Stewardship of the environment is essential tenet of our Quaker beliefs. Germantown Friends School is a member of the Friends Environmental Education Network (FEEN) whose goal is to promote both education and action within our schools around the issues of environmental stewardship and sustainability. With the help of some of our science faculty and the faculty members of the Stewardship Commitee, GFS is committed to working toward these goals.
Over the course of the past years, many steps have been taken by the GFS in partnership with the local community to incorporate sustainability into our educational program. It is with great humility that the community hopes to build on these first important steps and continue in our efforts towards environmental sustainability. Please feel free to contact us with ideas or opportunities to further this goal.
Earth Day…Every Day!
Fourth Grade EAC:
Fourth graders are invited to join the Environmental Action Club for 10 weeks in the Spring. The club meets after school one day each week. Each year the students brainstorm different ways to reduce our carbon footprint and then implement one or more plans using the Earth Force paradigm. This program encourages students to research and direct their own ideas and to report back to the community.
In addition to their Earth Force Project that resulted in a certification from the National Wildlife Federation, last year fourth graders hosted two guest speakers from the Nature Conservatory and the TTF Watershed Partnership who shared their own careers in environmental education. The children also learned about rattlesnake rescue. The killing of these snakes lead to an overabundance of rodents in our environment.
Fifth Grade EAC:
Interested fifth graders are invited to apply to join the Environmental Action Club, which meets once a week in the afternoon from the end of September through the end of the school year. The EAC is affiliated with the national organization Earth Force, and strives to nurture and develop environmentally responsible citizens who:
- Understand environmental issues
- Know how to identify problems
- Know how to research solutions and create a plan to solve problems using skills such as:
- Public speaking (and speech writing)
- Designing effective posters
- Online advocacy
- Fund raising
- Talking to people in power
Fifth Grade Environmental Action Club does the following:
- maintains the Lower School butterfly garden
- has built and maintains the Lower School pond
- is working to restore the Lower School woods to a native plant habitat, by removing invasive species and planting more and more shrubs, trees and ferns that are native to PA.
- is installing an outdoor benched classroom in the woods that will hold an entire class of students from any division. (gorgeous teak benches!!)
- tends the school's gardens by weeding, pruning and watering
- picks up trash all year
- manages the school's own composting efforts. They've had built and take care of all the cafeteria's vegetable and fruit wastes, as well as Lower School classroom compostables, and use the compost on school flower beds.
- presents an assembly each year and often organizes some kind of campaign for the Lower School on some kind of relevant environmental topic: No Waste Lunches, Composting, Recycling, etc.
- works with an area organization, Earth Force, and attends their Youth Summit each year (see link at left) where they perform stewardship service.
The Middle School EAC meets once a week during lunch time activity period. Even within this limited time frame, the EAC members accomplish a lot. In the past few years the students have:
- watched clips of environmental documentaries and films
- held a used battery collection drive
- made a video about eutrophication to create awareness about the proper disposal of pet waste
- held a T-shirt drive and used the shirts to create reusable bags donated to Browsers
- planned and participated in the Lexus Eco Challenge.
The Upper school EAC has been working hard over the past two years to increase environmental awareness at GFS. Here are some of the events they have organized and held:
- Partial Screenings of the films Kilowatt Ours and Food Inc, to increase awareness of the environmental issues involved in generating electricity and producing food.
- Sales of healthy banana whips, and CFL light bulbs at the annual Fun Day.
- Two Saturday mornings volunteering for trail maintenance and clean-up in the Wissahickon.
- Running Awareness Campaigns about what is recyclable and what is not.
- Creating a push for large scale composting at GFS and an awareness campaign about that
- Creating "Bike and Car Pool to School" weeks
- Initiating a "These Came From Trees" sticker campaign on paper towel dispensers, toilet paper dispensers, and printers to help raise additional awareness.
The Upper school EAC has collected plastic caps for the past 2 years in the lunchroom and Hargroves' snack bar. Despite donating many caps to the nursery and 3-D art mosaic projects, we still managed to send 80 lbs or 40 gallons of plastic caps to be recycled into hair care bottles and caps by the Aveda corporation. Collecting this many caps was a K-12 effort.
Recycling and Composting:
For many years the GFS community has recycled paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastics with ample containers distributed around campus and in classrooms. Last year thanks to the efforts of our stewardship committee, EAC clubs, Williams Hospitality, our food service, GFS began a composting program in the cafeteria. Students in all three divisions assumed the responsibility for educating each other by making signs, performing skits, etc. Now the trash bins in the cafeteria do not need to be emptied nearly as often as the majority of our leftovers are recycled or composted.
The GFS Lower School has been collecting granola bar wrappers and sending them to a company called TerraCycle. This company "upcycles" the old wrappers into items such as pencil pouches. For each wrapper, GFS receives 2 cents. Eventually, the money will be put toward the purchase of new outdoor recycling receptacles to be positioned next to each outdoor trashcan. The collection box for the wrappers lives in the lobby of the Cary Building and everyone is welcome to contribute. Students from the Hess class count wrappers and every week or so they are sent to TerraCycle in batches of 200.
Nalgene Water Bottles:
Every "new September 2011 student" is entitled to a one time offer to purchase one blue Nalgene water bottle at the very special reduced cost of $3. This offer is made possible by the Parents Association in support of the student “green” initiative to eliminate disposable water bottles.
Upper school EAC collected used batteries for the past year in 5 locations around campus. We recycled over 2000 batteries weighing approximately 250 lbs at the electronics recycling event that took place on May 29th at the Norwood-Fontbonne Academy. This event was sponsored by Weaver's Way Coop and was run by Eforce Compliance. Because batteries are expensive to recycle, EAC also donated $100 to eforece compliance to help diffray the cost of the batteries our community needed to dispose of. Collecting this many batteries was a K-12 effort. Emily Soffa, class of 2009 is working for efore compliance this summer and contacted me with an interest in planning an electronics recycling event at GFS next year. This could be good for the community at large and for us as an institution that is constantly retiring old electronics and struggling to dispose of them properly. I had the idea the the full Wenesday assembly that EAC sponsors next year could feature and efore speaker as a kickoff to an electronics recycling week.
Food Change and Sustainable Practices in the GFS Kitchen
Did You Know?
- We are celebrating the success of CulinArt’s first year of purchasing produce from the Common Market, Philadelphia: a farm to school initiative of the Food Trust.
- Daily vegetarian meal option
- Whole wheat pasta / brown rice option
- Recycle oil from fryer into Paulmier car
- Eliminated Styrofoam
- Wood stirrers replaced plastic
- Eliminated plastic water bottles on campus including catering and meetings; pitchers of water are available instead
- Healthy vending machines cafeteria, fields, Hargroves
- Organic green smoothies
- Peanut butter and jelly served on wheat bread
- No more white bread!
- Organic yogurt
- Composting food waste and paper products
- Recycling cardboard, glass and plastic
- Use "green" soap in the new dish machine
- Eliminated all ‘to go’ clamshells
- Reduced the number of weekly grocery deliveries from 3 to 2 on most weeks and have requested a no idling policy
- Switched to bulk condiments to help eliminate waste
- Purchase only hormone free milk
- Paper napkins in the dining room are 100% post-consumer recycled paper
- Students plant and maintain an herb garden on site
- Sushi once a week