Sustainability at Berkshire
Berkshire School's commitment to environmental stewardship harkens back to the school's founding practices in 1907, when a respect for natural resources was exercised by all. Today, Berkshire is a leader among independent schools in advancing the principles of sustainability, with a culture of conservation and environmental responsibility ingrained across campus and throughout all programs.
In 2013, Berkshire was named a Green Ribbon School by the Department of Education. The award honors schools and districts for “exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways.”
Berkshire School's two-megawatt, eight-acre solar field is located on East Campus and went live in January 2012.
The project, part of an energy master plan developed by sustainability students and presented to the school’s trustees in the fall of 2011, was at the time the largest solar installation in the state of Massachusetts and the largest operating solar facility of its kind at any private secondary school in the U.S
Since connected with National Grid, the local utility, the solar field generates over 2,300 megawatt hours of clean electrical power its first year, or up to 40-percent of the school’s electricity needs. The privately-financed project features two different solar devices; fixed-tilt photovoltaic (PV) panels and single-axis tracking PV panels with room to add other solar demo-technologies in the future.
According to PowerPlay Solar (project developer), each year Berkshire’s solar field will remove nearly 2,650,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,650 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 4,400 pounds of sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere—or the equivalent use of 1.5 million pounds of coal annually. The project will also feature an energy investigations laboratory allowing students to analyze different solar technologies and monitor the output of the solar field per school building in terms of kilowatt hours of energy production, and pounds of carbon savings.
In the spring of 2015, Berkshire's Sustainability class installed an electric car charging station outside of the Jackman L. Stewart Athletic Center. Use of the charging station is expected to increase as the popularity of electric cars grows (at the time of installation, at least 10 Berkshire families were driving an electric vehicle). The closest public charging station is in Lakeville, CT (approximately fifteen miles away).
Berkshire's commitment to sustainability includes the reduction of water bottles around campus. To meet that commitment, several water dispensaries have been installed around campus which encourage the use of reusable water bottles. The dispensaries can be found in Godman and Buck dormitories, the Student Center, Soffer Athletic Center and the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center.
Berkshire uses a conceptual model to present sustainability as the pursuit toward three interrelated objectives: environmental integrity, economic justice, and social equity. In this definition, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to begin thinking about sustainability from any of these three perspectives. In addition, the school has a Director of Sustainability and a sustainability committee tasked by the administration to establish sustainable principles and practices that enhance the positive transformation of the campus community through the following goals:
Education/Administration- Promote education and research on social, economic, and environmental sustainability by building community, student, faculty, and staff awareness.
Energy- Create a net zero Green House Gas emissions (GHG) campus through energy efficiency, conservation, on-site generation and strategic procurement of clean and renewable energy.
Food- Create a local and organic closed loop food system by observing sustainability criteria for all food purchasing, preparation and service, cleaning, waste disposal, and purchase of equipment and supplies.
Land Use- Protect and maintain the natural campus environment through restoration, preservation, and education while enhancing the campus as a classroom.
Procurement/Disposal- Through efficient procurement strategies, processes, and systems, organize the acquisition and responsible use of resources in a manner that supports a “triple bottom line" of economy, society, and environment. Reduce and ultimately eliminate waste streams on campus with the ultimate goal of a net zero waste campus through implementation of “cradle to cradle" processes and practices.