Green is the New Black: Sustainability at Groton

How many times have you, rushing in the five minutes between classes, frantically tried to print your English paper due next period only to find that there is a printer jam? You then proceed to quadruple-click the print button in a vain attempt to see your paper slide out of the machine. You give up, defeated by this printer, and walk to class empty-handed. At the end of the day after some kind-hearted soul has fixed whatever problem was ailing the printer, the four copies of your paper plus every other failed printing endeavor begin to shoot out of the printer. And it all goes into the recycling bin.

Groton’s Recycling Center.  (T. Horvath ‘14)

Groton’s Recycling Center. (T. Horvath ‘14)

“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” We’ve all heard it before, and we’ve all ignored it before. But it is a real problem at Groton. When asked about the eco-friendliness of Groton on a scale of 1-10, Dr. Black flatly replied, “Five”. Both Dr. Black and Mr. Gemmell agree that the biggest failure of Groton concerning the environment is our consumption, and more specifically the recycling program. We use ridiculous amounts of paper due to unnecessary printing jobs, lights everywhere are needlessly left on, and we recycle a very small portion of our waste. Groton needs to consume less; it’s as simple as that.

We can start with something simple: turn off the lights. If you’re leaving your room, why should your lights be on? Be conscious of how much energy you are consuming but not using. Even worse, some lights are perpetually left on when they don’t need to be, especially at night. The lights in the Webb-Marshall Room, the student center, and the Schoolhouse are always on. This is a senseless waste of energy—if somebody needs the lights, he or she can flip a switch and turn them on. These lights do not need to be on all the time.

Something else everybody can help out with? Think before you print. Be smart. If it didn’t print the first time, chances are it’s not going to work if you just keep clicking the print button on your computer. Or that might not be your issue. Your problem may be that you insist on printing out an entire color PowerPoint for your notes. Really? You’re going to be that kid? Only print what is necessary. Not only is all the excess paper a waste of money, it’s also harming the environment.

Luckily, Groton has auspicious prospects. The new Schoolhouse addition promises to be extremely energy efficient. Any time there is an opportunity to save energy, the architects of the building design the addition so that it will be as ‘green’ as possible. The final decision has not been made yet, but geothermal heating is under serious consideration for the high-efficiency building. Geothermal heating has already been installed at the Headmaster’s House. These green successes are also spreading to faculty homes, where increased heat isolation means more energy efficiency. Buildings and Grounds has worked hard over the past seven to eight years for the central management of energy use and generally increasing the energy efficiency of Groton buildings. B&G is also installing a new composting system called an “earth tub”. Food waste from the dining hall will be composted, and the resulting material will be used in flower beds and gardens. Mr. Gemmell considers Groton ahead of other boarding schools “in terms of infrastructure,” but we need to work on managing waste and being more environmentally conscious. He suggests possibly having a “sustainablility coordinator” to help Groton manage its behavior.

Choate Rosemary Hall has installed more efficient windows and lighting, low flow bathroom units, motion sensors, and uses local food producers while composting its food waste. Choate has participated in the Green Cup Challenge since 2007; Choate also has something they call the “Hydro Cup”. Similar to the Green Cup Challenge which is an inter-school competition to cut energy usage, the Hydro Cup is an inter-dorm water conservation contest. Middlesex School has begun an impressive sustainability movement recently: their goal is to reduce the school’s carbon footprint by 20-30% of the next three years. In addition to having a community garden and an on-site composting program, Middlesex has switched from using oil to natural gas. While Groton is on the same path, we still have a long way to go. For instance, one year there was a group of a students who deliberately went around turning on lights during the Green Cup Challenge. Although not a serious, long-term solution to our consumption crisis, the Green Cup Challenge is a fantastic way to increase awareness of environmental issues and save on energy costs. The students make up the bulk of this school; we are the ones that have an effect.

If you take one thing away from this article, understand that we can make a difference. You make an impact on the environment. Think about it.

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