On a 50-plus-acre campus near Ijamsville, Friends Meeting School is leading the charge on how schools can deploy sustainability and environmentally friendly practices.
From a greenhouse growing plants without soil to a campus farm, the Quaker school makes these practices a priority, and it recently added to its green mission with some simple light changes.
Earlier this month, the school received recognition and a $10,000 rebate check from the electric company Potomac Edison for the installation of energy-efficient lighting improvements throughout the school.
Jim Farber, the school’s director of finance and operations, said two buildings on campus had old tube fluorescent lights, which were expensive to operate and maintain and provided poor lighting.
After learning about the rebate program and feeling that replacing the lights would fit in with the school’s mission, the school installed new LED, energy-efficient lighting in the two buildings.
Since installing a few of the new panels a year ago, the school has seen energy and cost savings of almost 46 percent.
The upgrades are expected to save nearly 37,467 kilowatt-hours (kWh), enough energy to charge 3.3 million smartphones.
“Our students and community said this is what we want,” Farber said. “It totally fills our mission of sustainability and our stewardship of the environment. And we no longer have these darn fluorescents that will go in a landfill.”
In addition to simple lighting changes, the school has a student-led composting and recycling program, solar panels that power the greenhouse and a soon-to-come on-campus wind turbine, Farber said.
It will be a fairly, small residential model, but the school is hoping it can produce enough energy to help power the greenhouse and the various hydroponic and aquaponic growing systems housed inside.
Ideas such as the wind turbine all come from students and their ability to build the curriculum around what they themselves want to learn and explore, said Annie Garland, director of admissions and outreach for Friends Meeting School.
“It goes back to this idea of everyone has a voice ... and building the confidence to use that voice,” Garland said.
Gabriele Magid, a senior at the school who leads the composting efforts, said she is thankful her school allows students to actually implement what they’re learning.
“This opportunity is something I don’t know I would get anywhere else,” Magid said. “Because it’s such a small community and we have all these resources, we are able to take these initiatives and make them a reality.”
And environmental efforts are important, Garland said, because they fit the Quaker values of service and giving back to the community.
“No matter who you are, where you come from, we’re all a part of the same Earth,” Garland said. “We’re here to connect, to make this earth better, to make families and individuals better. ... And a Quaker school foundation can provide that opportunity.”
The school hopes to continue its environmental efforts with the installation of a rain garden in addition to the wind turbine, which is expected to be installed sometime in the spring.