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Sustainability & Community Action

We are all in this together.

Everything we do, and everything we don't do, makes a difference.

At Town, we work to foster resilience, encourage creative and critical thinking, and give our students the tools they need to ensure a sustainable future. Educating for sustainability is teaching children to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. We must recognize that all living things and natural systems are interdependent, and in turn, put this understanding to use in our lives, our communities, and the world in which we live. This is a world for which we are all responsible.

Sustainability and community action are woven throughout the curriculum and students work on projects that meet real and specific needs of the communities they learn about in school, allowing them to use academic skills and knowledge in real life situations. Town also offers opportunities each year for our entire community - students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni/ae families - to come together in support of a service project.

Partnerships and Recent Projects

April Earth Day observances: Each year during Earth Week our community commits to making sustainable changes to our own lives, and each Division brings in developmentally-appropriate conversations and challenges to build new sustainable habits. In 2019, our focus was around reducing and replacing plastic straws, as this form of plastic waste is too small to be recycled in industrial machines and often ends up in waterways and oceans.

Green Schools Alliance (GSA): Town is a founding member of the Green Schools Alliance, a global peer-to-peer network of pre-K to grade 12 schools working together to solve climate and conservation challenges. Since 2007, the GSA has grown to include participation by more than 5,000 public and private schools in 44 U.S. states and 49 countries representing over three million students. Addressing climate and conservation challenges, GSA’s mission is to connect and empower schools worldwide to lead the transformation to global sustainability. GSA believes schools are hubs of their communities that build resilience, transform markets and policy, shift behavior, and prepare the next generation of innovators to become environmental stewards.

NYC Parks Department: In addition to periodic community-wide stewardship events, Town 1st graders, as part of their annual study of community, make several trips to clean up and plant new flowers in neighboring John Jay Park.

MillionTreesNYC: The Town community participated in seven planting events over the course of the MillionTreesNYC campaign. Thanks in no small part to Town’s planting efforts over the past several years, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx is almost fully restored!

January 2019 MulchFest: Approximately 20 members of the Town community gathered for this annual event. Together we dragged discarded Christmas Trees from neighboring streets to the park to be mulched for use in parks and community gardens throughout the city.

NYC Sanitation Department Organics Recycling: In 2016-17, Town joined hundreds of public schools and community members throughout the city as part of the NYC Sanitation Department's organic waste collection. Organic waste from Town’s lunch and snack is collected by the city for composting, rather than being trucked to landfills in Pennsylvania and Ohio. After three years of this composting program, we have seen the volume of trash from school lunches reduced by over two thirds.

New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS): In November 2014, Sustainability Coordinator Ken Higgins co-chaired the first ever NYSAIS Educators for Sustainability Summit at Grace Church School. Two Town students were part of the keynote address, sharing their participation in Town sustainability efforts! In April 2015, Ken Higgins presented at the 2nd NYSAIS Educators for Sustainability summit at Rye Country Day School. In 2016, Town students, teachers and alumni/ae helped plan and lead the first ever student-led NYSAIS conference focused on sustainability in schools.

Project Cicero: Every March Town families join this organization’s efforts to collect gently used or new children’s books to help supplement libraries in under-resourced schools. Town continues to be one of the largest school contributors to the NYC Project Cicero Book Drive.

Riverkeeper: Town students periodically join Riverkeeper in large or small groups to help clean up and preserve our rivers and wetlands.

Ronald McDonald House: Town hosts annual drives for the Ronald McDonald NYC Parents Pantry Program, which provides non-perishable food and supplies for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House while their children receive treatment for pediatric cancer.

Sandwiches for the Hungry: During their buddy visits after All School Assemblies, Town classes take turns making sandwiches for local soup kitchens and food pantries. It’s an activity student of all ages love and look forward to every year.

Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now): Each year we come together as a community to package nutritious meals for distribution to families in need all over the world. At our January 2019 event, we created over 35,000 meal packages and hope to top that number in 2020!

Sustainability Through Student Voices Conference: In 2019, Town hosted the 4th annual STSV conference, a student-led and planned event focused on how we as school communities can help build a sustainable future. Click here to learn more.

Urban Outreach Center: Town has partnered with the Urban Outreach Center, currently housed at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, for several years, holding clothing drives during times of critical need and visiting for days of service. Upper School students carefully sort, package, and personally deliver our donations. 

Wearable Collections: Town holds annual textile recycling drives to coincide with the students’ locker clean-out. We also consistently encourage families to recycle clothing and textiles at their local green markets.

Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP): Each spring, the 8th graders participate in a full day of service projects. In past years, they have traveled with YSOP to five different locations across Manhattan and Queens, serving meals at soup kitchens and distributing food, clothing and supplies at food pantries and homeless outreach centers.

Sustainable Facilities Commitment

Town's facility shows a strong commitment to sustainability, including our efforts to use greener sources of paper, power and cleaning supplies.

Town is a member of the Sterling Planet Green Power Consortium. Town joined this green energy consortium in 2014 and in 2015 and 2016 we were named to the EPA’s list of the top 30 K-12 schools using green power! The combined green power use of these organizations amounts to more than 78 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, which is equivalent to the electricity use of more than 7,400 average American homes each year.

In 2008, partnering with The Green Schools Alliance, Town made the commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% in five years. Our EPA Portfolio Manager number at that time was 16, indicating we were more energy efficient than 16% of similar buildings nationally. By 2012, in less than four years, we had improved to 27, an improvement of almost 70%.

Solar panels help provide energy for our science labs.

Food for our daily snack and lunches is sourced from local farms.

In 2012, Town installed a wind turbine on our 4th floor play roof, the first wind turbine at an NYC school!

Since 2016-17 we have been growing our own vegetables and herbs in the back lobby of the school with our new Tower Garden! We periodically harvest greens for use in our school lunches - the ultimate in 'eating local.'


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