Environmental Stewardship

Sustainability

Rowland Hall is dedicated to the promise of an environmentally responsible culture within our school and the larger community. We encourage all community members to engage in educational experiences that foster a deep understanding of our interdependent relationships with nature. As a result, we strive to identify, initiate, and implement projects and curriculum to increase environmental awareness and stewardship.

Utah Society for Environmental Education recognizes Rowland Hall as a platinum-level member of Utah Green Schools. This initiative aims to promote sustainable practices in school facilities and curricula.

Curriculum

Rowland Hall has a long history of sustainability and environmental education in the classroom. We're a charter member of the Green Schools Alliance, a national organization devoted to K-12 sustainability.

Beginning School curriculum covers topics such as worms, soil, composting, and pumpkin decomposition. Students in the Lower School explore and learn just outside their classrooms, in our science garden. And during Lower School chapels, we teach respect for our planet and responsibility regarding recycling and resource consumption/disposal.

Middle School students gain valuable knowledge of Salt Lake City’s air quality via our air pollution education unit. In the Upper School, passionate students can choose to take our robust, project-based Environmental Sciences course that revolves around real-world applications of sustainability. 

Facilities

Rowland Hall is committed to advancing and evolving sustainability in our facility protocol and activities. A few examples of Rowland Hall’s sustainability initiatives at a facility level:

  • School-wide composting program utilizing our earth tub as well as Momentum Recycling services.
  • School-wide recycling of paper, plastic, aluminum, batteries, glass bottles, and more.
  • A 10.8 kW solar PV array on the roof of a McCarthey Campus building.
  • The creation of the Steiner Community Garden (behind the McCarthey Campus), home to 40 plots where gardeners from all over the valley grow delicious organic vegetables.

Community Outreach

Our Sustainability Committee is open to students, faculty, staff, and parents interested in furthering Rowland Hall’s commitment to sustainability. The committee endeavors to create a culture of conservation and sustainability through our curriculum, everyday practices and policies, and facility operations. If you're interested in joining the Sustainability Committee please email Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund.

Sustainability Milestones

2006: The Upper School offers its sustainability class.

2008: Schoolwide recycling program and idle-free policy rolled out. E.E. Ford Foundation grant provides three-year funding for director of sustainability.

2009: Students raise funds towards composting efforts with Environs Club dinner. Lighting retrofitted with energy-efficient bulbs.

2010: $10,000 grant awarded by Rio Tinto for earth tub. Solar panels installed on McCarthey Campus. Composting efforts begin at McCarthey Campus.

2011: Composting efforts begin at Lincoln Street Campus. Earth tub installation at McCarthey Campus. Utah Society for Environmental Education honors Rowland Hall with Platinum Award in Sustainability.

2012: Rowland Hall wins Utah Recycling Alliance's Innovative Path to Zero Award.

2013: Steiner Campus community gardens built and opened. School hosts Japanese educators for Sustainable Development Program.

2014: Ongoing environmental education offered in curriculum of all divisions.

2015: Joined inversion-mitigation initiative in Salt Lake City.

2016: Completed McCarthey HVAC recommissioning project. Upper and middle schoolers win Shane McConkey EcoChallenge $6,000 grand prize and endow fund for student sustainability projects. Installation of electric-vehicle chargers in the parking lot near the Steiner Campus soccer field, funded via the nonprofit Leaders for Clean Air and the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development.

Platinum-Level Member

Ryan Hoglund with beginning schooler.

Ryan Hoglund
Director of Ethical Educationget to know Ryan

Sustainability Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Caroline Gleich '03 Makes a Career Out of Conquering the Wasatch, and Beyond

Caroline Gleich '03 is a queen of the majestic playground that is the Wasatch Range. She runs it, climbs it, bikes it, skis it—and fights to preserve it. She recently received accolades for being the first woman and fourth person to ski all 90 lines listed in The Chuting Gallery, a backcountry-skiing guide to the Wasatch. And Outside lauded her for taking activism seriously. Caroline's skill, tenacity, and positivity have attracted the attention of popular outdoor brands: she's sponsored by Patagonia, REI, Clif Bar, Specialized, Snowbird, Alta Ski Area, and more. She's carved out a career doing what she loves. She visited Rowland Hall's Lincoln Street Campus during Earth Week to tell middle and upper schoolers they can do the same.

