School makes individual, administrative strides toward sustainability
Through changes in lighting, energy use, heating and equipment, the school has been making both short and long-term plans to become more sustainable, according to Director of Operations Jim Heynderickx.
Heynderickx said the most impactful environmental action was changing the electricity provider to ensure the school’s source is completely recycled and renewable resources through wind or solar.
Moreover, Heynderickx said many of the changes have been centered on replacing parts of the school that were built in 1971 without considering sustainability. Now, Heynderickx said they are tackling many aspects of renewing the school in a sustainable way, including a five-year project of getting rid of the older heating and cooling devices.
In addition, Heynderickx said the school strives to continue optimizing its use of power.
“Instead of using natural gas to heat the water, which we use to heat the air and have hot water for showers for facets, we’re tracking to see how soon we can get an electrical solution,” Heynderickx said.
Similarly, Facilities Manager Dean Evans said the administration is constantly thinking about future improvements in all aspects of the school.
“We’re looking at new designs for the next roof product,” Evans said. “Can we upgrade the plant equipment that’s up there and how can we incorporate enclosures and spaces up there that could house the new equipment.”
On a student level, Sustainability Council member Nathanial Seminara (’24) said the council has a wide variety of sustainability practices it aims to implement.
Seminara said the council has been split up into smaller groups focused on different types of action, including creating sustainable art with the Lower School and raising money to donate to a woodland conservation charity.
The school administration has actually done a really great job but the problem is, a lot of the students don’t actually know what’s going on.
— Nathaniel Seminara ('24)
Heynderickx said it is also important for the administration to meet with SusCo to garner new ideas and feedback around existing programs. He said they have semi-frequent meetings with the Council, who have given them recommendations about the energy dashboard, reforming the use of paper towels and minimizing the use of paper.
Seminara said a large goal of the Council this year has been to expose students to the sustainability initiatives implemented by the school.
“We have been communicating with the school administration about how to get the energy consumption of the school available to the broader student population, and this will take the form of, like, a student energy dashboard,” Seminara said.
The dashboard, which is planned to be available to students in late March, will demonstrate the school’s energy use and the impact that different internal initiatives have.
Seminara said the aim is to bridge the gap of communication between the administration and students while giving students a real-time opportunity to hold themselves accountable.
“The school administration has actually done a really great job but the problem is, a lot of the students don’t actually know what’s going on,” Seminara said. “We hope to fix that with the energy dashboard.
In addition, Evans said the dashboard will hopefully serve as a benchmark to evaluate different sectors of the school and display the energy consumption over time.
“For example, it gives you a baseline of how much paper you’ve consumed this year,” Evans said. “Then by us inputting the data and saying the next year, we will use less it shows you a very simple red or green arrow of how you’ve done year on year, month and month.”
Evans said the dashboard should also help the school community make more sustainable decisions.
“Those indicators are a lovely visual that we can share around as this develops,” Evans said. “To the future years, that’s maybe a reminder or an indicator of what people should and could be doing.”
When I read reports from U.K. schools, I feel lucky, because in some ways, even though our buildings were built in 1971, that’s a lot newer than a lot of U.K. schools and we’re a lot smaller than U.K. schools.
On a personal level, Seminara said there are many steps that students can take to reduce their energy waste.
“One thing is recycling, most people do not understand how recycling works and, like, where to go to put different bins that it’s crucial for plastics, like, you have to clean out your plastic stuff for it to work, or else,” Seminara said. “Lights as well, tell your teachers to turn off the projectors. The lights are optimized now but the projectors could make a big difference in the school’s energy.”
In the long term, Heynderickx said he hopes that options and ventures toward saving more power will soon become a reality.
“We did some research this year saying well, ‘How soon could we have our first electric school bus?’” Heynderickx said. “If we’re talking 10 or 15 years out, I’d like to think that the entire minibus fleet would be electric, and not doing any type of emissions in the same way.”
Overall, Heynderickx said he also sees the same trend in the school as a leading force in sustainability initiatives.
“When I read reports from U.K. schools, I feel lucky, because in some ways, even though our buildings were built in 1971, that’s a lot newer than a lot of U.K. schools and we’re a lot smaller than U.K. schools,” Heynderickx said. “It kind of allows us to spend more money on less infrastructure and a few buildings to make them as efficient as possible.”
Due to the school’s dedication towards taking the most environmentally friendly approach, Evans said they are “ ahead of the curve.” Yet, Evans said the problem is the school is also ahead of the technology in their planning.
“The government is saying you must get away from gas, but they’re not given the solution yet,” Evans said. “So, as soon as the companies and the technology catches up with that, then it’d be great to be one of the leaders to make that change.”