Sustainability at Interlochen

Interlochen Center for the Arts has a sustainability vision focused on leaving the world a better place for tomorrow.

As an institution that sees itself as a change maker and leader in sustainability, we constantly strive to educate ourselves and our community. We do our utmost to promote the unique synergy that exists between artistic creation and stewardship of our natural world.

View our Climate Action Plan to learn more about the strategies to achieve our sustainability goals. 

Climate Action Plan

Sustainability Lecture Series

Enjoy one or several community classes focused on creative sustainability and exploration of nature. Our goal is to inspire adult learners to interact with our local environment in a positive way. We explore cooking, artistry, and ecology while providing an educational and exciting learning experience for all.

Learn More

Compost facility at Interlochen Center for the Arts


In 2019, we opened an onsite industrial compost facility which composts all pre- and post-consumer foods from Stone Cafeteria. The facility is managed in-house and utilizes food waste, woodchips, and leaf litter to create over 350 metric tons of compost annually. The greenhouse also features small scale composting including bins, a tumbler, and worm composting (vermicomposting).

Raised gardening beds at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Raised Beds

Our custom-designed raised beds ease the strain on gardeners’ backs while allowing us to cultivate excellent soil conditions, free from pest pressure from rabbits and other animals. Constantly in seasonal rotation, the raised beds embody a companion garden philosophy: each bed contains a variety of beneficial plants that work together to provide optimal growing conditions.

Beekeeping at Interlochen Center for the Arts


We host several beekeeping classes each summer at our onsite apiary, managed by Interlochen’s beekeepers. The honeybees provide an important pollination service to our community gardens while also serving as a vital teaching tool on the importance of pollinators in agriculture.

Aquaponics at Interlochen Center for the Arts


We operate a 500-gallon aquaponics system inside the greenhouse, growing both food and fish in a symbiotic relationship. The fish produce nitrogen and minerals that plants need to grow. Minimal water is used in this closed-loop system. Aquaponics is a sustainable food system for growing plants year round, even in winter temperatures.

Interlochen Arts Academy student holds a chicken at the Botanical Lab


We have chickens onsite that provide our community with fresh eggs and also an important nitrogen-rich source of compost manure. Interlochen Arts Academy students learn about chicken reproduction and anatomy in class and have the opportunity to raise chickens first hand.

One of the garden’s three hoop houses

Hoop Houses

Hoophouses are covered spaces that are heated through passive solar energy using the greenhouse effect. Interlochen’s hoop houses allow us to grow and harvest twelve months of the year—making them a special tool in northern Michigan, where our growing climate is normally only a few months long. We have three hoop houses on site and use each of them in regular crop rotations, paying careful attention to soil health, cover crops, crop varieties, and pest pressures.

Native perennials at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Native Pollinator Gardens

We have gardens full of native perennial plants to attract pollinators, which are beneficial to the local ecology and the crops we grow at Interlochen. We host a variety of native plants that provide nectar and pollen sources all spring, summer, and fall. These pollinator gardens are one way we support native habitats while growing food in our agricultural system.

Lakeshore restoration at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Lakeshore Restoration Project

The delicate area between the water and the land, known as the riparian zone, serves a vital role: it helps prevent erosion; filters stormwater runoff; and provides shelter, food, and mating habitat for native species. In concert with Fish and Wildlife Services, we have worked on restoring the lakeshore habitat along Green Lake. Students and volunteers joined our staff to plant dozens of native plants along this area.

Interlochen Arts Academy students build a fence for a new orchard


Our orchard space is home to dozens of fruiting trees, grape vines, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and much more. We are also in the early stages of designing an agricultural and educational space for our community to learn more about orchard species.

Milkweed garden at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Monarch & Blue Karner Butterfly Conservation Projects

Monarch butterfly populations are plummeting at a startling rate, and Blue Kamer butterflies are endangered. Both species suffer from the human impacts of habitat loss, host plant removal, and dangerous pesticides. We have designed habitats with host plants to attract mating butterflies to lay their eggs, food sources for their caterpillars, and ample nectar sources for the adults.

grey dove oyster mushrooms


In collaboration with a local mushroom grower, we utilize spent mushroom blocks to compost organic material while also growing the remaining spores onsite at the mushroom garden.

