our entire fellowship journey, and that was all the way up Sugarloaf Mountain to see the majestic Connecticut River. (In the video, that’s just us driving up, and talking about Georgie, Joe’s lovable dog.)

And I thought it only existed in postcards. This is a 360 of the Connecticut River, and everything that surrounded Sugarloaf.

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I panned the iPhone too fast, but there’s a small field on the other side of the river where the farmer “draws” on his field, so from the satellite you can see an image. 

That’s the viewing deck at the summit.

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Bridge of Flowers at Shelburne Falls

One of the prettiest space transformations Joe showed us was the Bridge of Flowers at Shelburne Falls. It was once a trolley bridge, but is now a garden with all the beautiful blooms. 

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Play this video to see the lovely path. =) Fai and I love stopping to take photos of flowers and plants (and Joe makes us taste leaves), so this was pretty much the combo. Haha. (Kidding, we only did that in the woods.)

Aww, our photos really turn up the nostalgia.

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This little bloom is called the lady slipper. Can you see why?

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Salmon Lake

Salmon Lake is in a trail used by the Native Americans. Such a beautiful landscape. ❤ 

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Those are called glacial potholes. They are created because of the force of the whirlpool, which grinds smaller stones around and around, making the potholes. They formed during the glacial age or period. They used to be able to go down and enjoy the surface, but now it’s only for sightseeing.

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Chapel Brook

What I miss a lot about the fellowship was getting to visit these hidden wonders on the trails outdoors. This is Chapel Brook, in Ashfield. 

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Berkshire Mountain Resort

At the end of our fellowship, Joe brought us to Berkshire, where we went atop another mountain, but this time, with a cable car. 

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It’s the end of the fellowship, and in the video below, you can hear Joe telling our host the basics of why Fai and I were in the US. (Over, and over again, for every meeting.) And I was just documenting the slope up, and swinging my legs back and forth. 

The cable car has its recreational skiing functions, but what’s sustainable about their operations is that the resort is powered by a wind turbine, making their energy entirely renewable. We trod up the mountain to check out the turbine and their solar panel installations. 

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We saw a white-tailed doe when we came up, but she was too quick! I wasn’t able to take her picture, but she was lovely.

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Final Presentation

On our last day, Fai and I presented our fellowship summary to the planning council, and this was aired on the YouTube channel of Northampton, which, I will say, is the way to make council meetings transparent and on record. Something the PH can learn to improve on.

Anyway, Fai and I gave brief country introductions to the PH and TH, summarized our learnings, told them about our community challenges, and how we would use the fellowship upon coming back to our home countries.

Joe brought us apple cider to celebrate the end of the fellowship, and also coffee beans to bring home. (Always so thoughtful ❤ ) We also had a drink with Wayne before we left for the airport the next day. Below is a crest of Northampton they gave us to remember the place by.

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