2020-2021 Intern Overviews

Zero Waste Interns: Lauren Lynch and Rika Nakato

What does your internship entail, and what are some of the major projects and goals you’ve been working on this year?

Rika: I’d say the biggest project we’re doing right now is the work we’re doing with ATLAS, which is a continuation of the work that Lauren started last year. We are working towards Williams becoming a zero waste campus in every holistic way, which is a really big project because it works with every department on campus and tries to figure out how we can work towards zero waste. It can look like anything from building a surplus property facility for anything that’s surplus on campus, to working with dining to make all to go containers reusable. 

Lauren: Right now, we’re in the process of writing the policy for those projects, and we work on these policies one at a time because they’re a lot to tackle. Right now, our focus is on Dining Services and expanding the reusables program for next year in locations like Goodrich, Eco Cafe, Fresh and Go, and ‘82 Grill. We are also working on compost in all these locations, and we are working with WRAPS on expanding their policy and capacity. Hopefully, once we’re done with those, we’ll move more onto that surplus property facility that Rika was talking about, because that’s a larger long term project.

What are some long term goals that students should look out for?

Lauren: In addition to dining, I think surplus property is the big goal that students will be aware of. Our other really big long term project is helping the college put together an environmentally friendly purchasing policy. All the professors and staff will have a catalogue of pre-selected items that meet certain sustainability requirements, and that will be the boundaries of what they’re allowed to purchase. 

Rika: The environmentally friendly purchasing catalog has the potential to be student facing too, because student organizations could also do their ordering for events and activities through the catalog.

Lauren: Also, the assessments we did last year will have to be reassessed and rescored in the next few years. Hopefully, we will do better in the future because of the projects that we’re doing now, and because of the information that we gathered from the first score. 

Williams’ ATLAS Zero Waste certification and scorecard from 2019. Future Zero Waste interns will implement new projects and policies to improve these scores through increasing the sustainability of various systems and programs.

Garden Interns: Theo Detweiler and Rosa Kirk-Davidoff

What does your internship entail, and what are some of the major projects and goals you’ve been working on this year?

Rosa: The main aspect of our internship right now is the maintenance of gardens. This includes pruning trees to correct their growth, weeding to clean up the beds, and harvesting plants. If you see red plastic sticks in the fruit trees outside of the Envi Center, they’re called limb spreaders, and they’re adjusting the branches of the trees to produce more fruit. The first vegetables are starting to come up in the garden, which is exciting to see. 

Theo: We’ve also been helping out with the community garden by starting seeds for people with plots and just acting as a resource for new gardeners.  We’ve been working closely with the Williams Sustainable Growers and helping with their speaker series of local gardeners. We spoke on a panel during Earth Week about our work on campus.

What are some of the goals you have for the future as garden interns?

Theo: Our next major project is getting chokeberries and other plants in the ground to replace some blueberry bushes that died a few years ago. We’ve been calling nurseries to find plants and we’ll be planting them in a plot behind the Environmental Center, near Goodrich House. We’ll also be harvesting asparagus and rhubarb soon and the strawberry plants and pear trees have just started blooming.

Rosa: I’m also going to be the Class Gardener for the Class of 2021, which means that for graduation, I’ll be planting ivy!

Photo credit: Nancy Macauley

Food Sustainability Interns: Mico Mendoza and Sofia Santos

What does your internship entail, and what are some of the major projects and goals you’ve been working on this year?

Mico: We have two main projects this year, the first being the Real Food Calculator. During our internship, we sorted purchasing data from 2020 from the dining hall, and this data goes through a calculator which assesses the sustainability of food purchases in terms of four categories.

Sofia: We’re also encouraging the college to sign on to the Cool Food Pledge, which is more focused on the carbon impact of food and encourages the college to focus on lower carbon emission and reducing food-related carbon emissions. We’ve compiled a paper encouraging the college to sign on to both of these frameworks to address the purchasing power of the institution. This paper compares the two in a few different areas and we’re going to be presenting this soon to the dining hall service. We’ve been looking to other forward-thinking institutions in a similar geographical area because they source foods from similar regions. We’ve also had calls with schools, such as the University of Pittsburgh, who have already signed onto these particular frameworks and we’ve done research on their websites to help us form a good goal for Williams.

What are some long term goals that students should look out for?

Mico: For the remaining weeks, we’re aiming to finish up our work with the Cool Food Pledge and the paper Sofia mentioned. For future food sustainability interns, it would be good to come up with comprehensive and specific strategies to translate data from the Real Food Calculator to actual improvements in the dining hall purchases, since that’s the key point of the calculator.

Sofia: There’s a lot of work that can be done with the calculator, and in the future, it might be good to think about how we can translate that to the greater student body and explain why it is important. In addition to encouraging the dining hall to shift purchases in a more sustainable direction, we can also make the student body more aware, since people care about where their food comes from and this awareness would put more pressure on the college to be more sustainable. Also, since this was such a strange year, it was hard to do educational campaigns beyond a virtual format, but I think that something that would be more effective are “food weeks” centered around food justice and maybe having food samplings, which would be a direct, fun connection to the work we do. We could also connect with farmer’s markets to support local vendors and have a stand where the food sustainability interns can lead an educational campaign on food justice!

The Sustainable Food interns sorted Williams’ data with the Real Food Calculator to assess the sustainability of food purchases. Future interns will work to translate this data into specific purchasing strategies.