Green Ribbon Schools Award Nominee:
Westtown School, Chester County
Westtown School is a Quaker pre-K-12 boarding and day school located on 600 acres in Chester County, serving students of all races, nationalities, and socio-economic backgrounds. Thirty-five percent of Westtown School students receive partial or full scholarships totaling $5.5 million each year.
The Westtown mission to "inspire and prepare our graduates to be stewards and leaders of a better world” permeates the culture of the school. From encouraging day students to bring no-waste lunches, to campus-wide food waste composting, conservation, and to education for sustainability in the curriculum, they teach students about their responsibility to, and relationship with, the environment.
In 2008, the school appointed a Sustainability Coordinator, the school’s first endowed faculty position, and formed a Sustainability Committee. The collection of trustees, staff, outside advisers, and students works to create an environmentally literate and responsible community whose daily actions reflect care for the earth and its biodiversity. The school keeps an active webpage about sustainability efforts-and provides regular updates to students, parents, staff and the community.
Sustainability themes appear throughout the K-12 curriculum and Westtown offers advanced courses in Research Ecology and Environmental Science. Every student spends time at the one acre student organic farm and gardens as part of the curriculum. The student Environmental Club promotes conservation and education, and launched “Friends School Day of the Earth” conferences in 2007 and 2009. Students planned and led these two-day conferences, with 12 other schools participating in workshops and discussions about the environment and student leadership.
Campus-wide attention to conservation has cut electricity use 15 % since 2007. Coupled with the switch to natural gas from fuel oil in 2009, MT eCO2 emissions were down by 30.1% over 2007, and cumulative cost savings have surpassed $600,000. Although student enrollment has declined 10% since 2007, the number of residential students and staff has not changed, and the School has still achieved a 22.6% reduction in MT eCO2 per person from non-transportation building energy use. Westtown is moving aggressively to reduce GHG emissions even further, and are in the process of signing a two-year contract to purchase 100% solar and wind generated electricity beginning June, 2013. Their goal is to cut electricity use by another 35% by 2020 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 by taking one building off our gas-powered steam plant every 5 years.
The school’s Energy Policy and Green Building Policy govern the construction and operation of all campus buildings. The newly renovated Facilities Building just earned LEED Commercial Interiors Certification, and the future science building renovation has been designed to LEED Gold standards. Balderston Dormitory has achieved national “Energy Star” ranking, and twenty-three faculty homes have been weatherized. Geo-thermal systems heat and cool two dormitories and five faculty homes, and a 44 kW solar voltaic array on the new Athletic Center generates 60,000 kWh/year.
Campus recycling and composting divert 51% of campus waste from landfills, up from 20% three years ago, and have cut hauling fees in half. In the “Green Schools Alliance Recycle Challenge” this October, Westtown earned 96% and was named a “Recycling Hero,” placing 4th out of 67 schools nationwide.
The Westtown School dining hall serves food harvested by students, and 13% of food purchases for the school are locally sourced or organic. The school's 200-acre farm, in continuous operation since 1799, is leased for commercial vegetable production and two acres grow food for the Chester County Food Bank. A summer CSA on the student farm raised 7,800 pounds of food in 2011 for 15 families, the Chester County Food Bank, and the school dining hall.
Westtown co-founded the PAISBOA (Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Business Officers Association) Farm-to-School initiative that has inspired 20 member schools to source more of their food locally. The dining hall provides vegetarian and vegan offerings, and the resulting positive shift in student and staff food selections in recent years has been dramatic. Health classes emphasize good nutrition, and daily physical education is required of all students.
Plans to restore the 14-acre lake on campus are in process, and invasive plant species in campus woodlands are being systematically eradicated with student help. Native perennials, shrubs, and trees have been planted throughout campus, many by students, to improve habitat and protect bio-diversity.
Westtown has been recognized as a sustainability leader by the Green Schools Alliance (a national organization of 3,000 schools), Friends Environmental Educators Network (FEEN), Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP), and BLUER (West Chester Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reduction). Their work has inspired other schools to initiate gardening programs and conservation efforts. Westtown will host the FEEN (Friends Environmental Educator Network) conference in May, 2013.
The Westtown School has demonstrated significant results reducing energy usage while developing a plan to be a carbon neutral campus. The health and wellness of students and staff is a top priority, and students are fully engaged in the efforts underway to achieve excellence in all three pillar areas.