October 1, 2010
As many of our friends know, our offices are located at Rockefeller Plaza. As the most visible tenant, NBC News frequently turns the Plaza into a frenzied media site during the year: election central, Christmas tree lighting, and now this week “Education Nation.”
Looking at the tents on the Plaza or on TV this week, NBC brought teachers, politicians, students and technology experts to “Learning Nation” to highlight American education stories with lots of media coverage. A two day Summit was held on the rink to discuss the success and solutions for education. But, let’s take a look from another perspective with this story.
I am on the Board of Trustees of the Darrow School, a private boarding school grades 9-12, which I discussed in a prior blog. While I indeed recognize my bias, one of the defining differences of this school is its environmentally-conscious setting; it is nestled in the rolling Berkshire Mountains in upstate New York near the Massachusetts border.
Located on the site of an historic Shaker village, sustainability is not new to Darrow and has been an important part of the school culture for decades. The Shakers came to Western Massachusetts and New York State during the Revolutionary War period, and established a self-sufficient farming community. The Darrow students and faculty are continuing the Shaker philosophy and approach to sustainability. Please click on link to visit the school. www.darrowschool.org.
What’s taking place there?
Darrow’s “living machine” has treated waste water from the campus buildings and returned it to the Hudson River watershed since 1998! No chemicals. No filters. Just nature’s natural water filtration process.
Earlier this Spring, rooftop wind turbines were installed. While this reduces part of school’s electric budget and reduces greenhouse gases, the most important aspect is education.
These students are learning about the meaning of the carbon footprint. In real time while the turbine spins, they can witness the power generated on their computer monitors. Also, they can monitor energy produced by solar panels installed on the adjacent environmental center, and compare the results. They are learning about the meaning of renewable energy and clean water, learning about net metering, invertors, and the greater meaning of sustainability.
In fact, over the years, there has been energy competition between dorms to see who can reduce consumption the most.
What’s important? Living in 200 year old buildings, these students learn about the environmental issues that impact the planet. The students are on the cutting edge in a paradigm shift in the way in which we live. These students understand the alternative sources to power up their iPods and iPads and iPhones and, of course, air conditioning, etc, but are learning more about the benefit of renewable and clean energy.
While in recent discussions with the Board of Trustees, I also participated in seeing this seismic change of “growing greener”. Evaluating new methods to enhance the aging infrastructure by improving energy efficiency or ongoing upgrades of equipment to reduce fossil fuel use were the key topics for action—just like the big companies are doing.
Guess what? The kids get it. And, the kids like the new paradigm. The board gets it. And, corporate America is starting to get it more and more.
The next step is to get these kids to educate their Moms and Dads more about what’s taking place in the Berkshires. And then we can see this change spread throughout the rest of the country. It’s taking place in many other communities around the country, and it’s coming to a neighborhood near you. The U.S. is slowly learning about sustainability, but more action is needed. A good place to start is in schools.
As I walk on the Plaza, I don’t see turbines or solar panels. Maybe next year. Hopefully, they’re coming soon. It’s good that the kids understand how important sustainability is. Just like math and science and history are important, the environment is important.
In the end, we are learning from our kids.