Concord Academy introduces a holistic environmental sustainability plan

by Ben Carmichael ’01
CA students and faculty members participate in the sustainability planning process with GreenerU.

On the Main School Lobby steps, off the quad, CA students rallied in February 2019 as part of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement to combat the climate crisis. One held a sign that asked, “What is your plan?” Now, Concord Academy has an answer.

CA has become one of the first independent schools in the greater Boston area to adopt a holistic campus sustainability plan, which the board approved at its Annual Meeting in spring 2019. The plan emerged from a longstanding environmental ethos at CA, one that has recently moved more formally into the foreground.

A few years ago, when a working group of faculty and staff articulated values they wanted to be sure the school would honor at its centennial in 2022–23 and into the next century, stewardship rose to the top. That, in turn, is an outgrowth of Concord Academy’s core value of common trust — a call for us all to look after one another and to understand our impact on the world. In fall 2017, CA hired GreenerU, a local consultancy that works with educational organizations, to develop a process that would lead to a sustainability plan. Over more than a year, three working groups that included students, faculty, staff, alumnae/i, and members of the school’s food service team refined objectives and considered the approaches that would have the greatest impact. The working groups formalized their recommendations — setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, food waste, and overall waste, and providing institutional staffing support — into a plan, which they then presented to the community. In March, over 150 members of the community signed the sustainability declaration. The working group presented the plan to the Board of Trustees, whose members were unanimous in their support.

The energy on campus around sustainability has grown this summer and fall as students, faculty, and staff have embraced the cause. As a part of its revised mission statement, the school now calls upon the community to create a “more just and sustainable world.” At the first opportunity to rally in support of environmental responsibility, nearly 300 members of the community headed into Boston on September 20 to participate in the coordinated Global Climate Strike. They had a plan, and no Planet B.

A member of the CA community joins fellow students, faculty, and staff in signing the school’s sustainability declaration.
Recent CA graduate Audrey Lin ’19 was one of the lead organizers of the Boston climate strike in September.

In accordance with the sustainability plan, by 2022 CA has pledged to meet the following goals:

INSTITUTIONAL

Devote one faculty/staff full-time-equivalent position to sustainability; dedicate part of the annual budget to sustainability efforts; complete a standardized sustainability assessment.

GREENHOUSE GASES

Reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 15 percent; develop a comprehensive 20-year greenhouse gas reduction plan; pilot a program for individual climate action plans.

FOOD

Reduce food waste by 20 percent from a 2019 baseline; promote awareness of local and sustainable food systems; ensure that all food is organic, fair trade, and/or sourced from within 250 miles.

BUILDING OPERATIONS

Reduce overall waste by 10 percent; create green operations and management standards addressing energy, water, operations practices, and purchasing guidelines for all buildings.

More Sustainability News

Hundreds of CA Students Strike for Climate Action

Hundreds of CA Students Strike for Climate Action

In solidarity with students around the world, on September 20, nearly 300 members of the CA community boarded the train into Boston, leaving campus on strike and joining a protest thousands strong to call for action to address climate change. While this rally was not a school-sponsored event, Concord Academy responded to the overwhelming student interest in participating by altering the day’s schedule and providing special programming. Read more and see photos from the day>