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Sustainability at Interlochen

RB Annis Botanical Lab

At Interlochen Center for the Arts, we are committed to doing our part to protect and preserve our environment. Over the past several years, we have taken strides to reduce our carbon footprint through a variety of sustainability initiatives.

R. B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden

Opened in 2017, our R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden provides a place for Interlochen students to learn about botany, agriculture, and ecology while providing fresh produce for the campus community. The complex currently features:

  • An 800-square-foot botanical laboratory/greenhouse powered by solar and heated with geothermal energy
  • An 800-square-foot hoop house
  • An 800-square-foot pavilion to be used as an Outdoor Educational Learning Classroom
  • Nine raised beds
  • A pollinator garden
  • A permaculture scape
  • A chicken coop
  • An aquaponics unit
  • A student-designed and installed fruit-yard featuring an orchard, brambles, and a vineyard
  • An educational apiary containing four beehives
  • An Outdoor Community Kitchen featuring a stone bread oven, preserving stations, cooking surfaces, counter space, and more
  • Two additional hoop houses for community gardening

Produce of Botanical Complex is served in Stone Cafeteria. In 2018, we harvested 538 pounds of produce (a $3,593 value) and 150 dozen eggs (a $600 value).

Employee Initiatives

Employees enjoy a complimentary meal during their shift which often features produce grown in the Botanical Complex. In 2018, Interlochen developed a Community Supported Agriculture partnership (CSA) with a local organic farm through which employees can receive a weekly selection of seasonal vegetables.

Recycling and Composting

Our recycling efforts include:

  • Updating to single-stream recycling
  • Curbside recycling pickup at over 15 locations across campus
  • Curbside composting pickup at 10 locations across campus and Stone Cafeteria
  • A student community service team focused on recycling
  • Encouraging the use of reusable water bottles by installing water bottle filling stations

With assistance from students in Interlochen Arts Academy’s Agricultural Science class, Interlochen has begun on-site composting efforts. The current system includes straw bale composting, pallet compost bins, tumbler composting, and vermicomposting. A 100-foot, campus-wide composting facility opened in June 2019 and has composted approximately 4-6 cubic yards of food waste each month since.

Water Conservation

In early 2018, Stone Cafeteria installed a new dishwashing system designed to reduce water usage by 660,000 gallons of water each year. Low-flow shower heads have been installed in all residence hall restrooms. All new and renovated facilities have been outfitted with low-flow toilets, sinks, and showers.

Volunteer Opportunities

The R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden are maintained by student, faculty, staff, and community volunteers, who have logged more than 2,000 volunteer hours since the site’s opening. If you want to know how you can get involved, contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Jennifer Richards, at

Sustainability Education

We offer courses in Ecology and Agricultural Science at Interlochen Arts Academy. Many students have also participated in our groundbreaking Art of Ecology course, an interdisciplinary program in which students use remedial art to increase the biodiversity of Interlochen’s red pine plantation. A dedicated course in Photographing Nature was offered by the Visual Arts division in spring 2019.

For adult learners, Interlochen has hosted more than 10 free agriculture and sustainability classes. Topics have included Gardening 101, Beekeeping, and Permaculture.


Interlochen’s R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden was funded by gifts from the R.B. Annis Foundation and the Allen Foundation.


The R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden has received the following designations:

Future projects

Thanks to the early success of our R. B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden, we are currently exploring expansions to the site. Current projects in development include:

  • A meditative labyrinth and creative art garden
  • An Interlochen Nature Preserve
Emily Umbarger

Emily Umbarger

Director of Sustainability, Instructor of Agricultural Science