Students, faculty reflect on sustainability, carbon neutrality efforts


Nick Zirinis

Members of the student body feel as if they have not seen significant efforts by the administration to improve sustainability. In response, faculty members reveal behind-the-scenes efforts to reduce the school’s carbon emissions.

Nick Zirinis and Antoine Warnery

In recent years, a growing global awareness of environmental issues has increased the public’s involvement with climate change protests and other forms of activism, per The Independent. Subsequently, increased discussion around climate change has prompted the community to call for change among themselves as well as demand action from the administration. 

For example, the Sustainability Council has made efforts to raise awareness about sustainability and the school’s impact on the environment when working with administration to draw up plans for carbon net-zero and hosting sustainability-themed activities for Earth Week.

Alex Demetris (’22), an AP Environmental Science student, said he has not seen the administration implement many significant sustainable changes. 

“I’ve been at the school for a while, for 14 years, and honestly, I haven’t seen much,” he said. “I’m sure there is work behind the scenes, but the only thing I’ve really seen is, like, a better recycling system.” 

According to an online survey conducted by The Standard June 8 to 13 with 131 student responses, 73.5% of respondents are unaware of any changes the school has made to reduce carbon emissions.

I’ve been at the school for a while, for 14 years, and honestly, I haven’t seen much.”

— Alex Demetris ('24)

Alexis Gerwe (’23) said she echoes this lack of awareness and, in regards to sustainability in the High School, few examples surface. 

“The first thing that comes to mind is the wood forks in the cafeteria instead of the plastic forks that we’re using for a while,” she said. “But other than that, nothing specifically comes to mind.”

Gerwe said the minimal action on part of the administration is upsetting as she thinks they “could definitely be doing more.” 

Further, Maya Mohktazardeh (’23) said while she has noticed SusCo’s efforts to host Earth Week, this work alone is “not enough” to combat the climate crisis and thus, the administration should take perceptible action. 

Even so, Facilities Manager Dean Evans said the school has been making serious efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, especially regarding its architecture. Evans said the main projects the school is currently working on are the construction of a new, more efficient heating and cooling system. 

In addition, Evans said the school plans to replace the current halogen lights with new LED lights, which he said “run out 25% of the consumption as the old lights that were taken out.” 

On a similar note, Director of Operations Jim Heynderickx said the school is adhering to sustainable standards by only hiring transport companies that meet certain carbon goals. 

The Euro 6 certification is the latest set of standards for car engines legislated by the European Commission, per Wilsons. Heynderickx said although the school hires buses from  private companies, they require companies to show proof of this certification. 

“Right now, we have a fleet of about 35 school buses that we hire,” he said. “We don’t own any the buses, they’re all private companies. But, all of them are Euro 6 compliant, which is a great reduction over Euro five in Europe.”

Heynderickx also said the transportation companies are looking to begin using electric vehicles. When considering carbon offsetting, he said these companies would rather buy electric vehicles because of the additional benefits they hold. 

They’re more excited about going to fully electric because that would have the dual effect of reducing the carbon footprint and improving the air quality.”

— Director of Operations Jim Heynderickx

“I think that they’re more excited about going to fully electric because that would have the dual effect of reducing the carbon footprint and improving the air quality,” he said.

Moreover, Evans said the entirety of the electricity the school purchases is renewable and has a Rigo certificate which indicates verification. 

Ultimately, Evans said the school is constantly looking to improve its current contracts with energy suppliers. He said despite changing contracts and possibly suppliers, the school will continue prioritizing renewable electricity. 

“We’re currently in a two-year contract, which is due to expire at the end of October this year,” he said. “We’re currently looking at the market as to what contract we’re gonna buy into next, but the one constant will be that it will still be a renewable electricity.”