Berkshire School uses a conceptual model to present sustainability as the pursuit toward three interrelated objectives: 1) environmental integrity; 2) economic justice; and 3) social equity. In this definition, faculty and staff are encouraged to begin thinking about sustainability from any of these three perspectives. Faculty engage students “where they are at” and incorporate the thinking of many viewpoints to “move toward the center” of the sustainability triangle.
The school has a Director of Sustainability and a sustainability committee that are 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. Create superior places to study, work and live that enhance the health and performance of building occupants through sustainable planning, design, construction, operations, retrofits and biomimicry. Provide housing proximity opportunities for many faculty, students, and staff; increasing trip reduction strategies; transitioning to non-petroleum based transportation; developing telecommuting and teleconferencing, and integrating emerging technologies.
- 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. This includes reducing potable water use while protecting and conserving all water resources within the campus watershed through implementation of efficiency measures, collection technologies, re-processing and re-use.
- 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.
The sustainability committee meets once or twice monthly to forward sustainability issues on campus. The committee is chaired by the Director of Sustainability and decisions made by the committee are either implemented immediately or forwarded to the head of school for final approval. Students have several venues from which to participate in sustainability efforts, from day-to-day operations to policy development, through different classes, student groups, independent study, and as a component of important leadership positions such as prefecture.
Specific timelines for each of the aforementioned goals are updated annually to ensure progress towards the sustainability goals. A longer range Climate Action Plan guides the school’s efforts to be carbon neutral by 2016. Berkshire tracks its carbon emissions with the Clean Air-Cool Planet calculator (the calculator is the leading tool for assessing campus greenhouse gas emissions across the country). Data goes back to Sept of 1999 and covers scope 1, 2 and a great variety of scope 3 emissions.
Success is assessed using the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating Systems (STARS) developed by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS is a broad-based, stakeholder-designed, tested framework. It is transparent, self-reporting, and enables meaningful comparisons over time and across institutions using a common set of measurements. Berkshire’s rating is updated on an annual basis. As of January 2012, Berkshire earned silver status.
Finally, Berkshire actively seeks to collaborate with other leading independent secondary schools, nonprofit organizations, and community groups to help forward sustainability programs. The school is working with eight other prominent New England boarding schools and the STARS steering committee to bring standardized, sustainability metrics to secondary schools across the country. It is featured regularly in national and regional sustainability conferences, a founding member of the Sustainable Endowment Institute’s Billon Dollar Challenge, and is the first secondary school in the country to partner with Clean Air-Cool Planet. It is a member of the US Green Building Council and AASHE. It has won recognition, grants, and/or awards from the National Association of Independent Schools, Environmental Protection Agency, National Wildlife Federation, Student Conservation Association, Second Nature, British Broadcasting Corporation, DoSomething.org, Keep America Beautiful, Green School Alliance, and the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation for its sustainability programs.