It's easy being green

Exeter practices what it preaches about sustainability.

April 10, 2018
Exeter student planting tree seedling.

As living sustainably becomes increasingly inextricable from responsible citizenship and stewardship, members of the Exeter community did their part during the spring months to help effect change and increase awareness.

Climate Action Day

One day last April, regular classes were suspended for Exeter’s third annual Climate Action Day, featuring workshops, service projects, speakers and films dedicated to environmental protection.

Students and faculty braved wet and windy weather for field work that included transplanting dozens of white pine seedlings on campus as well as planting beachgrass stems on storm-damaged dunes in Massachusetts.

Students chose from a range of other activities as well, from hands-on work that included invasive species removal at a nearby conservation area to discussions and presentations about sustainable ranching, journalism in the age of climate change, the economics of solar farming, and more.


Seedlings planted by students


sessions offered on Climate Action Day

Zero-waste graduation


tons of compost generated by 3,000 attendees

There was even more reason to celebrate commencement on June 4. Attended by approximately 3,000 guests, the ceremony’s picnic was Exeter’s first large-scale zero waste event, thanks to extensive planning and collaboration by the Academy’s Facilities Management and Dining Services staff. From the compostable service ware, including plates made from naturally fallen palm leaves and wooden utensils, to food safety protocols that ensured all leftovers could be donated to local shelters, the goal was clear: Let nothing go to waste.

Two stations, staffed by volunteers to help attendees correctly sort their compost from their recyclables, helped to ensure the success of that endeavor, as did details like the presence of stations with pitchers of water and recyclable soda cans and the conspicuous absence of any garbage cans. The buzz among the crowd was largely positive as they finished their meals and sorted their scraps — their “footprint” a little lighter as a result.



commemorative Nalgene water bottles distributed to guests

Baby beech planting


pounds of carbon dioxide a fully mature beech tree can sequester

In late April, the community mourned the removal of the massive European Beech tree that had stood on the library lawn for about 130 years, serving as a school icon and place of repose for generations of Exonians.

Just four days later, Facilities Management staff members planted a new 20-foot European “baby beech” in the same spot.

The Academy dedicated the new tree during a ceremony in May honoring outgoing Trustee President Nicie Johnson Panetta.

Eight Art 208 students also presented Panetta with a collaborative drawing of the original beech tree (above).

Dorm cleanout


tons of potential waste diverted for recycling

Each spring, students pack to go home and choose to leave a lot of personal items behind. Last year, in an effort to reduce the amount of items that end up in landfills, Exeter’s Green Umbrella Advisory Group in partnership with student environmental proctors piloted a dorm cleanout effort. The impact was immediate. About 3,700 pounds of materials were diverted from the trash and donated for reuse to area nonprofits.

This year, Exeter adopted a similar direct-to-donation model and provided students and dorm heads with three main collection points for donating gently-used items such as clothing, shoes, books, textiles and functioning electronics, which were given to Goodwill Northern New England. Within just a two-hour block of time on May 31, the community collected 4,382 pounds of items for the nonprofit. An 18 percent increase over last year.