Sustainability by the numbers


lbs. of fresh, organic produce harvested for Interlochen Center for the Arts cafeterias in 2022


gallons of water saved each year with energy-efficient dishwashing systems


plastic bottles saved by using WaterSense bottle refill stations throughout campus

Water Bottle Filling Stations

We provide several WaterSense water bottle filling stations throughout campus to lower our plastic waste. View our map to find one near you. 

View Map

Interlochen Arts Camp students kayak and sail on Green Lake
Fun with Focaccia Learning in the Garden at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Learning and Engagement

Interlochen Center for the Arts is committed to stewarding the environment to the best of our ability. As we continue to act on that responsibility, we also commit ourselves to sharing this passion with others. In doing so, we ensure that our care for the environment doesn’t stop with us. As leaders and change makers in the sustainability field, we inspire our community—and the next generation—to see just how much we all depend on the natural world. Every positive action we take will create a better future for us all.

Students compost at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Sustainable Operations

With an organization of Interlochen’s size, it’s important that we see all of our operations—the things we do on a daily basis to stay running—as opportunities to steward what’s been given to us. By 2028, we will ensure that our land use, transportation options, dining services, waste management, and purchasing all occur in a way that protects and preserves our environment. We support our artistic and cultural mission by making it sustainable for years to come.

Solar panels at Interlochen Center for the Arts' Botanical Lab

Buildings and Energy

Interlochen’s buildings are a visual and functional reminder of everything we stand for. As we continue to make room for our growing creative community, it’s important to consider the impact each of our buildings has on the environment. Creating guidelines for construction, electrical use, and emissions help ensure that Interlochen enters its centennial with the tools to last for another century.

Volunteer with Interlochen’s Sustainability Department

We are pleased to offer a variety of volunteer opportunities including work at our pollinator gardens, hoop houses, lakeshore restoration sites, and other vital areas on campus. There are tasks available for every ability, and you can sign up for a time shift that works for your schedule. If you are interested in helping, please fill out the Volunteer Form.

Volunteer Form

Sustainability volunteers at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Our Staff

Interlochen’s Sustainability staff come from diverse backgrounds in aquatics, agriculture, education, and more. As caretakers of the R. B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden, they ensure that all of Interlochen’s Sustainability initiatives run smoothly and serve as vital links between the organization and the local community.

Emily Umbarger

Emily Umbarger

Director of Sustainability, Instructor of Agricultural Science

Dylan Kulik

Dylan Kulik

Assistant Director of Sustainability, Farm Manager

Brooke DeVault

Brooke DeVault

Sustainability Ecologist

Adam Olson

Adam Olson

Sustainability Engineer, Compost Manager

Jimi Alpers

Jimi Alpers

Sustainability Foreman

Our Grant Funding Partners

  • Allen Foundation
  • R.B. Annis Foundation
  • American Heart Association
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Michigan Association of Environmental Professionals (MAEP)
  • Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • High Mowing Seeds

Community Supported Agriculture

Each summer, Interlochen’s Sustainability Department partners with MI Farm Cooperative to make Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm shares available to our local community. Enjoy weekly boxes of produce from area farms, including fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, eggs, and more. Our Summer 2023 share runs Wednesday, June 14 through Wednesday, Sept. 27. 

Sign up for CSA

Interlochen Center for the Arts tomatoes

Our Community Partnerships

  • Northwest Education Services
  • Northwestern Michigan College
  • Redeemer of Interlochen Food Pantry
  • Westwoods Elementary School
  • Great Lakes Incubator Farm
  • Munson Family Practice
  • Grand Traverse Conservation District

Sustainability stories at Interlochen

Film & New Media students watch the eclipse at a Greenacres farm
Exploration and evolution: Greenacres documentary begins production in northern Michigan and beyond

Project Manager Claire Collins shares an update on Interlochen Arts Academy’s documentary on regenerative agriculture.

Claire Collins, Nathan Buck, and Lydia Hicks
Meet the Greenacres documentary team

Three new Film & New Media instructors will teach classes and guide students as they partner with the Greenacres Foundation to create a feature-length documentary on regenerative agriculture practices.

A man in a blue shirt stands in front of a large industrial oven and smiles.
Director of Dining Services Paul Hickman brings energy, fresh options to Interlochen’s cafeteria

Hickman plans to start a bowl station, incorporate student recipes, and bring in additional international cuisine.