Student-Staff Cooperation Leads to Environmental, Cost Savings

Pinkerton Academy is changing its world, one light fixture at a time.

The school’s Go Green club meets on a quarterly basis and finds both environmental and cost-saving projects, and the ways and means to do them.

Science teacher Brewster Bartlett, adviser and co-founder of the group, said Pinkerton has two environmental groups, Go Green and Students For Environmental Action (SEA).

SEA, in existence since 1989, meets every other Thursday. “SEA came up with a lot of ideas, and they used to try to implement them, but little came of it,” Bartlett said. “It took longer to realize some of the ideas, because the group was only students.”

The group needed a fund-raising arm and more adult support. Go Green, formed four years ago, brought in parent advisor Jean Roalsvig, a member of the town’s Go Green Committee, and Pinkerton Financial Administrator Glenn Neagle.

“With everyone on the same playing field, things moved much faster,” Bartlett said.

As the creative juices flowed, they “got things done” with Neagle present, who could inform them of the financial possibility or lack of possibility of their ideas.

Bartlett listed some of their accomplishments thus far, including swapping white paper towels for brown. The brown ones are unbleached, he pointed out, and are better for the environment. They are also cheaper for the school, he added. “We researched it, and within a month we had done it,” he said.

The Go Green group also investigated single-stream recycling. They met with Casella, the school’s trash-hauler, and brought forth ideas, he said. A year later, they now have single-stream recycling for everything except food and Styrofoam.

“It has changed the whole campus,” Bartlett said.

The students were also one of the drivers behind waterless urinals in the newer buildings, which save “thousands of gallons” of water, and better insulation in the buildings, he said.

They also stepped up their recycling efforts for events like the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) testing, which generates thousands of empty water bottles, Bartlett said, noting, “Now we put out containers.”
Perhaps their biggest accomplishment has been automatic computer shut-off in the school’s computer labs. While individual teachers shut off the machines in their classrooms, the labs, which are used by varied groups and individuals, were neglected, he said. They worked with the Pinkerton Technology Department, and now all lab computers automatically go off at 4 p.m., he said.

Neagle wrote in an e-mail, “We are saving approximately $4,000 per year going to the brown paper towels. We have done this for three years, so the total savings is around $12,000.”

He added, “We are also saving about $3,500 per year by automatically shutting the computers in which no one is logged in off. We’ve done this for the last two years, so the total savings is about $7,000.

The group is researching other earth-friendly (and budget-friendly) ideas, Bartlett said, and intends to keep “moving on.” One idea they’re looking into is a fork-and-spoon dispenser similar to what’s offered in college cafeterias, where a diner can obtain a single knife, fork or spoon if desired. “Now,” he said, “they get a plastic-wrapped fork and knife.”

The group also has its eye on installing water fountains similar to the ones in the two new Career and Technical Education buildings, which allow students to fill their own reusable bottles at the fountain. “This,” Bartlett said, “is very cool.”