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On Earth Day, an Overview of Sustainability, Plus a Tribute to Headmaster Nat Conard

Pingry's Earth Day Assembly had a little bit of everything, as students reflected on the School's recent accomplishments in sustainability . . . and, appropriately, the event included observations from (and paid tribute to) Headmaster Nat Conard P '09, '11, who has championed Pingry's green efforts for the past 14 years.

The community was brought up-to-date on the Middle School Green Group's efforts to help bees by painting Pingry's beehive boxes and supporting the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign to care for U.S. bee colonies . . .

. . . the flock of chickens, playing a part in sustainable farming, which seeks to lower the carbon footprint, save transportation costs, and use natural sources for nutrients, among many other benefits . . .

. . . and a newly constructed industrial-strength composter (minimizing waste in landfills, and allowing waste to decay naturally, without producing methane), suggested by students and built by Facilities members Jeff Tamn and Bob Burke, based on a model of the composter at North Country School, will be operational this fall.

Sustainability Coordinator Peter Delman P '97, '98 also shared a retrospective of the past 10 years of Green Team activities: the integration of environmental education into the curriculum; design and construction of the garden, campsite, and deer enclosure; garden lunches; and more. Natalie DeVito '22 looked ahead, focusing on the preservation and stewardship of Pingry's landscape, including storm water management and expansion of the School's deer fence.

Taking the stage, Mr. Conard shared two stories, one about cookies and the other about the "tragedy of the commons." When he was young, his parents ran a boarding school for 30 high school students in Vermont. One day, his mother baked chocolate chip cookies. Each student took one, but then another student asked, "Are there enough for everyone to have two . . . or should I take two now?" Mr. Conard was shocked, taken aback by this student's disregard for fairness.

The second story relates to 19th century England, where many villages had a common—a plot of land not owned by anyone in particular, where villagers could take their cattle for grazing. "Because it was a shared and, essentially, free resource," Mr. Conard explained, "the temptation for a hypothetical villager was to add a few more than his 'fair share' of cattle to the pasture. By doing so, he derived the full benefit of the free grazing. However, as villagers like him added cattle to the common, the common became overgrazed and damaged, and the cattle did not fare as well."

Connecting his stories to Earth Day, Mr. Conard pointed out that our planet is a plate of chocolate chip cookies (tangible natural resources that take effort to extract; if we take more than our share, access to them decreases), and it is a common pasture (one of the "free" resources, like air and water; if we defile them with waste and pollution, everyone pays a price).

"Earth Day is a great day to remember that every action we take, like a stone tossed into a lake, sends ripples far and wide," Mr. Conard said. "Each of us has countless opportunities each day to make a small difference for the planet and the other people who share it. So, when we toss an aluminum can in the trash instead of recycling, or we leave our car running while we sit in the parking lot or the car pool line, or we forget to take our reusable bag to the grocery store, a little bit of the Earth dies. Today, I ask you to commit to making a difference every day, by being conscious of the ripples your actions create, and by changing those actions to leave a smaller footprint on Earth. Make sure that everyone has had one cookie before you take two!"

Mr. Conard was also the subject of a tribute, as Upper School Director Ananya Chatterji P '25 acknowledged some of the many additions to Pingry during Mr. Conard's tenure: collaboration spaces; SMART Boards; Friday Night Lights; John Taylor Babbitt '07 Memorial Field; Miller A. Bugliari '52 Athletics Center; Research Exhibit; Lifers' Breakfast; solar panels; electric car chargers; campsite; gardens; farm; new schedule; and he hired two-thirds of the current faculty. Indeed, an impressive legacy and list of achievements!

Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer