Campus – and beyond – as lab

There are abundant opportunities to use the physical campus as a laboratory, as evidenced by this link from Sustainability at Princeton, and this link, also there, suggesting research questions. Among them, and inspired by them:

How can we use the arts and the humanities to build community of the table? In turn, how can the community of the table drive the science crucial to the future of humanity and Earth?

If the humanities offer insights into people’s motives—why different people do what they do and think what they think—then how might we put history, for example, to work to understand the embrace or rejection of (or indifference to) Princeton’s initiatives on food, energy, waste, transportation – and the intersection of those complex systems?

What populations of pollinators and other beneficial insects exist in the vicinity and what are their relative impacts on plant populations?

What’s the best mode of transportation for students from campus to agricultural projects under consideration for development along Washington Road?

Looking first at Dining Services, the most immediate connection: How can the university effectively encourage sustainable food choices? What knowledge, what principles, what basic understanding, what decision-making framework, what attention to detail must be in place, individually and in society, to make those food choices the default?

What factors cause wasted food on campus?

How can your dining hall or eating club achieve zero waste?

Why are there leftovers in sufficient quantities to demand donation?

Then there are opportunities to partner with businesses around town for research during off-peak hours.

In the NJ food shed, several artisan practitioners are exploring the possibility of research projects and/or internships, including

• Scott Anderson, owner of Elements and Mistral and protege of James Beard Award Winner and Science, Society & Dinner lecturer Craig Shelton;
• Jim Nawn, owner of Great Road Farm and three farm-to-table restaurants in Princeton – two in partnership with the university;
• Jon and Robin McConaughy of Brick Farm, with agriculture, market and restaurants – they want to create a closed-loop system with an institution in town and their enterprises;
• Jonathan and Nina White of Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, where students can intern and learn how to build carbon in the soil, make award-winning cheeses and breads with locally grown heirloom grains;
• Liz Lempert, mayor of Princeton, is leading a Bloomberg Mayor’s grant in an effort to divert residents’ food waste to a compost program rather than the landfill; and,
• Adrian Hyde, executive director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association in New Jersey, a nonprofit that nurtures food-centered entrepreneurship.