About

Sustainability

This page was created by Groton's Sustainability and Literature class.
Groton School encourages students to bring their values of service, leadership, community, and globalism into the practice of sustainability.

Solar Panels at Groton

Groton has three solar arrays around campus, all added between 2018 and 2021. This advancement in renewable energy was the result of a push from the student body, supported by Headmaster Temba Maqubela and the Board of Trustees. The primary solar farm is named for John B. Goodenough '40, who received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for helping develop lithium-ion batteries. Groton is among the first high schools in the nation to store energy in lithium-ion batteries.

The batteries recharge overnight when demand (and electric rates) are low and release energy when it is most needed, reducing the carbon footprint of the school, the town of Groton, and New England. Alleviating periods of excessive demand with a shot of stored energy helps utilities avoid turning to heavily polluting diesel generators. The John B. Goodenough Solar Farm is an integral part of the school's commitment to creating a sustainable campus.


John B. Goodenough Solar Field

The John B. Goodenough Solar Farm is Groton’s main solar field, significantly reducing the campus' reliance on fossil fuels. In its first year, from  September 2020 to September 2021, the field provided about 147 megawatt hours of power.

Gardner Village Solar Field

The Gardner Village faculty residences, which opened in 2020, have their own dedicated solar field, making the LEED-certified building net-zero. The solar panels provide up to 55.9 kilowatts of power per hour, accumulating enough power to cover all of the building's energy needs.

Wastewater Treatment Solar Field

A solar field has provided power for Groton's waste water treatment since September 2018. This solar array is significantly smaller than the Goodenough solar farm, with fifty-two panels. In the solar field’s first three years, it contributed about 55 MWh of energy to the grid. From January to May of 2021, the waste water treatment solar field produced about the energy that the Goodenough field produces in fifteen days. Though it is small in comparison, it contributes significantly to the Groton School solar grid.

Buildings on Campus

Gardner Village

Gardner Village, completed in 2020, is the first net-zero building on campus. The four-unit faculty housing complex, with its own dedicated solar array, was built following LEED requirements and is awaiting LEED certification. To prevent excessive energy use, the building has energy-efficient double-layered windows, a tight building envelope, insulation, heat pumps, and a convection oven. Gardner Village offers faculty members a way to live sustainably along Groton School's path to being net-zero.

Schoolhouse

In 2015, Groton School updated the main academic building, the Schoolhouse, following LEED guidelines when planning the new addition. Most notable was the Schoolhouse's increase in energy efficiency, both through the reinvigoration of the heating and cooling system and efficient lighting fixtures. Geothermal heat pumps under the Circle provide temperature control in the Schoolhouse's new addition, and all lights have motion sensors to turn off after short periods of inactivity.

Dining Hall

Groton School’s Dining Hall sources food from a variety of local businesses to create their menu, paying special attention to seasonality. The Dining Hall has partnered with several local farms for over a decade, serving nutrient-dense and flavorful meals.

Other Sustainable Dining Hall Practices:
  • The Dining Hall collects leftover frying oil and sends it to Newport Biodiesel, a company that converts the oil into renewable energy.
  • The Dining Hall also collects leftover food scraps and sends them to Shaw Farm.

Environmentalism in the Curriculum

Students can weave sustainability into their Groton education, starting with foundational classes in Second and Third Form. In Second Form Science, students spend a term discussing climate change and its solutions. Ecology, one of two science options for Third Formers, studies the relationship between animals and the environment and focuses on how that relationship shifts with climate change. 

Once in Upper School, students have more liberty to choose classes that align with their interests. They can take environmental science and explore how humans affect our planet, and. later, Advanced Ecology, a deep dive beyond the Third Form ecology class. 

Outside of the Science Department, students may opt for Sustainability and Literature, reading climate-related fiction (and helping to build this Sustainability web page). Many take courses that are not explicitly about sustainability but include various environmental projects. These classes include Environmental Chemistrytaught by Headmaster Temba Maqubelaor even Calculus A and Applied Calculus, where students can design sustainability-focused projects. Sixth Formers may also create independent study courses (called tutorials): in 2021, two students researched and maintained a butterfly garden for an environmental tutorial.

Sustainability Committee

The student-led Sustainability Committee works to create a more sustainable Groton School. With six heads and more than forty members, the committee works with the administration as well as Buildings and Grounds to advocate for environmental initiatives. Future ideas include creating a composting system; increasing recycling; promoting Environmental, Social, Governance investment policies; planning Earth Day celebrations, and advocating for a sustainability coordinator.
Envirothon is an academic competition focused on environmental topics. Although 2021 was Groton School’s first time competing, the team swept the competition, winning the Natural Resource Challenge, the Current Issue section, and the overall prize at the Massachusetts Envirothon, while also placing fourth in the Nationals.

FDR's Sustainability Legacy

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Groton Form of 1900) created the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps, which not only bolstered the American economy during the Depression but also helped conserve natural resources and preserve our nation’s wildlife. FDR’s legacy remains on today’s campus in many forms, such as our own Conservation Corps, an afternoon activity that students can select instead of a sport. 

Founded in 2012 and led by environmental science teacher Dr. David H. Black, Conservation Corps engages students in habitat management. The Corps’ main tasks involve removing invasive species on walking trails and turtle nesting sites. Notable accomplishments include installing a native plant garden at the nearby Moors Schoolhouse site, restoring the Taplin Wildlife Sanctuary, and clearing picnic areas on the Bates Land, all in the town of Groton.