On a beautiful Columbus Day, Concord Academy welcomed students and staff from seven local schools to the first ever Green Our Schools Conference. For many of the attendees, this would be a day full of workshops and discussion to try to solve the challenges facing environmental groups in schools. For me, this was the culmination of dozens of emails, several meetings, and many weeks of planning in order to organize the symposium.
Over the summer, I met Henry Zhou, a senior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, and Sophie Purdom, a freshman at Brown University and recent graduate from Acton-Boxborough, both whom had led AB’s SustainABility initiative to cut waste production and energy use in their school. As one of the newly elected co-heads of Environmental Affairs at Concord Academy, I was eager to learn from their experiences. While we shared the progress our respective schools have made in sustainability and environmental awareness, we realized that we all had the drive and desire to bring other motivated students together who also want to find an answer to this problem.
By becoming more energy- and waste-conscious, we agreed, schools can help the next generation reduce its environmental impact. Environmental education is an essential part of every school experience because schools have the unique opportunity to affect the habits and outlook of students at a critical point in their lives. Fortunately, many schools in our area have implemented great programs to accomplish this goal; by bringing together students, teachers, and environmental activists for discussion, we hoped we could all learn from each other’s successes, challenges, and experiences.
And so the Green Our Schools Conference was born. We set a date, ensured we could hold the Conference at CA, and began to find speakers, workshop leaders, and interested attendees. Our efforts resulted in a schedule with seven different classes, twelve different speakers, and a small but committed group of local leaders.
The program began with presentations from five of the seven schools in attendance, including an introduction to Concord Academy’s environmental initiatives given by co-head of Environmental Affairs, Phoebe Chatfield ’14. We then progressed through several engaging workshops that pinpointed different issues in sustainability, from the role of government in green business to the mechanics of on-site composting. After continuing conversation over a locally grown lunch, we concluded with a discussion led by State Senator Jamie Eldridge, a leader in environmental legislation.
Throughout the day, I not only had the opportunity to share my own experiences, I became inspired to try some of the ideas introduced by others. As a student from Lincoln-Sudbury described the Earth Day celebrations his group began, I wanted to plan an Earth Week of CA’s own. As Kate Crosby, Acton-Boxborough’s energy advisor, taught us about phantom energy loss and power sources, I realized that making a difference can be as easy as unplugging a disused appliance.
The Green Our Schools Conference, for me and, hopefully, for the rest of the participants, was a success. Thanks to the effort and time of many people at CA and elsewhere, we were able to create an event that sparked ideas and motivated a movement. I know I will see its value as I continue with ideas and projects which began at the Conference, and I know that the Conference will be even better next year.
Click here for photos of the event taken by Sue Salem P '14.