Caroline moved with her family to Salt Lake City from Minnesota at age 15 and attended Rowland Hall for her junior and senior years of high school. She later graduated magna cum laude from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in anthropology. Though Caroline was a Winged Lion for just two years, she told current middle schoolers Rowland Hall had a lasting impact on her: "You guys are lucky to be at this school," she said during an April 20 assembly led by Protect Our Winters. "I learned a ton about environmental activism from being a student here. It really inspired me."

Leading up to her Lincoln visit, Fine Print chatted with Caroline about her time at Rowland Hall and her career as a mountaineer.

This Q&A has been edited for context and length.

Fine Print: What are your fond memories of Rowland Hall?

Caroline Gleich: It was really different than my other high school. At Rowland Hall, they thought it was weird when I asked for a hall pass to go to the bathroom. Everybody looked at me like I was crazy. I wasn't used to having so much freedom. I came from a Catholic high school, so I really enjoyed learning about other religions, like Buddhism, and celebrating all the different holidays, like Ramadan. And I really liked interim and winter sports Fridays.

FP: How did your two years at Rowland Hall impact you as a person?

CG: It was nice to be treated like an adult and to have so much freedom. Another thing I vividly remember is reading Canaries on the Rim in my English class, and we had the author come in and speak to us. It's all about Utah's tragic history of environmental abuse. When I moved here, I was shocked to see strip mining and mountaintop removal so close to where everybody lives on the Wasatch Front. In the Midwest, where I grew up, any mountain of that size would be a treasure because there are no mountains there. In my geography class, we watched the movie Chinatown and learned about water issues in Utah and the West. I was already of the mindset that nature needs to be protected, and so I became a serious environmentalist.

FP: What's your tie to Protect Our Winters?

I've been part of their rider's alliance since 2011. They have a network of athletes who are committed to fighting climate change.

FP: You're out and about a lot for work. How has climate change tangibly impacted your career, if at all?

CG: In a lot of different ways. On my international ski-mountaineering trips, climate change is making the mountains of the world more dangerous because the glaciers are receding. As they recede, they're exposing unstable glacial moraines that are a total beast to navigate. It leads to dangerous rock fall, ice fall, and avalanches. In Utah, we're seeing warming temperatures, and more rain instead of snow. In the spring, it's getting hotter sooner. So instead of having a nice gradual melt, we're getting big runoffs with dangers of flooding. That's projected to increase over the next couple of decades. And you have to be careful when talking about this, because weather is not climate. You can't take a freak weather event and attribute it to climate change. But the trends are in line with what climatologists are predicting. And at least one expert predicts if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, by 2100 we'll have no snow in Utah.

FP: You're visiting Rowland Hall for Earth Day. What do you want our current students to know? What would've stuck with you at that age?

CG: One of the cool things about doing these presentations is showing students you can make a career doing what I do—a career based on outdoor adventure, exploration, and mountaineering. That part is really fun to talk about. So I hope to open their minds to that spirit of entrepreneurship and their ability to become what they want to become even if it's untraditional. The second part is to talk about climate change, what I've seen with it, and how it's affecting my industry. And third, to mobilize them to become future climate leaders for our country and world.

FP: What made you seek out a career in this?

CG: There's not one single thing. When you're doing something you weren't meant to do, it's obvious. I never felt like I fit in anywhere and it would be hard for me to work in an office. I guess it's still a deep human need that I have. It's also process of elimination. I tried doing other things. You just know when you're doing the thing that you're supposed to do—it's instinctual.

FP: What else did you try?

