Sustainability Spotlight#1: Sustainability Mission and Vision in Friends Schools

By Leif Taranta

Welcome to Friends Council on Education’s Sustainability Spotlight, where we highlight important sustainability initiatives at Friends Schools. In keeping with the Quaker testimony of stewardship, many Friends schools have incorporated environmental sustainability efforts into their curriculums, campus plans, and energy and waste management efforts. In this post, we highlight sustainability mission and vision statements and school administrative support for sustainable initiatives.

As the Friends Initiative to Reach Sustainability Together (FIRST) argues, the institutional support is crucial to the implementation of extensive sustainability initiatives. They write, “School leadership is critical for the integration of new policies and practices,” adding that sustainability policies and mission statements can act as  “an articulation of where schools intend to go.” (p. 4). Examples of effective sustainability commitment policies can be found at schools such as George School, William Penn Charter School, and Westtown School, which serve as models of administrative support for institutional sustainability and environmental education.

George School’s sustainability mission statement reads, “Guided by Quaker beliefs in stewardship, simplicity, and social justice, George School commits itself to awakening all members of our community to the wonder of the natural world and to our shared responsibility to care for it well.”

Similarly, William Penn Charter School’s sustainability mission statement reads:
“William Penn Charter School is committed to the Quaker testimony of stewardship. We continually develop our educational program to include environmental concerns, teaching our students to be good stewards of the earth. We make decisions around resources that are mindful of their ecological impact. By cultivating a respect for nature and the interconnectedness of the world’s systems, we inspire students to become lifelong stewards and agents for global change.”

Westtown School’s sustainability mission statement contains a similar focus on Quaker values and environmental education, as well as a commitment to institutionalized sustainability practices and decision-making. Adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2008, it reads:

We, the Westtown School community, will fulfill our mission to “inspire and prepare our graduates to be stewards and leaders of a better world” by committing to protecting and enhancing the environment through our teaching and our institutional practices. Guided by the principles of the Religious Society of Friends, we are called to lead by example in creating a community that sustains ecological systems and that makes environmental awareness and responsible environmental action core values. The school’s decisions and actions will be guided by their environmental and educational impact now and in the future so that in meeting the needs of today’s Westonians we will support the mission, longevity, and future prosperity of the institution and the larger world. We will pay particular attention in our operations to sustainable land use and management, construction and renovation of facilities, and energy and resource consumption, giving priority to practices that can teach sustainability. Ultimately, our goal is to create an environmentally literate and responsible community of students, faculty, staff, and families whose daily actions reflect care for the earth and its biodiversity.

George School, William Penn Charter School, and Westtown School’s official commitments to sustainability are supported by extensive action and leadership in areas of renewable energy sourcing, farming and food procurement, waste management, building efficiency, water management, and environmental education. Just one example is that the two newest buildings on the George School campus were built to LEED environmental standards. All three schools also have committees dedicated to overseeing sustainability initiatives and concerns. Westtown School supports a sustainability master plan outlining goals and efforts in multiple areas of institutional sustainability and an official Environmental Sustainability Fund. Similarly, William Penn Charter School’s Strategic Vision contains a section regarding plans to “green” the school. More information about each school’s impressive sustainability efforts and administrative support can be found here, here, and here.

These schools’ efforts are representative of widespread efforts amongst Friends Schools to promote sustainability and the Quaker stewardship testimony. Many schools have hired sustainability coordinators and directors of sustainability, incorporated sustainability into their school’s mission, or promoted renewable energy, gardening, sustainability education and other initiatives through faculty, student and volunteer support. Backed by supportive administrations and guided by commitments to decrease environmental degradation and enhance student awareness of sustainability and the natural world, Friends schools have made impressive steps forward in areas of resource consumption and energy efficiency, sustainability literacy and campus management.

Stay turned for the next Sustainability Spotlight in January 2018!

Other resources:
Survey Results