Program going green with design

Kelsey Neubauer, Staff Writer

JEN RAMIREZ The Vermont Cynic
JEN RAMIREZ The Vermont Cynic

UVM is a place where students can explore their role in their ecosystem.

This is the goal of the ecological design collaboratory, according to their page on the UVM website.

“When you design things, how do you honor the ecology, the craftsmanship and the local skills involved?” senior lecturer and greenhouse director Walter Poleman said. “What we’re really about is place-based ecological literacy and design,”  he said

All of the design building materials will come from local sources, according to the website. “A lot of students  were interested in doing this,” he said. “I just sort of inherited it and galvanized it into a grant proposal that they really like.”

Poleman said that for one project, the wood was cut down in Shelburne Farms and the finished product – a canoe – will be brought down the Winooski River, right next to where the wood was from.

The idea for this project came from sophomore Patrick Coppinger, according to UVM’s communications website.

Local craftsman Tom Clarke, who is working on the canoe project with the students of the collaboratory, has been involved in woodworking since attending Paul Smith’s College 15 years ago.

“Seeing the shape of the canoe emerge from the wood ties [students] to the whole process, and gives them a sense of place,” he said.

Sophomore Ellen Thorne said that she has done a lot of canoeing, and thought it was interesting to work with the boat paddle. “It is really cool to put all your effort into building something and then get to use it,” Thorne said.

There are multiple programs to promote ecological engagement within the collaboratory,  junior James Biddle said.

“In the end, it’s about engaging the community, discovering ecology and gaining a better understanding of the world,” Coppinger said.

Poleman said that the collaboratory is about building an “ecological place”  at UVM. The ecological design collaboratory is funded by the Henry David Thoreau Foundation and the Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources at UVM , according to the ecological design collaboratory website.