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Students Complete Year-long Environmental Projects

Kelly Eng '20 conducting a cardboard audit in January.

Focusing on topics ranging from carbon footprints to coffee beans, seven seniors recently completed year-long individual research projects in environmental sustainability using the school's campus as a location of study and action.

Although the school’s move to distance learning during the spring term meant several of the students had to modify their plans, all seven completed their ambitious projects, which were part of a course known as Guided Research Projects in Environmental Sustainability. Guided by Jeff Dyreson, science teacher and associate director of the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, the course is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between the Science Department and the Alvord Center.

The participating seniors, Kelly Eng, Portia Inzone, Sumin Kim, Griffen Malkin, Madison Redmond, Alexa Valadez, and Clare Wilbraske, each investigated an on-campus environmental concern and then created and carried out an action plan to address the concern. At the end of spring term, each of the students reported their findings to a gathering of the students and to members of the Alvord Center faculty.

“These seniors have been focused, driven, and amazingly adaptive given they weren’t on campus. They have embodied the adage, ‘What will you do with what you know?’” Jeff noted.

Kelly’s project addressed cardboard waste on the Island and beyond. During the fall and winter terms, Kelly completed an audit of Loomis’ cardboard waste and researched ways to educate the campus community about the issue. Her project culminated in her creation of a stop-motion video about the importance of reducing cardboard waste and some creative ways that Loomis community members can help to do so.     

Portia considered the economics of sustainable business practices through an on-campus pop-up coffee shop — the Green Bean— which she operated in the Scanlan Campus Center. Portia had intended to evaluate whether discounts on coffee dispensed in the purchasers’ own mugs, rather than in paper cups, would provide enough economic incentive for coffee patrons to reduce paper waste. Because of the campus closure this spring, Portia’s project did not generate enough data for analysis, but Portia moved the coffee shop experience online. Her blogsite, “She Brews & Blogs,” welcomes environmental sustainability discussions for coffee lovers.

Griffen worked on a detailed in-house carbon footprint analysis for Loomis Chaffee, as a follow-up to one completed by a third party in 2015. He gathered data from several sources and used the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform online tool for measuring, calculating, and reporting carbon and nitrogen footprints for school campuses. Griffen created a graphic representation to accompany his final report, which Jeff hopes will serve as a dynamic dashboard on the school website.  

Alexa looked at the health, environmental, and economic impacts, as well as people’s taste preferences, for beef compared to a plant-based manufactured protein source. Alexa created a website to share her research and findings, which included a taste test conducted in the dining hall during the winter term.

Alexa Valadez '20 conducts a beef vs. plant protein taste test in January. 

Madison set up an indoor hydroponic garden in the Clark Center for Science & Mathematics and grew several varieties of lettuce without soil. She created a series of videos showing how to set up a hydroponic garden at home, and she shared her videos on You Tube and on “In The Loop,” a student-produced weekly show at Loomis this spring.

Clare investigated sustainable planting practices. She researched the selection of appropriate trees and shrubs for the area around the north and west sides of Loomis’ solar energy field. During the winter term, Clare selected several trees and shrubs consistent with local native biodiversity to screen the solar array fencing. She had planned to help with the planting of the greenery, but since she was unable to come to campus during the COVID-19 crisis, residential faculty members planted the trees and shrubs.

Sumin examined invasive plant species growing in the school’s solar energy field. With the information she gleaned in her research, Sumin created a protocol to identify and control the spread of a plant called “multiflora rose,” a non-native species that has spread throughout a protected wetlands area within the solar array boundaries. Additionally, she created a lesson plan for implementing the program, which will become part Loomis’s College-Level Environmental Science curriculum.