Every day students walk by the “Groton Goes Green” board in the Schoolhouse, reinforcing the intended subliminal message each and every time. Most hardly question its content, and with the announcement of an upcoming more “environmentally friendly” STEM building, the school’s message of a greener future, with lower and more sustainable energy consumption, has been paraded around. But the question must be asked: how green has Groton really become? Although many students do not see many substantial changes in the school’s policy, the work behind the scenes is pointing in the right direction.
For one, the construction of the new STEM building will far surpass any existing school structure in terms of energy conservation. Indeed, the architectural designs of the new building fulfill the requirements for a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating. This certification requires “high-efficiency lighting, insulation, thoughtful selection of building materials, paints, [et al.]” but most importantly, it requires “heating and cooling by geothermal energy,” to quote Mr. Gemmell. However, the school administration has purposely decided not to pursue a LEED certification; instead, the money normally necessary to purchase such a LEED certification will be used on the building itself in order to make the building more efficient and sustainable.
In terms of broader efforts to reduce our campus’ energy consumption, the “Groton Goes Green” campaign also holds its ground. The school has been spending around $300,000 per year for that express purpose, mostly by pursuing “efforts to make faculty homes more efficient,” according to Dr. Gemmell. Most of that budget goes to insulating faculty home envelopes, converting heating systems to more efficient gas and oil boilers, and switching most homes over to compact fluorescent bulbs – all meant to promote energy conservation. According to Dr. Gemmell, these investments have already contributed to driving “our carbon footprint down significantly” and saving our school sums of money that it will be able to invest in the future.
Not only is refurbishment of faculty homes lowering carbon emissions, but Buildings and Grounds (B&G) have also completed other projects that aim at lowering the energy consumption of our academic buildings. For example, B&G completed optimized insulation of the Schoolhouse building, which, combined with other smaller efforts, has dropped emissions per student “from 20.6 tons to 12.0 tons of carbon dioxide between 2003 and 2010,” according to Mr. Dumont, the Head of B&G.
The Trustees have also recently started to dabble with the idea of building a solar farm. Erik Nadeau ’14, Evan Long ’14 and Lucie Oken ’14 have been working together on a project supervised by Dr. Black and Dr. Gemmell that would see the addition of solar panels on our campus. The group has been working with light intensity and solar insolation data collected by both Naomi Primero ’13 and outside firms, and is in the process of finalizing the project overview to determine the feasibility of such a project. The group will have a chance to present their ideas at the next Trustee meeting.
Other ideas discussed by the administration include bringing back the Green Cup Challenge, in which schools compete based on how they achieve energy efficiency. The Dining Hall has also been at the forefront of energy conservation efforts, for example buying local food as much as possible in order to minimize transportation and thus carbon emission.
With the overwhelmingly positive results from the school’s pro-environment projects, the conclusion can only be that the “Groton Goes Green” banner isn’t just an assertion fluttering in the wind. “Although our school historically cannot boast of a very impressive track record in energy conservation,” says Dr. Black, “the recent steps towards a more sustainable future point in the right direction.”