by Anne, Adam, Annie, and Nick
The Island School prides itself on being an environmentally conscious institution; yet how kind is the school to the earth? Yes, we make our own biodiesel and compost, have solar panels and a wind turbine, we even pump our sewage into manure for bananas, but what is our carbon footprint? Up until this point in time, the actual carbon footprint of the school had not been calculated and this human ecology group set out to do just that. Carbon outputs, as many of you know, pollute the atmosphere and play a large role in climate change. Though poorer nations like The Bahamas do not have the largest impact on the global carbon footprint, islands like Eleuthera are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. We felt it was our responsibility to understand our carbon impact on the world so that we could make steps towards living more within the school’s pillar of “sustainability.”
We went about calculating the school’s carbon footprint in one year by looking at our transportation, import, energy, and waste needs from June 2010 – July 2011. Though this sounds fairly simple, believe us, it was anything but. The four of us worked tirelessly, constantly challenging ourselves to think about things that played a role in our footprints as well as tracking down the many faculty and staff who had data that was essential for our final calculation. Obviously, we could not be one hundred percent exact with our calculations; we had to set boundaries. We figured the average distance from which people would fly would Boston and traced our imports not back to China, but to Florida. Using a lot of math and some online calculators, we were able to convert plane rides and soda cans into metric tonnes of carbon. When we came to our final total of our carbon offset, the number shocked us. As a school, our annual carbon emission is 669.402 metric tones.
So now what? It is impossible for the school to reduce our carbon emissions to zero; a vast majority of our footprints comes from the 879 or so plane rides back and forth from the school. How can we fix something like that? Unless the Island School wants to change and have our first three weeks consist of us sailing down here or resituate itself in Boston, there is little way to reduce our travel emissions. We can, however, offset our footprint. The Foundation is willing to use money from the budget to pay for projects that will offset the things that play into our carbon footprint that we cannot change.
The next step in this project is to decide whether this money will be used towards buying carbon offsets or using the money to finance on-sight projects that will act as offsets. Both have their benefits and faults; though buying carbon offsets is a cheaper and more effective method, we would not be able to see its effects on our community. On-sight projects could be more costly, but these projects may not only work to reduce our carbon footprints, but may hopefully as well stimulate the local economy and enhance The Island School community. We hope that our work in this Human Ecology group may someday be used to move this school towards a friendlier carbon footprint.