The Portsmouth Abbey School is a coed Benedictine high school founded in 1926 next to Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. The school was constructed in the manner of the time, with little concern for lasting efficiency in a future changing world. It was created in a period before climate change even became a term shaping our functional decisions. But because of rising energy costs and the importance of representing Benedictine principles of stewardship, Portsmouth Abbey School has taken a lead in embracing sustainability in the 21st century.
The school has committed to reducing its carbon footprint by focusing on alternative energy sources, “green” construction, and reduced waste. In 2006, Portsmouth Abbey erected the state’s first industrial-scale wind turbine on campus to supply over 1/3 of the school’s energy needs. In 2007, it opened a new girls dormitory with solar-heated hot water, renewable and recycled wood materials, and low-flow water features. This year the Abbey will unveil a comparable boys dorm. Other sustainable features include electrical security cars, composted dining waste, collected waste cooking oil for biodiesel, a community garden and two new energy-efficient faculty houses with 70%-lower energy bills.
Portsmouth Abbey Headmaster Jim DeVecchi says:
Stewardship is a value which, like hospitality, captures the essence of Benedictine life, and the Benedictine stewardship that guides our School sees beauty and sustainability as deeply interconnected.
In the case of the new Blu Homes faculty houses, Operations Director Paul Jestings agrees that:
It has never been more important for us to push the limits of technology to find innovative ways to build efficient, green homes that will have minimal impact on our environment.
What Portsmouth Abbey School is doing is something that all schools (especially private ones) could be practicing right now. Schools use a lot of energy and produce a great amount of waste and yet are supposed to be models for the community. Espousing sustainable values sets a great example for students and their families and has potential to reduce long-term costs for the school. Sustainable schools are more viable and enduring in this new unpredictable century and I find the Portsmouth Abbey School to be pretty exciting! As a steward of children, it is fulfilling its responsibility to ensure the students’ future- and that includes improving their environment.