Nicole Harman and Rob Dunn aboth won prestigious scholarships from the Morris K. Udall and Stuart L. Udall Foundation.
Nicole Harman and Rob Dunn are both REED majors from northern New England who are passionate about sustainability. They have at least one other thing in common—both won prestigious scholarships from the Morris K. Udall and Stuart L. Udall Foundation.
Each spring the Foundation, named after the late Arizona congressman Morris Udall and his brother Stewart, selects 50 college students from around the country as Udall Scholars, providing up to $5000 in funding for each of their future academic endeavors. Two of the 2015 winners are from GMC. The 2015 class of scholars was selected from 464 candidates from colleges and universities across the country.
Last year, both students participated in the design and construction of OTIS (Optimal Traveling Independent Space), a 70 square-foot, pod-shaped “living system” that can be towed on a standard 5 X 8-foot trailer. “Right after we completed the project I signed a lease agreement with Bill Osborne on the Deane Preserve. He allowed me to build my own tiny house there and live in it until I graduate,” said Rob, a Henniker, N.H. native.
Borrowing from design principles he learned in his REED classes with prof. Lucas Brown, he built the structure with future inhabitants in mind (he is required to leave the house behind when he graduates). “I designed it around simplicity, ease of build and sourcing from environmentally-friendly materials,” he said.
Prior to moving, Rob made several efforts to give away or sell many of his possessions—clothes, tools, and miscellaneous items. “It was hard at first, but after the second or third ‘purge’ it got a lot easier to figure out what I really needed and what minimalism really felt like.”
Nicole is also dedicated to making her ecological footprint as light as possible. Like Rob, she worked on the OTIS project—her role was developing a design for human waste disposal (OTIS is equipped with a composting toilet). Between July 2013 and July 2014, she pledged not to buy anything she judged was not essential to her survival and live a “zero-free waste” life.
To make the lessons tangible, she also pledged to carry any waste with her that was not recyclable or compostable, and recorded her progress on her blog “Dash the Trash.” She ended up with a bag “about half the size of a bathroom garbage can. (She still has the bag in her room at GMC as a reminder of her odyssey).
In her latest project, Nicole completed an independent study with GMC sustainability director Aaron Witham on the policy, economics and psychology behind consumption and waste disposal habits. Her activities included a service-learning project educating Poultney resident on Vermont’s new Universal Recycling Law (Act 148), which bans recyclable and organic matter from landfills by 2020. “There’s a lot of uncertainly about how the law will be enforced so my goal was to find ways to incentivize compliance—like encouraging people to compost their leaf litter and food scraps.” Her efforts got her connected with Bryn Oakleaf, a planning and policy professional in the state’s Agency of Natural Resources. “Every municipality will be required to administer a survey to residents like the one I designed for Poultney,” said Nicole. “I’ve been working with the ANR, starting last summer—it’s been awesome experience and made me extremely interested in pursuing policy as a career.”