Hawken Soars Towards Sustainability

May 1, 2020

           Over the past few weeks, Hawken’s Senate has created several new initiatives that are focused on making Hawken more sustainable by reducing the energy consumption of the Gates Mills campus. These initiatives promote methods to better regulate and measure energy consumption as well as cut back on unnecessary heating, cooling, and lighting. The Senate submitted these initiatives to Hawken’s Board of Trustees on Friday, February 28th and are excited about seeing them implemented in the school.

            The legislation that the Senate produced includes three main resolutions.

 The first resolution calls for the addition of more motion sensitive light switches to Stirn Hall. Many students notice the unnecessary waste of energy caused when unused classrooms remain lit. In addition to fixing this issue, the bill also calls for the implementation of ambient light sensors, which will decrease the intensity of lights in areas where natural sunlight is already sufficient. This will make well-lit areas, like the Shiverick Commons, more energy efficient during the day. In combination with the LED lights that Hawken installed in the past, the lights of Stirn Hall will be more energy efficient than ever.

            The second resolution will limit the range of the heating and cooling systems of Stirn Hall. Stirin is notorious for its inconsistent temperature throughout the building, especially in the math classrooms. By decreasing the range at which our HVAC systems operate, the Ssenate aims to eliminate instances when the system overcorrects and causes parts of the building to become either too warm or too cold. This resolution not only decreases our school’s wasted energy, but makes it much more comfortable for students as well.

            The third and final resolution made by the Senate is to publish Hawken’s monthly electric and natural gas usage. By publicizing this information, the Hawken community will be more aware of the impact our school makes and the resources that are needed to sustain our facilities. In reporting the energy consumption of the Upper School, the Senate also hopes to witness the difference that their initiatives are making and encourage more sustainability efforts in the future.

            The Senate views this shift towards sustainability as beneficial to the students as much as it is to the environment. The initiative’s purpose statement reads, “We consider environmental stewardship as a core character trait, and creating environmental solutions a fundamental intellectual challenge.” While decreasing Hawken’s energy usage is important, these initiatives have the added benefit of encouraging a sustainable and eco-conscious mentality within the students. This mentality is becoming increasingly valuable in the real world as environmental issues like climate change become more threatening and impactful. These sustainability efforts also exhibit Hawken’s strong commitment to forward-focused preparation for the real world.

 Hawken has always had a high level of commitment to the environment, and these initiatives are simply the next benchmark in their pursuit of sustainability. In an interview, Hawken’s head of school, Mr. Looney, informed me about Hawken’s history of sustainability and his excitement for the new resolutions created by the Senate. The Strategic Plan is a series of goals which are determined by the Hawken’s Board of Trustees every five years or so. Within Hawken’s Strategic Plan, a subgoall exists to “strengthen commitment to environmental sustainability.” The existence of a sub goal devoted exclusively to sustainability speaks volumes to Hawken’s long-term commitment to the environment.

  Not all of Hawken’s ideas for sustainability can be implemented, however. Looney claims the largest barrier to Hawken becoming more eco-conscious is the sacrifice that needs to be made by the administration and the students. Hawken’s administration has many new and interesting ideas on how to make Hawken have a smaller impact on our environment, but the largest obstacles to the realization of these concepts are cost, time, and people’s willingness to invest in sustainability. As Mr. Looney stated, if the school dedicates resources to sustainability efforts, those resources cannot be used elsewhere in the school where they may have an immediate impact. This doesn’t diminish the importance of sustainability, but it means the Hawken community must be on-board before the administration will dedicate time and money to these projects.

Referring to the new senate initiatives, Looney commented, “They are all great ideas; I think this is an incomplete list. I think there is a much longer list of energy savings and carbon reduction moves that we can make.” If the Hawken community can agree to designate more funding, time, and support for these sustainability efforts, the changes would be remarkable. In essence, the only limiting factor for our schools sustainability efforts are how dedicated the students and rest of the community is. Only when we agree that money and time should be spent on sustainability, rather than other areas of the school, will meaningful progress begin to occur. 

The Senate’s legislature makes several long-term suggestions that, should Hawken realize the potential benefits to both cost and environment, may eventually be introduced. One of which is to make Hawken carbon negative by 2035. While this is a lofty goal, Looney mentioned that setting high expectations is necessary for progress and hopes the community is willing to support and encourage the pursuit of this goal and more sustainability initiatives in the future.  If the collective interest of the community can shift towards lowering our environmental impact, initiatives like the ones provided by the senate will be acted upon and the future of Hawken will become much greener.

 

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