November 23, 2018

Mini Musings - Creating a Sustainable Future

by Rachel Gardner, Sustainable Pathways Coordinator

November 15th was an exciting night for McGillis! For the first time, The McGillis School was awarded the prestigious Zero to Zero Waste Award from the Utah Recycling Alliance (URA). This organization shares our commitment to creating a more sustainable world: “We empower people, organizations, and communities statewide to create a zero waste lifestyle by building successful models and practices that promote reuse, recycling and resource conservation.” – URA

Our collective engagement and commitment to environmental stewardship is exemplified through our Sustainable Pathways program. At McGillis, “Our purpose is to create individuals committed and able to repair the world. This universal purpose, Tikun Olam, is one we share with all who seek to better the world and lives of all people.” Grounded in the fundamental values found in the Jewish culture, Tikun Olam guides our integrated curricular approach toward environmental education in the classroom, robust outdoor experiential education programs, and creates a continuum of connection with our school grounds, community gardens, and LEED building design. From the smallest of acts, using pasta rather than plastic straws to stir morning coffee, for example, or using repurposed plastics for our gymnasium and sport court floors, the pathways leading to a more sustainable world begin with awareness and lead to action.

I was honored to represent McGillis amongst so many amazing people, including McGillis families and our Head of School, Jim Brewer. The innovation, programs, partnerships, and dedication of those in attendance at the award ceremony were inspiring! It was especially meaningful to have one of our middle school students accept this award with me, as he embodies the spirit of community, ethics, and social responsibility that we strive to cultivate within each of our students. Our Sustainable Pathways program is fluid and dynamic, ever changing to improve current programs and incorporate new opportunities that encourage each of us to live our collective commitment to Tikun Olam.

The Zero to Zero Waste Award focused on The McGillis School’s sustainability achievements:

  • Diverting at least 30% of its waste by weight.
  • Generating less than 0.45 tons of waste per person per year.
  • Implementing a source­reduction strategy that enables the reuse and/or recycling of all waste from an organized end­of­year cleanout.
  • Reusing or recycling the majority of all electronic waste.
  • Implementing a food waste-composting program.
  • Using only reusable tableware and working toward the elimination of single use plastics.
  • Offering sustainability­related content in at least 2 academic subjects or courses per grade.
  • Holding at least two sustainability­related outreach campaigns, each directed at greater than 80% of the community every year.
  • Applying guidelines or standards for sustainable purchasing.
  • Conducting a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions inventory.
  • Ensuring that total annual GHG emissions are at least 50% below an established baseline.
  • Requiring that all renovations to existing buildings and new construction must be LEED Gold or better.
  • Supporting the development and use of clean and renewable energy sources where feasible, including on campus biomass or cogeneration technologies, school (or school district) owned solar or wind installations or third party owned power purchase agreements (on or off campus).
  • Keeping electricity and heating consumption below 21 BTUs per square foot per degree­ day.
  • Determining that at least 30% of its current students use a form of sustainable transportation as their primary means of commuting.
  • Ensuring that the school's current total annual water consumption is at least 30% below an established baseline.