This past year, Erik Nadeau ’14, founder of the Groton Green Zebra Campaign, had the privilege to witness the construction of the most energy-efficient building in New Hampshire. Hollis Montessori School needed to expand in a way proportional to their growing student body. The solution was to purchase a former church, renovate the original building and construct an additional one.
The new building became a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient facility that was completed in 2012. Erik, a native of Hollis, was present as the firm Windy Hill Associates built the campus from the ground up. The building met the Passive House standard for environmentally-friendly construction, originating from Germany in the 1990s. A Passive House relies on passive solar gain and insulation for heating. This holds true for the heavily insulated walls, foundation, and roofs of Hollis Montessori School. Triple-pane windows let in as much light as possible, and vacancy sensors help to reduce electricity usage. The ventilation system circulates fresh, climate-controlled air throughout the school. This green approach was more cost-efficient, with a long durability and
exceptional energy performance. Hollis Montessori School’s new building also provided an opportunity to educate students about redu
cing their impact on the environment. The monitoring systems were accessible to kids and helped teach them about operational energy usage. Erik thought it was an “innovative and great idea” and was so inspired that he wanted to make a change at Groton.
A few years ago, Groton participated in a program designed by Phillips Exeter Academy called the Green Cup Challenge. We competed against many other schools to reduce our environmental impact. The year Groton took part in the competition, it was a bit of a failure. It was hard for Groton to find a good way to document usage and improvements. Our sustainability did not match up to the other, more efficient schools. Energy usage was still much higher than
it should have been, especially in the dorms. There was very little community involvement and even opposition to the project. At night, groups of students would run around turning on as many lights as possible. But many
people have high hopes for Erik’s idea. Craig Gemmell said, “Cynicism did drive some kids to behave poorly, but I think we are a different school now, and these issues are far more on the minds of many.” Already Erik has worked much harder on the Groton Green Zebra Campaign than the school did for the Green Cup Challenge, and students are showing an interest in ways to help reduce Groton’s impact on the environment.
Erik has always been fascinated by sustainability and has participated in student-run groups for years. At his old public high school, Erik founded the Student Sustainable Energy Team, of which he is currently the president. The group’s website states that they “work as a team to learn about sustainable living and participate in projects involving sustainable energy concepts, technologies, and innovations.” This group of highly spirited students works hard to promote awareness of energy conservation throughout the community, and Erik became determined to bring this consciousness to the Circle. He decided to take two courses at Harvard this past summer to attain skills necessary to start a campaign. The first course that he took was “Global Climate Change: The Science, Social Impact, and Diplomacy of a World Environmental Crisis.” This was taught by Dr. Timothy C. Weiskel from Harvard and Dr. William R. Moomaw from Tufts University; the latter has received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Erik also took “Catalyzing Change: Sustainability Leadership for the 21st Century” with Professor Leith Sharp and Dr. John Spengler, both from Harvard. In this seven week long course, Erik was challenged to create a sustainability initiative. He modeled it for Groton and, over the next few weeks, Erik worked out all of the logistics for starting the Groton Green Zebra Campaign. He teamed up with the artist Fred Czaja, a close family friend, to design a visual representation for the project, and out emerged the green zebra.
The concept of the zebra was born from the idea of having a meter to measure success in the campaign. The stripes on the zebra are removable, and soon they will be taken off for the school to earn back. In order to do this, students will participate in challenges among dorms and have fun events centered on awareness and conservation. Erik has been organizing the campaign during his FSA this fall. He has been figuring out the execution of reducing Groton’s environmental impact and hopes to have all of the details settled by the fast-approaching end of fall term. Erik, along with Wyatt Prill ’14, Lucie Oken ’14, and Evan Long ’14 will be taking a tutorial this winter taught by Dr. Black and Mr. Gemmell called “Sustainable Energy and Real-World Construction Applications.” In this tutorial, Erik and his classmates will create a report that highlights the necessity for sustainability and provides suggestions for improvements in our community. It will include ideas on recycling, energy use, land use, and water use and will all tie into the Groton Green Zebra Campaign.
As Erik learned over the summer, there are three points in making a big change in a community: awakening, pioneering, and transformation. According to Erik, Groton is currently in the first stage. Roll call announcements, the zebra sign, and little laminated cards by light switches all play a part in getting the word out. People need to know what the Groton Green Zebra Campaign is before we can even think about making any major modifications. Once the news spreads, it is time to blaze a trail towards a more efficient future. Students can take charge by changing the way they go about their daily lives. Small actions like turning out the lights in a vacant room will eventually lead to larger changes in the students’ behavior, like reusing plastic water bottles or taking shorter showers. Erik has designed competitive challenges for the school, and each one completed will be rewarded with another returned stripe. These small advances will lead to permanent changes in the Groton community.
As Erik is discovering, however, organizing and running an all-school initiative is not easy. Although he has been met with quite a lot of support, there are still many challenges. The biggest one is involvement. He is trying to spark interest in the student body, but he is not sure if students will be on board with this plan. So far, there have been a few instances where not all reactions have been friendly. Erik said that he has come to school on a few occasions only to see that the green zebra’s stripes had been tampered with. This leads him to question whether students will advocate this campaign or not. Nevertheless, there has not been much opposition, so the project seems to be headed for success.
Already we are taking more lasting measures to make Groton a more efficient campus. A thoughtful and creative team has been hired to design the new Schoolhouse addition that is to be completed in the fall of 2015. They are considering many innovative ways to improve our sustainability. The building and windows are to be heavily insulated. Geothermal energy is currently been considered as a source of heating for the new addition. Other ways of reducing electricity use are high efficiency light fixtures with daylight sensors that will only be used when the sunlight filtering in is insufficient. Erik’s campaign and the new renovation are just the beginning of various changes to become a more environmentally conscious Circle. As Mr. Gemmell puts it, “the Schoolhouse with addition will be a vastly more efficient building than the present Schoolhouse.”