Student effort taps into Exeter's green genes

The 'Big Red Goes Green' initiative aims to rekindle the school's commitment to sustainability.

October 19, 2022

When a groundswell of concern for the environment in America resulted in the first Earth Day in 1970, Exeter students were there, cleaning up roadside litter and trash around town, handing out material on pollution to local residents, and canvassing for signatures to install an incinerator and sewage treatment plant in town.

More than a half-century later, Exeter students remain at the vanguard of environmental activism, launching a new effort to raise awareness on campus of the planet’s plight and what can be done locally to respond.

With “Big Red Goes Green,” the student-led Environmental Action Committee hopes to reignite a commitment to sustainability that largely was smothered by the pandemic and the measures required to cope with it. The club’s co-heads laid out their intentions at assembly Tuesday.

“With Exeter’s busyness, environmental sustainability is often pushed to the side in favor of convenience,” Ophelia Bentley ’23 said, “and thanks to COVID, we’ve been using more plastic and producing more waste than ever.

“While climate change is far too big to be solved by any one of us alone, small actions add up and make a big difference.”

The EAC’s multi-pronged effort includes working with the Academy’s Environmental Stewardship Committee to infuse sustainability into the school’s curriculum “in an interdisciplinary way so we can give credence to the ubiquitous nature of the climate crisis” said Alia Bonanno ’23, “and to appeal to students’ every interest and background so it’s not always so ‘science-y’ and is more accessible.”

Other elements of the initiative are hosting assembly speakers focused on the environment; holding open forums to discuss issues related to climate change; the return of dorm-based E-proctors to promote sustainable measures in the dorms; and a dorm sustainability competition that features a March Madness-style tournament bracket.

The club’s co-heads — who also include Alysha Lai ’23 and Safira Schiowitz ’23 — are all seniors, but their aim is to make a lasting mark on the institution with this latest effort. “Our hope is the work we do now lasts long into the Academy’s future,” Schiowitz said. “That’s why we’re calling it a pillar instead of a theme, because we’re hoping that it will become part of Exeter’s primary values and be more at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”