CG: I thought about becoming a politician. I still might want to do that someday. I did an internship for the environmental advisor to Governor Gary Herbert for a summer, and I did an internship with Skiing Magazine as a journalist. More young people and women need to run for public office, and maybe that's something I'll do in the future. I don't know if I'd ever win, but you never know! I always wanted to be an athlete and I was too old to do Rowmark when I moved to Utah—it wasn't the right time in life. Right now, I'm happy to be an athlete. I feel like I have more ability to change the world and try to bring awareness to these issues with my voice as an athlete in the outdoor industry than by going down that governmental path.

FP: What is a typical work week like for you?

CG: I work for myself and I'm always balancing different projects. I keep things moving forward through a lot of emails and blogs, and I edit photos and work on content production. Right now I spend a lot of time researching the weather and forecasting avalanches. Avalanche safety is a huge part of what I do. I am obsessed with weather and I check it incessantly so I can predict when and where the best skiing is, make a plan for our crew, and coordinate the details with everyone.

FP: What's one of the coolest adventures you've been on?

CG: One of my favorite things relating to this is when I go lobbying with Protect Our Winters in Washington, D.C. We meet with our congresspeople and talk about the kinds of things that we're seeing and what kind of legislation we'd like them to support. That's super fun. I've been participating in a lot of the recent marches. I always like a good rally—it's a big adrenaline rush. I also love the Wasatch. I've been skiing all these outrageous lines here. I've skied in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Italy, Slovenia...my international trips are all really fun.

FP: What's one proud moment of your career so far?

CG: In 2015 I planned and executed an expedition for me and a partner where we climbed and skied three 19,000-foot peaks in Peru.

FP: What did you learn from that?

CG: When we got there, conditions were still really wintery. So we ended up redoing our itinerary, backing off some of the bigger lines that we wanted to ski, and taking some more moderate routes that were safer. And after we'd decided not to go up one of these mountains, three Estonian climbers died on it. It was a lesson to back off if you're unsure. It's easy for people to talk about stories of success, but it's a lot harder to talk about backing off.

FP: What advice do you have for anyone who's thinking about doing what you do?

CG: Trust your instincts. Learn to be very self-aware. The biggest risk is death or serious injury. If there's something that's not quite right, don't be afraid to speak up and back off.

Alumni
Middle and Upper Schoolers Rally for Clean Air at State Capitol

Students Channel Air-Quality Curriculum While Exercising First Amendment Rights

Seventh-grader Ava Erickson stood behind a podium on the steps of the Utah Capitol and brandished a blue and white surgical mask. She addressed hundreds of peers from Rowland Hall and other local independent schools assembled for the third annual Utah Students for Clean Air Rally January 26.

“See this mask?” she unfalteringly asked the crowd on the below-freezing morning. “I had to wear one of these to school every day for four years. That was how bad the air quality was when I lived in China. I don’t want Utah to end up like China.”

Ava, who’s new to Rowland Hall this school year, said she has friends in China who developed asthma and lung cancer due to pollution. The American Lung Association ranks the Salt Lake area the sixth-worst city in the country for short-term particle pollution. But Ava and her classmates who spoke at the rally expressed optimism that individuals can make a positive difference in Utah’s air quality.

“By doing tiny, small things like not idling your cars, turning your thermostat down, and even just taking the bus, you are helping prevent pollution,” she said. “Every time you do something small to help our air quality, you could be helping save someone’s life.”

Ava and a dozen other Rowland Hall middle and upper schoolers took to the podium at the Capitol. The teachers who organized the event asked student speakers to answer this question: what can students do to improve the quality of air in our valley?

Like Ava, speakers trumpeted practical tips: walk, bike, carpool, take public transportation, ensure homes are energy efficient, avoid burning wood as a heat source, unplug unused appliances, and turn off lights when you leave rooms.

The entire Rowland Hall Middle School attended the rally, along with Ben Smith’s Upper School environmental science class. In sixth grade, air quality is part of the curriculum. Sixth graders study, record, and analyze air quality in Molly Lewis’ science class—read more in this February 2016 Fine Print article.

