We live in an unsustainable world; one that promotes the fossil fuel industry, overuses unnatural resources and cultivates climate change. These habits are slowly destroying our forests, polluting the air we breathe and invading habitats of, not only animals, but people too. At Phillips Exeter Academy, we see gas rise into the air above the dining halls, smell the murky brown water of the nearby Squamscott river and feel the effects of climate change through the scorching summer days and some snowless winter nights. Although Exeter has made many sustainable improvements in the past decade, there are still several physical and financial changes that the school should put into action.
The administration has implemented several changes to make Phillips Exeter Academy a greener place. From 2009-2010, they switched a large portion of our energy sources from oil to biofuels and other natural gases. Because of this, our school’s carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 63%, bringing the excration down to 48.4 tons per year. In 2012, they completed the installation of 40 geothermal wells that provide the energy for all of Phillips Hall. There are plans to install at least 40 more as a part of a major renovation on the Academy Building. In 2013 PEA eliminated the use and sale of plastic water bottles on campus. Last year marked the beginning of the “Tiny Trash” program, which is why in some classrooms and dorms, there are no trash bins, but instead 24oz trash cups that sit on desks. This program is intended to reduce waste and encourage recycling. PEA earned the national “Green Ribbon Schools” award, being only one of 10 private schools to receive the award that year and the only school nominated by the NH Department of Education to have won it.
Although Exeter has come a long way in terms of having a green campus, there is still a lot that can be done to further improve the community and its environment. We have a new field house under construction and are planning on covering the roof of that building with solar panels. PEA can and should definitely expand this idea throughout the rest of the campus by putting solar panels on the roofs of dorms and other buildings. This could help provide most, if not all, of the energy needed on this campus. Currently in our dining halls, we compost all of our food waste but if we added more public compost options, we could not only reduce waste but help fertilize the soil where the compost is brought. One more aspect that we could bring to campus in order to better the environment are green roofs. These are greenhouses that can, not only provide a space to grow produce for the dining halls, but cool down buildings in the summer and retain heat in buildings in the winter without the use of non-renewable energy sources we use today.
In addition to using renewable energy, the administration at Exeter could relocate our endowment money by divesting from the fossil fuel industry and investing that money in the renewable energy industry. Statistics from a few years ago said that the PEA endowment is approximately 1.1 billion dollars, and an unknown fraction of those investments go towards the fossil fuel industry. Divestment from those companies would not only promote the downfall of the fossil fuel industry, but allow Exeter to profit from the renewable energy industry in the long run. Not only would we lose money in the long run by continuing investment in the non-renewable energy resources, but in about 100 years, there will no longer be any oil or coal left on the planet to feed the world’s current energy consumption. Taking this action as soon as possible would be ideal, because, as more associations across the U.S. come to the same conclusions, the expense of investment goes up with the value of the industry. Instead of waiting to follow in the footsteps of others, Exeter should lead the movement of divestment and reinvest for profit and to live in a greener, greater environment.
By continuing to make these essential changes, PEA will be on its way to a greener environment in no time. In the long run, the addition of renewable energy sources and sustainable habits on campus will greatly impact energy preservation and the cost of fuel. Investing our endowment money in the growing renewable energy industry will be financially and environmentally beneficial. These coming years could hold major improvements on campus with advancements that are either currently underway or being held in discussion. With a few additional changes, Phillips Exeter Academy could be well on its way to becoming a greener community.