Sustainability at Suffield Academy

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Photo by Lester Smith

As part of the school’s sustainability efforts, Suffield Academy has installed a substantial field of solar panels on their property off Hill Street, west of the main campus. Pictured is approximately the southern third of the entire array.

The campus at Suffield Academy is a well-maintained historic site on our Main Street, so it is no surprise to learn that behind the scenes the school has been working steadily for many years to improve its use of natural resources, reduce its carbon footprint, and thus become more environmentally friendly. In all its new buildings, and in many of the older ones, steps have been taken to make the campus as “green” as possible. One example of this careful oversight is the change from oil as a heating source to natural gas, which now powers about 70 percent of the school’s heating plant. This year new initiatives are taking place which will result in even more dramatic changes. As Patrick Booth, the school’s Chief Financial Officer, said recently, “Suffield Academy is planning for 50 years out.”

One everyday example bears mentioning. In the school’s dining room, each table holds a small bucket for all food scraps and paper napkins. The waste collected is picked up twice weekly by a company that turns them into compost, which can then become fuel and fertilizer. In addition, the school has provided reusable YETI mugs for each student and each faculty and staff member, to be brought to meals and used instead of paper cups, thus reducing the school’s consumption of paper products. If you think of more than 500 people eating in that dining room three times a day, you can see that this effort, which may seem small, is in fact significant.

The most exciting project, however, is now in its final stage, with construction which began in mid-June. It is a carefully developed plan to use an area tucked away in a small valley, not visible to the town, between the main campus and Hill Street, as the site of a number of solar panels. Their installation, when complete, will meet about 25 percent of the school’s electricity needs, with the capacity to expand. The initial work (including thoughtful siting) has been expensive, and is funded in part by the generosity of donors; in the long run it will save the school money and at the same time continue the Academy’s commitment to the environment. The project is ambitious and forward-looking, and is beyond the scope of most institutional budgets; kudos go to Charlie Cahn, the school’s Headmaster, for engaging others in the effort and for finding the necessary funding.

Finally, the students have been kept informed of each step in the overall progress of the Academy toward meeting the present and future needs of the school in these ecologically sound ways. In any school the behavior which is modeled by the administration, faculty, and staff will have an impact on its students. Our future will be built by today’s young people and by generations yet to come; Suffield Academy graduates will be positioned to make a significant impact on their own communities in the future.

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