Be There or Be Square: Sustainability Edition

By Frankie Stover and Tina Bessias

After months of data gathering and analysis, Green Places and the Environmental Sustainability in Action class are going to reveal Durham Academy’s carbon footprint and set our sights on reducing it. This is the culmination of an effort that began in 2019 as Operation Shoe Size under the leadership of Brandon Caveney, Durham Academy’s first elected Student Government Sustainability Committee leader.

Come December 19 to get the facts directly from the professionals and get interpretation from the students who have been studying this topic all semester. This presentation is the culminating event of our course, and we have a vision to share with the community. All are welcome!

The Environmental Cost of Getting to School

parked cars

If you wanted to tally all of the carbon emitted while Durham Academy’s drivers were behind the wheel, how would you go about doing that? That was the question asked of my classmates and me earlier this school year. Well, getting all of that information ourselves was a task far too complex and large, so we decided to let the data come to us. We decided Google forms should do the trick! We asked all Upper School students and teachers to fill out a survey during advisory.

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Biodiversity and Undeveloped Land

By Paul Wang and Merritt Schulz

Why does Biodiversity matter? What is it? 

Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our local environment. Biodiversity matters to us.

We are all interconnected. A single species interacts with many other species in specific ways that produce benefits to us, like clean air, clean water, and healthy soils for efficient food production. If one piece goes missing, another piece starts to go missing too, losing the important functions species provide. 

Native plants are incredibly important because they are the cornerstone of a healthy ecosystem. Invasive plants disturb the balance often causing a negative shift with local biodiversity. Because of this, we found it important to look at the biodiversity of our own campus.

What does biodiversity look like on our Campus? 

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“We Aren’t Doing This Alone”: Duke Energy Conference Field Trip

By Kiersten Hackman and CJ Nwafor

Last Wednesday, November 9th, 2022, was a Community Day for underclassmen and a mental health day for juniors and seniors, but to many in the Environmental Sustainability in Action class, it was an unprecedented opportunity to learn and engage with the greatest issue of our era: climate change.

What: 14th annual Duke Energy Conference
When: 9 am-3 pm
Where: Fuqua School of Business at Duke University

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No Ocean of Plastic

Presenter speaking into microphone

Jaimie Cloud at DA workshop, August 2022. Photo by Melody Butts.

Last week I had a coaching session with Jaimie Cloud, who is advising DA about our curriculum and culture for sustainability. Our conversation was helpful on multiple fronts, but one detail particularly stuck with me. Jaimie mentioned the widely quoted finding that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. For her, it’s a perfect example of what NOT to teach. Continue reading

What We Mean by Sustainability

When the students in last year’s Environmental Sustainability class made a pitch to the Administrative Team, they asked that DA make a public commitment to sustainability. The Innovation Journey Grant is enabling us to move toward such a commitment for both operations and curriculum. In the meantime, however, the Sustainability Leadership Team took up the challenge of articulating a definition and vision, since, after all, a journey is less confusing if the destination is clear. With input from the administration, we composed a statement.

A Definition and Vision for Sustainability at Durham Academy

Sustainability means stewarding all resources so that consumption does not prevent or exceed replenishment.

Our school thrives today because it has sustainably managed its financial and human resources over the 90 years of its existence. We recognize a need to extend this approach to include the natural environment. Guided by its mission to prepare students to live moral, happy, and productive lives, Durham Academy now turns to developing a more balanced relationship between the school and the natural systems on which it relies. We seek to reduce and eventually eliminate our contributions to climate change and biodiversity loss, thereby becoming a model of good environmental stewardship. We will do so by educating all constituents, fostering creative problem-solving, and acting with awareness of our inescapable interdependence.

Kindergarteners Learn Composting

On Wednesday, October 18th, Upper School Sustainability Committee members, Sanju Patel, Lia Paisley, Riley Casey, Rinal Dahhan, and Maya Patel, came to the Preschool to teach the kindergarteners about composting.  They gave an informative presentation and taught the children a great rule about what materials can be composted: if something was once alive, it is compostable.

High School students speak in kindergarten assemblyThe Sustainability Club Members then split up and went with individual kindergarten classes back to their rooms.  Each class played a fun and engaging game in which the composting bucket, recycling basket, or trash can were placed in different corners of the room. Kindergarteners were assigned to be banana peels, napkins, candy wrappers, and other items. They had to decide on the proper receptacle and move to that corner of the room.  It was a wonderful and educational time!

Next week, the Sustainability Committee will address the Lower School at an assembly.

How low can we go? Reducing trash at concessions stand

By Ann Leininger, DA Parents Council Sustainability Liaison

Following the lead of the Middle School, parents in charge of the athletics concession stand near the tennis courts set up a waste management station to help customers minimize the waste that goes to landfills. Gatorade bottles, pizza boxes, snack packages, and plastic film (from the cases of soda and Gatorade) have the potential to generate a significant amount of waste!  But the parents adopted the system of fifth grade science teacher Dr. Shebalin and her students, who have set up waste stations with separate containers for recyclables, compostables, plastic film, snack wrappers and trash. Each container has a sign to indicate what goes inside it. The station at the concession stand was set up in time for Alumni Weekend events at the Upper School. Other trash and recycling containers were moved out of the area so that people had to go to the waste management station to dispose of their waste.  Sustainability Committee students were on hand to help with sorting.

The waste management station was well used by all in attendance.  Looking ahead, we hope to establish these waste management stations throughout the Upper School campus.

Preschool Faculty Embraces Sustainability

Jessica Whilden, Sloan Nuernberger, Lori Hanks, Elizabeth Parry

The Preschool faculty is embracing sustainability, even when it comes to sustenance.  At the Preschool’s back-to-school faculty meeting this August, our Director, Christian Hairston-Randleman, gave all the teachers culinary kits and water bottles.  She did this to actively support the sustainability initiative at Durham Academy.

Each TOPBOOC culinary kit contains a metal fork, spoon, knife, straws, chopsticks and a cleaning brush.  So, rather than ordering large boxes of plastic silverware as we have in the past, we will only have a few “emergency” supplies for students who have forgotten their utensils for lunch.   Also, the large, metal water bottles have reduced the need to order single-use plastic water bottles.  

Kindergarten teachers Mrs. Whilden, Mrs. Nuernberger, Mrs. Hanks, and Ms. Parry are showing off their culinary commitment to sustainability.

Faculty Summer Readings on Sustainability Theme

Each year, Durham Academy kicks off our return to school with discussions of summer reading. Most folks think that summer reading remains a student experience, working through an assigned text to be ready to discuss it in first week English classes, but faculty and staff do summer reading, too! Usually we pick a focus for our reading, choose from a series of texts and meet during the week of opening meetings to have book club-style conversations. And we have fun doing it. 

To help kick off the 2022-23 sustainability focus for DA, our summer reading was all about climate change, land use, environmental activism, dietary choices, activism, and most importantly, hope. We hoped to do what we do best: look at sustainability from the perspective of education. How could we learn more?

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