Moses Brown Goes Green

Large efforts start with small steps, which is no easy task on a 33-acre campus. However, Moses Brown faculty, staff, and students have taken a number of steps this year toward maintaining a "green" campus.

When the new dining hall opened in January, student activists urged the adoption of a new policy, resulting in paper cups for drinks no longer being available. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to carry their own mugs for coffee or tea, or to use the reusable plastic cups available. Foodservice Director Ken Keighley replaced the plastic tableware with a cornstarch-based product that can be recycled, and the soup bowls are now made of recycled paper.

In addition, the restoration of West Middle House allowed Moses Brown to upgrade the facilities with ecologically friendly technologies. For example, while the windows are designed to maintain the historic look of the building, they have been treated with highly insulated and energy-efficient glazing. Also, the heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and lighting systems all have motion sensors that initiate adjustments depending on whether a room is occupied.

To reduce energy expenditures in transportation, the school chose local materials and carefully tracked the percentage of construction waste recycled by the contractor. More than 90 percent of the construction waste from the renovation was recycled. In order to protect students and the environment, the school specified the use of low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitting sealants, paints, adhesives, carpet, and flooring. The school also has an extensive recycling program and a commitment to conserve water, and its grounds are maintained without herbicides, pesticides, or dangerous fertilizers.

Sustainability is central to the Moses Brown mission as a Friends school. As one upper school student commented, several Quaker testimonies—Simplicity, Community, and Stewardship—require a commitment to care for the Earth. Raising awareness through daily examples takes time, but it proves most effective in changing attitudes.

Joyce Hooley Bartlett, science teacher at MB, says, "In my experience, the only way to educate anyone about sustainability is to show them the wonder and awe that is nature." Following this theory, she not only teaches her students the cycle of growth and development in organisms, but also helps them experience it by taking them to a pond where they can observe the birth and growth of tadpoles. For her, the idea of "green" is to find ways to make the environment a part of one’s own spirit.

With this goal in mind, Moses Brown wants to be vibrant today, but also robust for future generations of students. Therefore, the school is working toward achieving a collective understanding of how everyone at the school can meet their responsibility to future generations, in their own community and throughout the world.

To read more about Moses Brown efforts and activities in going green, visit and click on "school life," then "sustainability."

Joanne P. Hoffman

Joanne P. Hoffman is head of Moses Brown School, Debbie Phipps is head of the Upper School, and Joyce Hooley Bartlett teaches biology, chemistry, and science electives in the Upper School. Founded in 1784 by Friends abolitionist Moses Brown, Moses Brown School is a Friends pre-K-12 day school in Providence, R.I., on land that was originally Moses Brown's farm.