Indeed, Rowland Hall student speakers such as senior Marguerite Tate discussed the science behind poor air quality and the significance of PM2.5, or fine particulate matter with diameters less than 2.5 micrometers. “It’s small enough to get anywhere in your lungs,” Marguerite said. “It affects everyone—it doesn’t matter if you don’t have asthma or if you don’t have problems breathing.” Beyond giving students the opportunity to speak publicly about a scientific topic they’ve studied, the rally gave middle and upper schoolers a chance to practice their First Amendment right to peaceful assembly.

The rally, sixth-grader Aileen Robles said, let students speak for Utahns who want clean air but can’t necessarily take the time to lobby for it. “We also learned how much people care about this, and how much it has to be pushed, and how our voices need to be heard,” she said.

In a post-rally discussion, some of Ms. Lewis’ students asked how much of a difference an individual can make on topics such as local air quality. Sixth-grader Kate Brague chimed in on the value of leadership: if there’s one person “willing to take the reins,” more people will follow, she said. And if student activism falls short, Ms. Lewis reminded her sixth graders that when they turn 18, they gain the right to vote. Later, they can even run for office. “You can be the change,” the teacher said. 

Media coverage of Rowland Hall at the Utah Students for Clean Air Rally

sustainability

Rowland Hall Gets Charged Up

Rowland Hall has again proven its commitment to environmentalism, this time with the installation of electric vehicle (EV) chargers in the parking lot near the Steiner Campus soccer field. Two resourceful Rowland Hall employees, Upper School Head Cross Country Coach Mark Oftedal and Sustainability Coordinator Andrew Hagedorn, worked with local nonprofit Leaders for Clean Air to secure complete funding of equipment and installation.

In a December 1 ceremony at Rowland Hall’s McCarthey Campus, the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development (OED) and Leaders for Clean Air cut the ribbon on the EV charging station. The ribbon cutting marked the completion of nine charger installations at six Salt Lake City nonprofits as part of a $10,000 OED grant awarded to Leaders for Clean Air in July. In addition to Rowland Hall, the grant allowed for charger installations at Envision Utah, Hogle Zoo, Artspace Commons, Wasatch Charter School, and Utah Clean Energy (UCE), which was founded by Mr. Oftedal's wife, Sarah Wright. The event brought together local nonprofit, government, and private industry officials leading the way in EV advocacy—a community Rowland Hall proudly joins.

The new charging station proves the power of collaboration between local organizations, community leaders, and Rowland Hall, Mr. Hagedorn said. “It also gives our school the chance to reaffirm the commitment we made as an institution towards doing the right thing, for the right reasons,” he said. “Being a community leader in sustainability means taking collaborative action, just as we did.”

From concept to completion, the project only took a few months. It started over the summer when Mr. Oftedal attended a UCE event with his wife. There he met Hanko Kiessner, founder and CEO of Packsize, a Utah-based custom packaging company.

Mr. Kiessner told Mr. Oftedal about a Packsize project he began in 2014. He said that, as a response to Salt Lake’s poor air quality, his company started giving away EV chargers to other businesses. The idea was a pay-it-forward business model, wherein the beneficiaries of the donation today would become the benefactors tomorrow. Soon the program became so popular that Mr. Kiessner registered it as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Leaders for Clean Air.

Although many Packsize employees volunteer with Leaders for Clean Air, the nonprofit became a separate entity. Mr. Kiessner’s son Hansi Kiessner, who is on track to earn his a bachelor’s in business administration and entrepreneurship from the University of Utah in spring 2017, heads up the organization.

One of Leaders for Clean Air’s projects, Mr. Kiessner explained to Mr. Oftedal, would be the perfect fit for Rowland Hall. In fact, the OED had given them a grant for the exclusive purpose of donating chargers to other nonprofits.

From there, Leaders for Clean Air met with Mr. Oftedal and Mr. Hagedorn to hammer out the details. Mr. Hagedorn’s proposal was quickly approved, and within weeks the chargers were installed near the equipment shed. The proud sponsors immediately tweeted, “2 new chargers installed at the impressive @RowlandHall school! Thank you for leading by example!”’

