Where should I start?

You want to live more sustainably, but everyday life is overwhelming enough without trying to rethink the habits and structures that make it work. So you ask: what’s one meaningful thing I could do? 

9th graders have answers!

In their Living Sustainably class, 9th graders did a quick assessment of their personal eco-footprint (you can do it, too–see this tool). Then they chose a category of emissions to work on and listed some actions that would help. It feels good to take a step toward sustainability! When it becomes routine, you can take another. Let us know in the comments below if you take one of their suggestions.

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Standing on history, looking to the future

2 children on porch swing under Elder Oak
Swinging at twilight under Elder Oak

The second annual Sustain-In commenced underneath the Elder Oak where I gave these opening remarks. 

Thank you to everyone who is joining us for our second annual Sustain-in! We are so happy that we have this opportunity to collaborate on sustainability at DA. 

When we stand under the Elder Oak, we are standing on history. This tree is the oldest one on campus. It’s a Scarlet Oak, a member of the Red Oak family which is native to North Carolina. It is also a Champion Tree: the largest known Scarlet Oak in the state! What can you observe about it?

This tree has been measured by the North Carolina Forest Service and is estimated to be 200 years old.

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Plan for Sustain-in 2024

Come one, come all!

6pm-12am February 29
Upper School STEM & Humanities Building

Come when you can, leave when you must!

Bring your e-waste from home to drop for recycling.

Game, Set, Match: Life Cycle of a Tennis Ball

To a a tennis player, a ball isn’t just rubber and felt; it’s a universe of possibilities. It carries the weight of countless hours of practice, the sting of losses, and the thrill of victories. In its fluorescent yellow skin, they find a companion, a nemesis, and a ticket to the sublime dance on the court. The tennis ball is more than an object; it’s a conduit for passion, a vessel for dreams, and the unspoken language of a player’s love affair with the game. For Durham Academy, the number of hours that students put in require much more than just a few tennis balls, but hundreds. Therefore, learning about the life cycle analysis of a tennis ball, bought in large shipments for four teams on campus, is extremely useful to try and mitigate excessive waste and improve disposal.

Despite the fact that The Economic Times explains that “It way take over 400 years to decompose a tennis ball,” there are ~330 million tennis balls manufactured every year.

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The 1000 year life of your running shoes

What happens to your Nike’s when you are done with them, and how you can get the most out of them?

Whether or not you play a sport, run recreationally, or simply play a pick up game every once in a while, running shoes are probably a part of your life in some shape or form. I personally have been a runner since I was 10, competing in middle school, and now just enjoying it recreationally. I am very familiar with the process of buying new running shoes…and wearing them out. And as much as I love the activity, our running shoes have a less than savory life before and after us.

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Making a Dive for Sustainability

Amelia Fay (’25)

As a volleyball player, and libero at that, I find myself going through a pair of kneepads every season. Sometimes it’s because the padding gets worn down or because the sleeve gets holes in it or because they just get so disgusting after getting drenched in sweat every day for three months straight. After the kneepads are no longer usable, at least in the user’s opinion, they just get thrown away. This feels like a waste! Because of this, I explored what is in volleyball kneepads, how they get made, and how they could become more sustainable. 

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Sliding Head First At Sustainability

The Life Cycle of a Durham Academy Baseball Uniform

Player wearing DA Baseball Uniform
Baseball uniform in use

Every DA baseball player has three uniforms. How do they get here? Where do they go after their time on the field? The components of the uniforms can be found by going the website where they’re ordered: the BSN Vault. The specs for a Nike baseball uniform reveal that our uniforms are 100% polyester, a material that is created from crude oil, ethylene, ethylene glycol, as well as para-xylene, combining to make polyethylene terephthalate. This is strained to make conventional polyester. Next in the production process, the creation of the actual uniforms.

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Hope and Heroes

Join the conversation!

Who or what gets you excited about sustainability? Students in the Environmental Sustainability in Action class share their thoughts. Replies and additional examples welcome! Please include your name and DA affiliation with your post.

I believe that hope the most important thing in climate actions because it is the path to motivation which leads us to action. — Amelia Fay ’25

Students' descriptions of inspiring people and organizations

I like your idea of how improving one thing can lead to another. Improving the bike trails will get people more into biking which could reduce car pollution. — Chase Brown ’25, replying to classmate Miranda Bridgeford ’26

Kicking Into Sustainability of Athletics

Life Cycle of Durham Academy Soccer Ball

In eight years DA throws away 96 soccer balls.

Durham Academy buys two bags of 12 SELECT soccer balls every two years for each varsity soccer team. The balls are labeled as practice balls. This means the quality of the ball is not as nice as a game ball.

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From Sole to Soul: The Extraordinary Journey of a Sock

From Sole to Soul: The Extraordinary Journey of a Sock. Yarn to landfill the  nike elote sock goes through many phases.Though the sources of the materials used in these socks seemingly is kept under lock and key the movement of these socks before they reach the consumer can be found, Starting in a factory in Vietnam the dry fit and polyester are processed and spun into yarn. This yarn is shipped to China where the sock panels are sewn together to make the sock form. Then they take a 8,000-mile trip to Houston Texas where they are stocked and packages to be ordered online or shipped to stores. Though we wear socks every day we don’t often think of the process of taking that thin piece of fabric that separates our feet from our shoes from Vietnam, to China, to Houston, and finally to your sock drawer. If we truly want to become sustainable it is important for us to examine the production of objects we use in our everyday life. 

A sock, in the eyes of most people, seems quite harmless, yet it is far from it. The Nike Elite sock is 75% polyester and 25% dry fit. Polyester is derived from petrochemicals, which are non-renewable fossil fuel resources, and the production of polyester requires large amounts of energy and water. Along with polyester’s direct greenhouse gas emitition, it is also particularly not bio-degradable leaving behind microplastics that further contribute to the pollution of our environment and air. The large amount of transportation used to just simply in the production of the sock is largely by plane and as we know jet fuel is a main contributor to our current climate crisis.

image of a flow chart of the life of a sock