Year of Sustainability

Spearheaded by the faculty Sustainability Committee, a series of programs/presentations/initiatives were coordinated in the 2012-2013 school year to raise community awareness and understanding about a range of issues related to population growth, land and water use, global energy supply and demand, food production, biodiversity, climate change and global warming. These efforts coincided with the school's construction of new athletic and performing arts centers built to meet LEED Silver specifications.

This focus sprung from the realization that several sectors of the school were undertaking a range of projects — from the kitchen's herb garden to Mr. Dee's bee colonies; from student recycling to Mr. Knispel's conversion of used kitchen oil to biodiesel fuel; from our new construction which is LEEDS certified to Mr. Wagner's class on urban planning and design. The Faculty Sustainability Committee and the administration decided to coordinate these efforts and be more intentional about future undertakings. The year of sustainability represented a community-wide reboot.

A summary of the 2012-2013 efforts appears below. Beyond 2012-2013, the committee has begun a formal, five-year strategic planning process to help guide the school's future sustainability initiatives. 

Curt-Ellis.jpgA SERIES OF MORNING ASSEMBLIES for all students and most of the faculty were organized:

  • Aug 30 — Documentary filmmaker Curt Ellis spoke to students about his work to connect kids to healthful eating habits. Ellis, whose credits include King CornThe Greening of SouthieBig River and Truck Farm, is co-founder and executive director of FoodCorps, a national service organization which he describes as "a Peace Corps for healthy eating." He is an advocate for sustainable agriculture and healthful food. Click HERE for a summary of his presentation.
  • Sept 10 — Biotechnologist Travis Frey discussed the efficiencies and challenges of modern agriculture as well as his company's commitment to sustainable yield. Dr. Frey is the Genome Wide Genotyping and Platform Innovation lead at Monsanto. Click HERE for a summary of his presentation.
  • Sept 24 — History teacher Christopher Hinshaw provided an historical summary about human life prior to the industrial age and the effects and impacts of oil and coal on the development of modern civilization; the challenges that face us; and the opportunities that are available. Mr. Hinshaw was the faculty coordinator for the year of sustainability. Click HERE for a summary of Mr. Hinshaw's presentation.
  • Oct —Throughout the month of October, students shared a series of energy facts along with questions for thought. Example: Forty-six percent of U.S. electricity comes from coal plants. The government could impose penalties on these power plants for carbon emission, but doing so would raise the price of electricity for consumers. How would such a policy affect businesses, employment, the cost of products, and the environment?
  • Oct 22 — Wildlife advocates Belinda Mackey (executive director) and Peter Lalampaa (senior manager) spoke to assembly about their work with the Grevy's Zebra Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving the endangered Grevy's zebra. Click HERE for a summary of their presentation.
  • Nov 19 — History teachers Mark Nicholas and Jamie Wagner discussed the industrialized world's dependence on energy, the fact that all sources — renewable and nonrenewable — are finite and the resulting inevitability that we will all have to exercise discretionary consumer consumption. Click here for a summary of their presentation.
  • Jan 14 — Biologist Scott Deken addressed the impact of population, affluence and technology on the environment. Dr. Deken is principal of grades 9&10 and a member of the science faculty. Click HERE for a summary of his presentation.
  • Feb 4 — Architects Tim Rowbottom and Todd Bundren spoke to students about the ongoing construction projects at Burroughs which will seek LEED Silver certification. Rowbottom is the lead architect from the Lawrence Group, which designed the new athletic center, new performing arts center, renovated Commons and expanded Quadrangle. Bundren is the Lawrence Group's director of sustainability. Click HERE for a summary of their presentation.
  • Apr 15 — Members of the AP Environmental Science class presented an array of sustainable solutions. Their teacher, Beth Waterman, set the stage:  "As you are all well aware, this school year has prioritized sustainability. ... Today, instead of focusing on the problems, we are going to address some of the innovative solutions that are helping us become more sustainable. I would like to start by focusing on what sustainability is. In AP Environmental Science we call it the 'Triple Bottom Line' — the overlap of being environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially equitable." Click HERE for a summary of the class presentation.
  • May 6 — Director of Academics Jill Donovan showed a 12-minute video in which five dozen faculty shared their thoughts, concerns, suggestions, etc. about sustainability. Click HERE to view the video.

GreenBusWEB_022_0812.jpgThese assemblies were complemented by OTHER VISITORS TO CAMPUS, including:

  • a group of students from Dartmouth who are driving their Green Bus across the country to raise awareness about sustainability and environmental issues,
  • an alum who is the director of sustainability for the City of St. Louis,
  • an alum who has worked with permaculture in Asia and
  • a local organic farmer.

IN ADDITION TO PROGRAMS FOR STUDENTS, the faculty committee sponsored and/or facilitated:

  • screenings of two films — King Corn (which examines the role that the increasing production of corn has had for American society and the industrialization of the North American food system) and Crude Awakening (which explores 'peak oil' and the implications of cheap oil) — for faculty, parents and alumni,
  • a book discussion of Why Your World Is About to Become a Whole Lot Smaller,
  • a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program for faculty and staff (Members of CSAs purchase a subscription at the beginning of the season which helps pay for a farm’s operating expenses, in turn, receiving a weekly share of the farm’s harvest.),
  • the renovation of the school's main greenhouse, which is now used by the gardening class,
  • a significant reduction in the use of plastic water bottles at school functions and
  • presentations for the Board of Trustees, Parents Council and Alumni Board. (The May 2013 Annual Dinner & Auction adopted "sustainability" for its theme, which was evident in everything from decor to auction items to the locally produced food served for dinner.)