One of the most challenging aspects of owning an EV is the lack of easily accessible charging stations, Mr. Hagedorn said, and providing the school community with the opportunity to plug in boosts our chances of having more EVs on campus in the future. “We are also sending an important message through providing these chargers free of cost: sustainability is an important value here at Rowland Hall, whether it looks like addressing sustainable and affordable transportation, reducing our waste stream, or generating clean energy.”

In addition to sending a bold message about clean energy at Rowland Hall, the chargers offer a financial perk to the community: according to Mr. Kiessner, the chargers cost the school a maximum of 80 cents per day, yet are equivalent to a $1,000 pay raise for employees with EVs.

sustainability

Upper, Middle Schoolers Win National EcoChallenge Prize, Endow Fund for Student Sustainability Projects

On April 22, Earth Day, 17 middle and upper schoolers found out they’d turned trash into treasure. The students learned that a sustainability project they spearheaded won the Shane McConkey EcoChallenge’s grand prize of $6,000 to benefit sustainability endeavors at Rowland Hall.

Now-seniors Alicia Lu and Cindy Shen, along with help from now-freshman Hailey Hauck, led an inspiring cross-divisional charge last school year to collect garbage and turn it into eco-bricks—plastic bottles stuffed with non-recyclable trash—to build a bench on the western side of the Lincoln Street Campus. They collected about 10 large trash bags, or 1,000 gallons, of dry non-recyclables in a month. Watch their EcoChallenge video entry here.

Cindy and Alicia were thrilled at news of the win, and their Middle School counterparts were “almost more excited than we were,” Cindy said. The victory left Hailey speechless. “I knew that we had a chance, but winning a national award seemed too farfetched,” she said.

Seventh-grade World Studies Teacher Margot Miller advised Alicia and Cindy on this undertaking, which served as the juniors’ Project 11. Ms. Miller also helped them galvanize the Middle School community in support of the cause.

“They were motivated to do something about the environment,” Alicia said of her younger peers.

Sixth through eighth graders made promotional project posters, donated the most trash, and stuffed the most bottles. Middle schoolers also came up with the idea to create a competition between grade levels to fuel productivity. Whichever grade donated the most non-recyclables earned a free dress day; the youngest group, sixth graders, won.

“At Rowland Hall, everyone sort of thrives on competitiveness, so we needed to make some sort of competition for our project,” Hailey said.

Some students were inherently motivated, but multiple incentives helped to drive project participation, Alicia explained. “We felt like it’s great to be altruistic, but you kind of need an incentive to stuff trash into trash,” she joked. The incentives worked. For example, at the May 20 All-School Carnival, the EcoChallenge team gave out donut holes to anyone who would stuff a bottle. Volunteers from all divisions pitched in, including little beginning schoolers who tried their hands at bottle-stuffing for a few minutes.

That sort of community collaboration helped to make the project highly successful. Hailey, a Rowland Hall lifer and an eighth grader last year, valued the opportunity to spend time with and learn from upper schoolers. “It’s sort of hard to motivate people in your grade, because you’re their peers,” Hailey said. “It can be done, but it’s much easier when you have people who are older than you to help you with that.” There was a sense of looking to Alicia and Cindy as role models, she said. Cindy and Alicia, in turn, gave middle schoolers an equal voice in the project and gave them full credit for bringing a “creative edge” to the table, including the competition idea.

Alicia, Cindy, and Hailey completed work on the bench last summer, with help from Rowland Hall staff members and a professional contractor. While the bench itself is made partially with sustainable supplies—the eco-bricks—its main purpose is to raise community awareness. Before the end of 2016, the students plan to install a commemorative plaque that lists the prize-winning project and all students involved, along with a dedication to Ms. Miller.

Alicia and Cindy used some of the EcoChallenge prize money to finish the bench, but the vast majority remains and will be made available to students who want to pursue similar sustainability projects in the future. Alicia and Cindy set up a formal application process for students who want to conduct environmental projects; view the application here. And for any future student-run sustainability projects that win prize money, that money would ideally go back into the sustainability project fund.

Ethical Education

You Belong at Rowland Hall