WMS Sustainability Report 2013

We’ve made some amazing strides in the field of sustainability this year and have a lot more planned for the year to come!
by Lizzie Aldrich
Chair of the Sustainability Studies Department

Academic Activities

This year was the first year that the new sustainability academic requirements were implemented.  These new requirements consist of infusing sustainability into one course that is taught at each grade level, in addition to continuing the regular sustainability course offerings. The courses that were chosen for sustainability designation at each grade level are the following:Biology for 9th grade, World History II: Revolutions and Globalization at the 10th grade level, American Literature for 11th grade, and a sustainability elective for 12th.   While I realize that not all students take these courses at the designated grade level, these courses will most likely be taken by WMS students at some point in their career here.The idea behind the new requirement is that during each year at WMS, students are exposed to sustainability through at least one course so that they cannot wait until their senior year to be introduced to the tenets to which the school ascribes.  Each course designated as a sustainability elective or one that has sustainability infused into it must have at least two assignments each semester that are sustainability-focused. The White Mountain School (WMS) website and all printed material were updated with these changes.

In order to prepare faculty for these new requirements, I gave a seminar to all teachers explaining how sustainability can be viewed through the lens of the economy, environment, or social equity.  Using the Shelburne Farms Sustainable Schools Project materials, I explained the twelve big ideas of sustainability which range from community to place and long-term effects.  Using these twelve big ideas, teachers were able to use guiding questions to see if and how sustainability can be incorporated into their curricula.  I also gave teachers a curricular example of sustainability in each major discipline.

In order to ensure that courses had the requisite component of sustainability, I met with all teachers of sustainability-related courses at the start of the year to discuss their plans for incorporation of sustainability in the class.  Then, I enjoyed observing at least one class from each of the teachers involved.  It was exciting to see how concepts like species extinction are taught in biology, while the ethical and economic dimensions are discussed in the sustainability elective Writing and the Environment through an analysis of an essay on the extinction of giant pandas in China.  In Climate and Energy, students learn the scientific underpinnings of how greenhouse gases cause the global temperatures to increase while in Religion and the Environment, they research faith-based organizations that are tackling the issue of climate change through the 350.org website.The interdisciplinary nature of the environmental problems we face makes this type of multi-faceted analysis particularly important and prepares WMS students to understand and tackle complex and layered global challenges.

Also, the school’s National Honors Society members participated in the Littleton Cleanup day where students picked up trash along the side of a stretch of road.Other community service projects throughout the year involved trail maintenance, river cleanups, and gardening at the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network, the Rocks Estate, Bretzfelder Park, the Burch House, and the Colonial Theater.  Students also served those unable to provide meals for themselves at the Good Neighbor Food Pantry and the Dinner Bell through the All Saints Episcopal Church in Littleton.

This year the school had a strong group of sustainability-related field courses in the fall and spring that deserve mention. The field courses that related to sustainability included the following:

  • Green Living in the Urban World: Sustainability and Service in Montreal
  • Community Service in the Dominican Republic
  • Helping Others: Community Service in New England
  • Winter Photography in The White Mountains
  • Desert Ecology and Rock Climbing in Arizona
  • Poverty, Homelessness, and Hunger: Meeting People’s Basic Needs
  • A Walk in Thoreau’s Shoes
  • Farm to Plate:  Local Food
  • Hydropower and Recreation: Explorations in Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking
  • A Watershed Study of the Connecticut River: Canoeing the CT Paddler’s Trail
Club Activities
The Sustainability Club had another strong year.It was kicked off by a barbeque at Edge House and capped with a bonfire, s’mores, and swimming at the pond during Spring Celebration weekend. We also had a few fun gatherings to watch documentaries like “Addicted to Plastic” and Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax.”In between these events, the Club took a trip with 14 students to the annual “Connecting for Change” Bioneers by the Bay conference in New Bedford in the fall.The Club also participated again in the Green Cup Challenge in January and February.While we did not win the Northeastern boarding school category again this year, we did reduce our consumption 2% below the average consumption over the last three Februarys.With the help of E.E. Ford Scholar, Max Horowitz, the Club hosted a bake sale and basketball tournament fundraiser in March for Bolivian water filters and raised $350.Katie Wolfe, the Club’s president this year, spent her previous summer making these filters in Bolivia and saw first-hand the effects of not having access to clean water.The Club hosted an Earth Day recycled art workshop that was spearheaded by one of our E.E. Ford scholars, Sam Conant.Using only recycled items or items from the natural world like sticks, bark, and stones, about 12 students, faculty, and faculty children designed pieces that they showed at morning meeting to the school.When students were cleaning out their dorm rooms, the Club organized a hazardous waste pickup in each dorm and the main building for day students and faculty.The Club educated students about items like batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs that contain mercury, nail polish, and household cleaners like 409 that cannot be put in the landfill and helped collect these.They also drafted a letter to Casella, operators of our local landfill, thanking the company for the free hazardous waste disposal that they allowed for our school.We hope to make this collection an annual activity as the day when hazardous waste can be brought to the landfill is annually in June.  The Club also gathered old cell phones and donated them through Verizon to victims of domestic abuse. At the end of the year, we had the founder from Cider Hill Farm in Massachusetts visit the Club and discuss organic farming. Ally Scholtz, a Club member and E.E. Ford scholar, works during the summers at Cider Hill Farm and has the founder as a mentor.
This year’s Jack Cook Sustainability Prize went to Teresa Scalley, a sophomore and new member of the Sustainability Club, who showed consistent and enthusiastic support for all of the Club’s activities throughout the year.  She brought her own baked goods from home for the bake sale, offered her family’s firewood for our bonfire, and created a handbag out of wrappers for the Earth Day art event. Her level of support is especially commendable given that she is a day student and must make a special effort to be at school for weekend and evening events. I look forward to seeing the change that this individual will make in the coming years at WMS as she still has two more years here.
Facilities Activities
I convened a group of sustainability directors from seven boarding and day schools in the area, including St. Paul’s, Holderness, Sant Bani’s, New Hampton, St. Johnsbury Academy and Proctor  to meet at the central location of Holderness in January.  I invited each school to introduce its sustainability initiatives and programs and discuss its greatest challenges. The meeting was a success as this group had never before been convened and directors learned much about how sustainability is approached and the resources afforded to it at each school.  I hope to repeat the meeting annually.

This year, I assisted Karen Foss, the Director of Finance and Operations, and Tim Breen, Head of School, with the process of soliciting bids for a large solar array and a geothermal heat pump system for the new Houghton Arts Center.  This process is complex due to the exciting number of rebates and tax credits available for these systems.  However, as a non-profit, WMS is not eligible for all of these tax credits, and the rebates are not always easy to take advantage of either.  Also, I evaluated a grant opportunity for the geothermal heat pump. 

A goal for next year is to have a live stream website that shows the amount of solar energy produced by the solar array on the new Houghton Arts Center.Currently, the solar arrays that we have on the Steele Science Center and the Annex of McLane are not capable of providing this real-time data.However, with the installation of a significantly larger and more modern array, we should be able to show how many kWh of energy are produced daily and show a running total of metric tons of carbon dioxide saved.  This website could also feature some of the advanced energy efficiency measures of the Houghton Arts Center such as a building shell that has an R-value that is much higher than current building codes, windows that have extra glazing that decreases their U-value, and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. We hope to also include on this website the amount of money and carbon dioxide saved from the wood pellet system each year. 

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