Sustainability Efforts During COVID

Dixie Lissack ‘21 and Brooke McCarthy ’21
If you have noticed the diminishing of sustainability practices around school due to the new COVID-19 friendly model, you are not alone. Many students have shown concern for how Shipley’s eco footprint has been affected during these changing times, but  Ms. Norquist, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, Mr. Gaines, Divisional Sustainability Coordinator to the Upper School, and Mr. Del Duca, Divisional Sustainability Coordinator to the Lower School, hear you and are working hard to help. 

Take the lunch rooms for example; much of the usual compostable containers and silverware have been replaced with individual plastic to go containers and silverware.  “Part of the reason that those streams changed in the first place is obviously due to Covid and the new procedures where we need to reduce the amount of surfaces that are high touch,” notes Mr. Gaines.  

While the use of disposable, individual containers and utensils limit the spread of germs, this change worries students concerned about their environmental impact. 

However, students aren’t the only ones concerned about these problems, the faculty sustainability committee has discussed possible solutions to this problem at length. The landfill, recycling and compost streams in the Piltch Commons have all been updated so that students can properly dispose of the new lunch materials. However the other satellite lunch stations only offer single stream landfill waste bins. “Getting the waste sorting in the satellite spots is a work in progress, it’ll get there,” says Ms. Norquist. “With all of the other adjustments that we have made on campus there are some things that have not been attended to...because right now it’s safety that is on the top of [everyone’s] list” Mr. Gaines adds. 

Another aspect of COVID-19 that affects our community’s eco footprint is the use of disposables such as masks and wipes. Students should try to wear reusable face masks whenever possible and encourage family and friends to do the same. High quality, inexpensive cloth masks are now being sold in most clothing stores and online. It can be helpful to buy masks in large packs and keep clean backups in cars and backpacks so you don’t have to resort to disposable masks in the event that you forget one as you’re leaving the house. When disinfecting desks after class, students should use the blue cleaning towels located in their classrooms instead of the disposable paper towels which add to our community’s waste production. 

“Another thing that students can do to keep the eco footprint and environmental sustainability on the top of their minds is to have these conversations at home,” notes Mr. Gaines. “Engage your parents, engage your siblings, talk to your friends about it, have conversations about these topics and normalize it. Ask your parents about your waste stream at home..and just educate yourself about that.” 

The coordinators encourage all students to become involved. In the upper school, the Environmental Committee meets Blue Thursdays 6th period in US 202 and in the Middle School the Environmental Club meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 3:30. 

Students can also reach out to Ms. Norquis, Mr. Gaines, or Mr. Del Duca with any sustainability questions, concerns or ideas. 

From the Beacon

The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.