By Faith Hanson (’23)
September 20, 2021
What is the DA Sustainability Committee
Of all the branches of DA’s student council, the Sustainability Committee is the unsung hero. Despite not receiving the attention it deserves, the Sustainability Committee remains an integral part of our community. The current leaders of our Sustainability Committee are Mukta Dharmapurikar (‘22) and Sanju Patel (‘21).
What does the committee do and how?
Right now, the committee is made up of about fifty official members and four subcommittees. The four subcommittees as outlined by Sanju are waste management, garden and tree planting, event planning, and public relations. Sanju explained that the subcommittees “function as a way to keep us organized; they make it easier to plan and delegate.” There are no limits to how many subcommittees you can be involved in, and they’re all very intertwined. This can be seen in the way that the committee comes together to organize school wide activities like movie nights. One example in particular is when the Sustainability Committee established week-long celebrations surrounding Earth Day. Even with the coronavirus preventing large gatherings, the committee managed to create a shared experience with everyone in the upper school. Through advisory curriculum, video editing, and teamwork, the committee was able to establish a new meaningful tradition.
What has the committee done?
Unbeknownst to many, the Sustainability Committee is the driving factor behind almost all of the environmentally friendly resources on campus. For example, the committee is the reason why we have so many compost bins. The addition of boxed water—a non plastic option—to the school store can also be attributed to the committee. Changes like these, however, do not come by easily. Sanju highlighted that the Sustainability Committee has met with not only multiple faculty members, but even the board of trustees about enacting sustainable practices. These meetings require behind-the-scenes preparation, as well as on-the-spot persuasion to reach a consensus. Sanju told your beloved columnist that the committee mainly wants to enforce sustainability on three levels: on our physical campus, inside the classroom, and the broader DA community. Though it may sound rather simple, Sanju said that “enacting change to the point in which you can see the difference takes time, and it often only occurs one level at a time as well.”
Sustainability Committee and the Larger Community
Ultimately, the Sustainability Committee is affected by much more than just its official members; Sanju believes that “everyone in the Durham Academy community contributes to how sustainable we are whether they realize it or not. The goal of the committee is to make these contributions positive ones.” He continues that the Sustainability Committee hopes to expand this year. In addition to adding more members, the committee wants to expand metaphorically too. This means that the reach of the committee and its message travel farther than it does in the status quo. Along with the broader aim to educate more, Sanju already has many specific goals for the committee. Last spring, the committee hosted an event with kindergarteners that promoted composting and planting trees. Sanju wants to carry on this idea, as preserving the legacy of the committee is of the utmost importance. This one-time event even has the potential to turn into an entire outreach program or branch of the committee. Finally, the Sustainability Committee would like to ensure that the food trucks that come to our campus are sustainable. If this is not possible, however, the committee has the goal of requiring compostable packages for each food truck. One of the largest sources of waste comes from food truck-related trash. Making utensils and packaging less harmful is certainly a priority moving forward. When asked about the importance of DA sustainability, Sanju answers that “sustainability at DA is important for the same reasons it’s important on any level. It is quite literally a life and death situation; we need to be sustainable to survive.” Though this may seem dramatic, it’s true. Sustainability is not something to be taken lightly, and if you’re still searching for a reason to care, Sanju insightfully shares that “doing everything in my power to make my own personal world sustainable makes my contributions to the larger world meaningful.”