The People’s Climate March – A Turning Point

climate march 2 CLimate march Climate march1 climatechangemarch 

The call: Show me what democracy looks like!
The thundering response of the crowd: This is what democracy looks like!

With gusto and enthusiasm, 20 Westtown students and teachers added their voices to the breathtaking chorus of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of New York City last Sunday – one person for every 1,000 Americans. That’s a big crowd, a really big crowd – the biggest climate march in history.

Banners were flying, and signs were everywhere (my favorite: an image of the sun, overwritten with “Gee, if we only we had access to an infinite source of energy.”). The diversity of the crowd was striking: families with young ones, students in droves, people of every age, religion, ethnicity, and culture. The tone was ebullient, positive, and determined: peaceful assembly at its best. Democracy in action.

At 12:58 the massive crowd grew utterly silent and raised hands above their heads. All that could be heard were birds singing in Central Park. Two minutes later we raised the “climate alarm”: 30 marching bands struck up, and every mouth was shouting or blowing a whistle. The roar swelled from the front of the march to the back and could be heard over a mile away. It was a stunning moment.

UN delegates in the following days took note of the March, adding urgency and momentum to the growing consensus that we must replace our addiction to coal, oil, and gas to clean alternatives. The transition will create jobs, clean our air and water, and mitigate climate change which impacts all of us.

It felt wonderful to have Westtown School represented at this historic event.

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Friends Schools Educators Head to Capitol Hill

Alice Paul photo

Alice Paul plaque

I have always admired Alice Paul, the Quaker activist who secured for women the right to  vote, so when I passed this sign in Washington DC last week while attending the annual FEEN (Friends Environmental Education Network) conference, it reminded me that our voices and our actions absolutely make a difference.

Twenty educators and trustees from Friends schools gathered in DC for two days this May to hear from sustainability leaders and to share what we are doing in our schools. This dedicated group, supported by the Friends Council on Education, has met for the past 15 years and is passionately connecting the dots between social and economic justice, non-violence, and protection of our resources and environment. Friends Schools are in the vanguard of the Green Schools movement, and the chance to be with inspiring, dedicated teachers and to encourage each other on the journey towards a just, sustainable future was a gift. This is my fourth FEEN conference, and it never fails to re-galvanize my commitment to sustainability efforts at Westtown and in the broader community. What a group! Continue reading

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Westtown Takes Back the Tap

By Corinne Dillon-Johns, Environmental Science major at Drexel University and Sustainability Office Intern

What happens to the 70 million disposable water bottles that are thrown away every day

Green Moose Environmental Group

Green Moose Environmental Group

in America? Only 20% are recycled. Those that end up in landfills take over 450 years to decompose — 5 lifetimes for something that only took about 5 minutes to use. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.

At Westtown, we are creating a sustainable future by Taking Back the Tap, and saying “no” to the use of disposable plastic water bottles.


Hydration station in the Athletic Center

Hydration station in the Athletic Center

Currently, reusable, BPA-free water bottles are being sold around campus to promote tap water. And thanks to the Middle School Green Moose Environmental Group, two new Hydration Stations have been installed at in the Athletic Center. They even tell you how many disposable bottles you are keeping out of the landfill by choosing tap water. The energy required to produce bottled water is about 2,000 times the energy required to produce tap water.

If energy consumption isn’t your thing, then think about your wallet. Single-use bottles require processing, bottling, sealing, and labeling, all of which have an additional price tag.

Industries want us to believe that bottled water is cleaner and purer than tap, but in reality, 44% of bottled water in the U.S. comes from municipal tap water. That’s right, you are paying money to have someone bottle the water that comes out of your own faucet. What’s next, bottled air?

Bottled air protest in China

Bottled air protest in China








(Full story on bottled air protest:

You can learn more about Taking Back the Tap from the Food and Water Watch website here:

Join Westtown’s sustainability efforts today and help us take back the tap!


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Minding the Inner Light

Following in the great Quaker tradition, The Metal Moose Robotics Team has boosted this profound truth to the next level:  It’s time to tend to our outer light as well.

The Robotics Team approached me recently about buying LEDs in bulk for the school as part of their fund-raising efforts. What a great project!  I suggested they first do some research by conducting an audit of inefficient bulbs currently in use in office lamps in the Main Building, Industrial Hall, Admissions Office, and Health Center and calculate potential savings for the school. The students created a detailed spreadsheet of where inefficient bulbs were still lurking and offered to provide free light-bulb-changing labor.

When presented with the data, Director of Facilities George Schaab generously agreed to purchase 50 LED bulbs (equivalent to 60-watt incandescent bulbs, but only using 9 watts) from the Team.  Before winter break, the team installed the bulbs, replacing many old-fashioned, grossly inefficient incandescent lights. The team calculated that the school will save $400 a year in energy costs, thus repaying the cost of the bulbs in a little over two years, while cutting energy use and pollution. Added bonus: the bulbs will last 20 years.

Did you know?

  • Up to 98 % of the energy in an incandescent bulb is wasted as heat
  • LEDs last 40 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use one-tenth the energy
  • If a typical family replaced all their incandescent bulbs with LEDs, they would save $5,000 ($200 a year) in energy costs during the 20-year life-expectancy of the LED bulbs (used 6 hours a day).

Clearly, even Thomas Edison would buy LEDs

LED robotics

The team prepares to blitz the Main Building with the new LEDs.

LED 1 EpplerTeacher Kevin Eppler is thrilled with the new LED bulb in his Dean’s Office lamp!

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Westtown Named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education


It’s official: Westtown now has a beautiful Green Ribbon School plaque to hang in Central. This week, Head of School John Baird, Director of Gift Planning Meghan Sayer, and I had the pleasure of accepting this award on behalf of the whole school from the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. Westtown was one of 54 public and 10 independent schools to be selected, and the only independent school in the state of Pennsylvania. In a rigorous evaluation process, States’ nominees to the US Department of Education were assessed by several dozen reviewers from four federal agencies: The U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Forest Service, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). It was inspiring to be among educational innovators from a vibrant mix of rural, urban, elementary, middle, and high schools from throughout the country. Continue reading

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