In the spring of 2019, Concord Academy unveiled an ambitious series of institution-wide academic and operational goals in the form of the Concord Academy Sustainability Plan. The 32-page report explicitly detailed the sustainability objectives that CA would strive for and the strategies it would use to achieve them. Emphasizing that CA’s sustainability efforts would “benefit greatly from consistent coordination and institutional investment,” the report mapped out changes to CA’s curriculum, food practices, greenhouse gas emissions, institutional management, and general operation.
The plan drew inspiration from the efforts of other schools and institutions, local policy such as the Sustainable Concord plan, and federal government policies. It had been in the works since 2017, and it followed two prior plans respectively drafted in 2007 and 2010 that had only been partially completed. It began with baseline estimates of CA’s GHG emissions and food waste, data that aided in developing achievable yet ambitious goals, such as reducing food waste by twenty percent by 2022 from a 2019 baseline. More than just a set of goals and methods, it was a roadmap that clearly indicated the work that lay ahead of CA.
The journey began right from the plan’s release. Following its launch, the plan was introduced to the community through meetings and assemblies. A “Sustainability Declaration,” pledging to support changes towards sustainability, received over 200 signatures from members of the community.
Director of Campus Planning Don Kingman initially proposed the plan. He recounted that one of its first major actions was to approve a $375,000 grant towards sustainable initiatives. A 2018 assessment of CA by climate mitigation company GreenerU, however, found that reducing CA’s GHG emissions by twenty percent would require an investment of $753,000. To achieve further funding towards such goals, CA established a Green Revolving Fund, a type of capital pool in which a portion of savings are spent on advancing sustainable initiatives while the remainder is kept to replenish the fund.
CA’s existing culture of environmental awareness amplified the plan’s success. The existing Environmental Co-Heads and Green Club provided extracurricular opportunities for students to get involved in sustainable efforts, while CA’s academic curriculum continued to offer an extensive selection of environment-conscious courses. The course, Environmental Symposium, has become especially popular in recent years, with dozens of students attending lectures from renowned guest-speakers.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly hampered the plan’s success. According to Kingman, “The pandemic hit, and suddenly, that was really the only thing I was focusing on.” For him and many others at CA, sustainability took a backseat as the school’s focus shifted towards transitioning into masking, social-distancing, and a new learning system.
Now, as CA returns to normal, it is more important than ever to discuss the Sustainability Plan. Its objectives were divided into a short-term and long-term phase; one to be accomplished by 2022, and the second to continue until 2042. With CA’s centennial having passed us by, we should now look back and reflect upon the plan’s history and successes.
CA’s ongoing transition into sustainability is ever-present in our lives. During the week of the centennial, Ed Rafferty’s One Hundred Years of Environmentalism speech, “Tales Along a Crooked Road,” was followed by community education on these ever-important topics in sustainability and service. The prioritizing of such topics shows that, slowly but surely, CA is marching towards a more sustainable future, with the Concord Academy Sustainability Plan to show us the way.