The Truth Behind the Trash
Jeff Jewett was hired last fall to fill a new position at Deerfield: He’s both a science teacher and the school’s Sustainability Coordinator. His goal, he says, is “to make the invisible visible. People think that when you flush the toilet or toss something in the trash, it just magically goes away. Well, where does it go? What happens when you turn on a light switch? Is it just magic light? No. It comes from someplace—possibly a power company that burns coal that was mined by completely removing the top of an Appalachian mountain.”
Jewett takes his students to waste-treatment and recycling plants. He screened a movie about mountain-top-removal coal mining. He teaches the sustainable way to do things, then tries to make it easy for people to comply. He also pushes to ensure that Deerfield serves as a model for sustainability.
Toward that end, Jewett advocated for more solar panels on the new dorm. He works with a group of student “enviromental proctors,” who coordinate recycling, composting, and conservation efforts in each dorm. He’s helping to develop Deerfield’s Sustainability Action Plan, and it’s his job to make recommendations and monitor energy efficient practices.
It’s a tall order, but he’s not alone in his efforts. When Jewett first came to Deerfield in 2011, he was impressed by the grassroots support for sustainability that already existed across all corners of the campus: He saw Physical Plant workers who wanted to grow food, a Dining Hall that had done away with trays to save the water and energy required to wash them, Finance Office folks willing to spend the money for compostable cups and recycled paper, and a facilities director who had already “picked the low-hanging fruit.”
Jewett regularly works alongside another recent hire, Dave Purington, the Academy’s Environmental Management Coordinator. Together they chair Deerfield’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC), a combination of students, faculty, and staff that works toward advancing the school’s sustainability mission. Purington’s primary duty is ensuring that the school obeys federal and state environmental regulations on everything from smokestack emissions to lead paint removal. He does lots of other things as well—from serving as an environmental liaison across campus to spearheading the recycling program.
This fall Purington unveiled the THINK 80/20 Program, geared to improve already active recycling on campus by standardizing the process. As with all of Deerfield’s sustainability efforts, it will be an ongoing, long-term process: the school year began with steps to improve education and publicity of recycling (particularly in dorms)—hence the 80/20 concept—to remind students and employees that 80 percent of their waste should be recycled or reused. In the dorms, waste management is simplified to two streams: recycling and landfill; in the Physical Plant it becomes a little more complicated, with the recycling bay acting as a receptacle for paper and plastic, of course, but also electronics, batteries, light bulbs, and hazardous wastes such as pesticides and solvents.