WRC Commissioners Visit Rich Earth Institute, Windham County SWMD

On November 15, 2018, the WRC's Energy and Natural Resources Committees attended a field trip to the Brattleboro-based Rich Earth Institute (REI), and the Windham County Solid Waste Management District (WCSWMD). The theme of the trip was energy-efficiency, resource recovery, and closed-loop systems, or sustainable processes that intentionally convert "waste" products into resources. This field trip was especially relevant to the Committees following the approval of the Windham Regional Energy Plan, which contains policies that encourage resource-conscious practices and industries.

With its depot located on Old Ferry Rd in Brattleboro, "The Rich Earth Institute engages in research, education and technological innovation to advance the use of human waste as a resource." Co-founders Kim Nace and Abe Noe-Hays showed the attending Commissioners how the REI collects and processes diverted urine from local donors, turning human waste into fertilizer for local farms. This process not only removes a profoundly impactful volume of waste from entering into our waste-management infrastructure (like septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities), but also provides local farms with an alternative to purchasing synthetic fertilizers for their crops.

Immediately following a tour of their facility, the Commissioners then visited the municipal composting operation and 5MW net metered solar installation on top of the capped landfill. District Manager Bob Spencer explained how the commercial composting operation works, and the amount of "waste" (in the form of residential and commercial food scraps, cardboard, yard waste, etc.), that is turned into value-added compost available for purchase. The Commissioners then walked through the relatively-new solar installation, discussing the details of how that renewable energy contributes to grid dynamics. The group ended the trip with a discussion of the potential for an anaerobic digester, which would link energy generation with the commercial composting facility. In this process, organic materials are decomposed in the absence of oxygen, thereby creating biogas to be combusted and turned into energy.

This one field trip is part of a larger effort and collaboration between WRC staff and Commissioners to be better rooted in the context of the Windham Region; where we explore local opportunities, project momentum, burgeoning technologies, and all the associated impacts on regional planning. Both Committees hope to resume a series of field trips to local areas of interest in spring/summer 2019.

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at WRC.


Last Updated: 07 January 2021
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