Green Team Celebrates 20 Years
The Green Team, Mercersburg Academy’s student-led environmental organization, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
In a normal year, the Green Team hosts a variety of events. There are Eco Dorm Challenges each term, encouraging students to conserve water or electricity in their dorms; the dorm with the largest change per number of residents wins a dorm feed. Another big event is Project E.D.E.N. (Earth Day Education and Networking). For this event, the Green Team travels to Mercersburg Elementary School to educate students about climate change and to pass out LED light bulbs with the goal of not only sparking conservation at school, but also at home with family.
“I think the best thing about Project E.D.E.N. is the fact that we’re educating people outside of our campus community,” says Clark Bayer ’22, a Green Team leader. “We’re getting into the elementary schools so they can bring it home and hopefully educate their parents.”
Although they’ve had to adjust due to COVID-19, the Green Team has still been one of the most active clubs on campus this year. When students arrived back to campus for in-person learning in the fall, meals were served in disposable containers. This created a lot of waste on campus, and members of the Green Team were quick to take action and call on the school to produce less waste. This spring, students, faculty, and staff have been using reusable bento boxes that are returned to the dining hall after each meal.
Over the virtual period during the winter, the Green Team hosted a Virtual Vegan Cook-off, encouraging students to eat more sustainable, plant-based meals. They also ran a fundraiser for Project E.D.E.N., selling T-shirts and reusable straws. In place of their usual visit to the elementary school, the Green Team filmed a series of videos about various issues that will be shown to students. They also held two successful Earth Day events: a movie night, where they screened three different environmental documentaries, and an event to plant seeds on back campus to attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
The Green Team also recently joined the National Climate High School Forum when they were contacted by students at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. Being part of this coalition will allow the Green Team to do outreach beyond the Mercersburg student body, and will allow students from around the country to connect over solving environmental issues.
The group started in 2000 when former faculty member Beth Pethel noticed a need for the organization as the Mercersburg community was struggling with recycling. Mercersburg history faculty member Allison Stephens then led the group for a few years before it was turned over to current faculty adviser Will Willis P ’22, ’24. For 20 years, the Green Team has been influencing student attitudes on environmental issues. In addition to their annual events, they raise the student body’s attention to pressing global issues.
“I think the school in general has been moving forward a lot in terms of its consciousness of things like recycling. Just on my [dorm] wing, I see people recycling so often. Their first instinct if they have an empty water bottle or cardboard box is not to throw it away. It’s to put it in the recycling,” notes Dylan Gantt ’21, another Green Team leader. “It’s been pretty amazing to see how the student body by itself has become more conscious of those habits, understanding that their one small action is going to affect a lot of different people.”
Willis explains that “involving students has been really good, and what that does is that the more students get involved, the more it sends a message to the administration to make some changes too. There’s always this gentle pushing of one another. As it’s become so much more active, maybe it’s not coincidence that the last round of strategic planning included committing to environmental stewardship and fostering a greater sense of place here.”
Student leaders of the Green Team recently sat down to record a podcast with one of Mercersburg Academy’s spring communications interns, Clara Getty ’21, where they discussed the 20th anniversary of the organization as well as different initiatives on campus. Listen to the podcast here, and be sure to follow along with the Green Team on Instagram @mburggreenteam.