Phillips Exeter Academy Environmental Fellow and Students Speak About Ongoing Sustainability Efforts at the Academy

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), which represents 1,200 private schools in the United States, recently honored Phillips Exeter Andover (PEA) for an increase in its environmental sustainability. Exeter brought its environmental prowess beyond the boundaries of campus last Wednesday: a group of self-professed “tree hugger” Exeter students presented their accomplishments to the Andover community in CAMD. Environmental sustainability explores how the world can meet economic development, production, energy, and social organization needs without threatening the future. It first sparked interest in 2001 among Exeter faculty who were frustrated by lack of support for environmental projects. However, in the past five years, Exeter’s “green movement” has managed to include the school’s over 1,000 students and 200 faculty members involved in energy-saving and environmental sustainability efforts. These ventures include revamping its recycling program with color-coded bins around campus, serving local organic food in the dining halls, installing energy-saving light bulbs in dorm rooms and faculty offices, and drilling wells on campus. A condenser installed at the school’s heating station to reduce the required water supply resulted in the preservation of 1.5 million gallons of water, and saved the school $30,355. Exeter recently hosted the Green Cup Challenge, a month-long energy-saving competition against the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. As part of the challenge, Exeter replaced electric lighting with candles for a “Dinner in the Dark” in one of its dining halls. During the challenge, Exeter reduced its energy consumption by an additional 10.67%, saving $20,000 in just one month. PEA Environmental Education Fellow Jennifer Wilhelm has headed Exeter’s conservation plan. She also advises two of Exeter’s organizations: Environmental Action Committee and E-Proctors. The student-run EAC encourages environmental awareness and action through public demonstrations, speakers, movies, and a yearly Earth Festival. Each month, the Committee selects a new topic to focus on. They then sponsor different events, including a film series on environmental racism and a demonstration on the usage of a solar-powered oven to cook nachos. E-Proctors oversee recycling and conservation in dorms. The organization plans to form a board of students who will undergo a training program before school starts in the fall. Ms. Wilhelm also created the Environment Task Force, consisting of administrators, students, dining staff, custodians, and faculty. The Force meets monthly to discuss efforts around campus. The Task Force’s mission statement pledges a commitment to “value, protect, preserve, and replenish natural resources. While our actions are local, our reach is global…we must foster a culture of environmental awareness.” Exeter has brought environmental issues not only into clubs, but school courses as well. Seven new courses and three off-campus programs focusing on the environment were offered during the 2006-2007 school year. The departments offering the new courses include Biology, History, English, Physical Education, and Senior Studies. Catherine Wright ’06, Head of PA’s Eco-Action organization, hopes to use Exeter as a model for Andover’s future efforts.