We believe the next generation must be informed and prepared to make difficult decisions about sustaining the valuable resources of our planet. True to this mission, our campus allows students, educators, and scientists to live what they teach and learn. The buildings and grounds at The Island School incorporate systems and design principles that minimize our ecological footprint through the conservation and sustainable use of our resources.
The Island School is the first institution in The Bahamas to employ such comprehensive, ecologically sound systems. There is great promise that the school’s efforts will help change the way The Bahamas and other island nations manage waste and produce energy. The students at The Island School work to maintain and manage these systems, learning first-hand the benefits of engineering that reflects a deep-rooted respect for the environment.
Wherever possible, we apply the principles of “green design” to our building projects on campus. These include: maximizing renewable energy sources and the energy efficiency of buildings; minimizing long-term maintenance needs; and using recycled or locally-produced, sustainably grown materials with low amounts of embodied energy (the total amount of energy required to extract, manufacture, and transport a material).
Casuarina equisetifolia (Australian Pine) is an abundant and non-native, invasive tree species from Australia, which grows throughout the Bahamas. It is considered a biological pest on the Islands because it suppresses the growth of native plants and exacerbates coastal erosion. Casuarina, therefore, makes an excellent choice for local and sustainable building material. At the Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute, we use it in timber frames, building trim, furniture, fences, and walkways.
Our workshop, completed in the summer of 2002, was designed for hurricane resistance, beauty, ecological integration and education. It was built with the help of many local residents (including high schoolers from Preston H. Albury and middle school children from Deep Creek, Eleuthera) and incorporates components such as Casuarina timber framing, locally produced limestone mortar, salvaged materials, and a living roof.
The Island School is modeling clean energy technologies with a hybrid wind and solar system that provides much of the electricity used by our school buildings. All of the campus’ hot water needs are also met with solar technology and our biodiesel production provides fuel for all of our vehicles and farm machinery.
Passive solar water collectors connected to each building store up to 50 gallons of water per unit. They heat the water up to 180°F during the day and are well insulated such that there is hot water available each morning. Units feed directly into buildings no back-up or booster heaters are used.
252 solar panels, with a capacity of over 50 kilowatts, are distributed between the Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI), providing most of the electricity for both campuses. The success of this system encouraged The Bahamas Electricity Corporation to partner with us to create the nation’s first grid intertie, and will hopefully inform future energy policies and development practices in The Bahamas.
Our 10-kilowatt wind turbine sits on a 100-foot steel tower and can withstand wind speeds up to 120 mph. It requires very little scheduled maintenance and produces cost-effective, clean, and renewable electricity.
With the energy of our students and faculty, we are working to expand our school farm with citrus trees and vegetables that will play a significant role in feeding our community. The food garden is fertilized with compost from kitchen waste and watered with a solar-powered pump, providing a viable model for low-cost, high-yield food production in South Eleuthera.
Our agricultural systems are designed to grow food for the Island School, as well as plants for ground cover, green manure, pest management, medicinal uses, and research projects such as biofuel production. Native coastal plants and other organic material will be used to restore the beach-dune environments around campus that have been damaged by past development projects and strong weather. This will help create an important windbreak for the area.
On Eleuthera, as on many islands, there is a slim supply of groundwater. To meet the school’s water needs, rain is collected from roof runoff and stored in cisterns. Our students learn to become conscious users of precious fresh water and keep track of usage rates and storage as part of their daily routine.
To further protect our water supply and the fragile reef system that surrounds our campus, The Island School has established an on-site waste management system. A lush, green, constructed wetland adorns the center courtyard of the campus. Human wastewater is cycled through the wetland and provides nutrients for tropical plants while simultaneously being purified so that it is released more safely released into the environment than it would be through traditional “leach-away” tanks that release effluent directly into the water table.