Spotlight: Miller School Engages Students and Faculty in Energy-Savings Awareness

Founded in 1878 on a 1,600 campus, Miller School of Albemarle is a coeducational and college preparatory day and boarding school for grades 8 to 12, where natural beauty abounds, and “every tree, plant, trail, lake, and stream is a lesson plan, homework assignment, and independent project.”  

Situated in one of the most scenic parts of Virginia – the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains – Miller School uses its surroundings as a teaching tool, with emphasis on outdoor learning, recreation, nature, and stewardship of the land as part of its overall curriculum.  

Dr. Julie Hebert, who teaches biology and environmental science at Miller School, recently shared some of the actions she has helped spearhead to save energy and increase sustainability as participants in the Better Business Challenge, from switching to LED lighting and raising on-campus energy consumption awareness to fueling a new hydroponic garden with on-site hydroelectric power. 

Why did Miller School join the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge? 

JULIE: As an institution of learning, the Miller School values sustainability as a means for reducing our carbon footprint and instilling in future generations care for and stewardship of the environment. The Miller School partnered with the Better Business Challenge to explore additional ways we could ‘go green.’ 

What sort of actions has Miller School taken so far to save energy (and money) or to lower your carbon footprint as part of the Challenge?  

JULIE: The Miller School has used the Challenge as a way to engage faculty and students in a variety of energy-saving actions. Specifically, as part of the Challenge, we initiated a campus-wide energy-saving campaign and are working to transition to LED lighting. We just removed disposable cups from our cafeteria to reduce waste. Currently, we are restoring our Edison powerhouse to create energy for lighting a new hydroelectric-powered, hydroponic instructional garden that will provide greens for our cafeteria. 

We have also completed a LEAP energy conservation assessment for a couple of our buildings, and recently started a recycling program, with Justin Peake spearheading a Recycling Service Group. Additionally, we’re working on behavior modifications to turn off lights and conserve water, and will launch a “Garbology” (the study of modern waste) initiative this Spring, where students will sort and analyze campus garbage on a giant tarp as a visual reminder of how we manage refuse and trash in human society. We are also looking into ways to start composting on campus. 

What sort of energy-saving and carbon footprint-reducing measures are you looking forward to exploring or implementing (as part of the Challenge)?  

JULIE: We’re looking forward to engaging with students and faculty who live on campus to become even more aware of energy consumption. Additionally, we’re taking steps to light school buildings with LED and natural lighting. 

What advice would you offer other local businesses or organizations who may be interested in saving energy, going green, or reducing their environmental impact (in addition to joining the Challenge)? 

JULIE: As an educational institution and as global citizens, we all play a role in responsible energy consumption, so we all must take concrete steps to become sustainable for a more equitable future. Students at Miller School and young people around the world are the future, so we need to set a good example.