Don’t Base Sustainability on Recycling

Lindsey Lyons and Ken Shultes

The guest contribution opinion article in the November 21, 2019 Dickinsonian titled “The Two Sides of Carlisle” took many people by surprise. This is because Dickinson and the Carlisle Area School District (CASD) are actually very much on the same side when it comes to sustainability.   The article focuses on recycling deficiencies at CASD schools and proposes a partnership with Dickinson to educate students in the CASD, which is great idea, but not a new one. Notably, progress has already been made on this front between Dickinson and the Carlisle High School’s Green Team.  The article also mentions the fact that the two middle schools in the CASD have been certified LEED Gold and LEED Platinum, which is a huge achievement and represents very innovative leadership with the CASD. 

What the article does not recognize is that the CASD and Dickinson are already partnering on many sustainability fronts, and this reply intends to simply provide some of that information.  

For starters, for nearly a decade, many Dickinsonians have admired the sustainability accomplishments of the CASD, particularly in the arena of operations.  One big example of this is the CASD’s one MW solar array – with 5,178 panels on six acres of land!  This 2010 project should be a source of pride for past and present CASD students.  In addition to solar voltaic energy, the CASD solar array seemed to spark the sustainability milestones which followed, including the LEED Gold and Platinum certifications of the two CASD middle schools.  Both schools have been featured in the American School & University Educational Interiors Showcase Issue, the premier competition honoring education interiors excellence. The projects have also received 2015 Green School of the Year for K-12 category from the U.S. Green Building Council Central Pennsylvania Chapter. Dickinson’s Center for Sustainability Education offered a tour of LEED platinum Wilson Middle School in Spring 2018 in which 20 faculty, staff and students toured the building to learn of the district’s progress. 

CASD demonstrated their commitment to whole-school sustainability by improving the physical infrastructure of their schools, building an awareness and vision for sustainability across the district and engaging students in sustainability topics through real-world learning and service projects to win the 2018-19 Green Schools Scholarship (one of five in the nation) from the US Green Building Council. This award highlights their leadership in this effort.

More importantly though are some recent partnerships between Dickinson and CASD specifically around sustainability. At present, Dickinson is composting food waste from the CASD at our Dickinson College Farm. To date, this program has diverted hundreds of pounds of CASD food waste from the landfill and has allowed the college to expand their compost program.  The Center for Sustainability Education has consulted with CASD teachers and the Green Club on how to incorporate sustainability into their classrooms, teaching, and programs. The CASD has used Dickinson’s plastic bag recycling program as a model to create their own. The College Farm offers Farm, Cook, Eat a sustainable cooking program to elementary students in the district. Additionally, Dickinsonians and CASD admin and teachers participated in a sustainability tour of Carlisle Construction Materials last month to explore local careers in sustainability.

Tom Horton, Director of Facilities for CASD shared that “the district is fortunate to have Dickinson College in their back yard as well as a long-standing collaborative working relationship. Recently CASD fostered a sustainability partnership that encompasses a group of local leaders in the business industry as well as educational institutes to include Dickinson College and CASD staff members.  The group has been successful due to its diverse membership, innovative ideas, and a community ready for these changes”

 Over the past year, CASD teachers and administrators have collaborated to discuss the numerous ways sustainability can be embedded into our curriculum and daily operations of the district.   This includes hands on projects, instruction in the classroom and advocacy among their peers.  CASD’s is vested in teaching, learning and advocacy for what is right and sustainable for future generations to come.

Tom, is in many ways too modest to share that he has led the CASD to win the following list of awards related to sustainability:

•USGBC Green Schools Scholarship Program 2018-19

•Champion of Green Schools Presented by the Pa Department of Education Green and Healthy Schools Partnership 2018

•USGBC Central Pennsylvania Leader Award 2018: Greenest Apple

•Selected for the USGBC ARC+Schools pilot program 2017

•PASBO Award of Achievement 2010 Gold 2015 Gold

•SEIA & SEPS North American Award of Excellence 2011

•2010-2011 Pennsylvania Environmental Council Award of Excellence

•2010-2011 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

•PennFuture 2010 Green Power Make It Award

There is no doubt that more education and behavior changes are needed in the realm of recycling. However, this isn’t only true within the Carlisle Area School District. Dickinson certainly has room to grow here as well. Behavior change is hard, and recycling markets shift daily. Therefore, one should not base success on sustainability on recycling observations, but instead on holistic systems that do the best for the people and communities, budgets and finances, and the planet and its resources.  Carlisle Area School District, is leading the way amongst public schools in the region in regards to sustainability and building management, and should be commended for their long history of success.  We believe that there is great synergy between the CASD and Dickinson, and we feel fortunate to be on the same side when it comes to sustainability.