The United World College-USA is the first high school to apply to a program used only by colleges to improve sustainability.
Established in 2005, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education includes more than 900 colleges across 48 U.S. states, one U.S. Territory, nine Canadian provinces and 20 countries.
David Neidel ’87 got UWC-USA involved with AASHE while serving as an alumni-in-residence on the Montezuma campus during the fall 2019 semester. The non-profit works with higher education faculty, administrators, staff and students who are change agents of sustainability innovation. AASHE evaluates a campus’ framework to assess its sustainability. The organizations assigns its members with either a bronze, silver, gold or platinum for its sustainability activities.
David, who has a background in environmental science and policy, environmental conflict management and ecological restoration, theorized that UWC-USA will receive a bronze status. He noted that the grounds and operations is probably the weakest area on campus due to lack of solar power and use of gasoline-operated vehicles.
“There are really no sustainability procurement policies in place,” David said.
The school does recycle and composts much of its solid waste.
“We have some numbers, but we don’t have a percentage on the total trash,” he said. “If you don’t measure it, you can’t change it.”
The farm on the UWC-USA campus supplies 30 percent of the produce to the cafeteria. Most uneaten food is composted at the farm.
“The cafeteria is doing really well in terms of plant-based diet training,” David said.
Providing plastic takeout containers and vegan options, and making a commitment to buy from small and medium-sized farms are on the plus-side.
A native of Pennsylvania, David has a doctorate from Yale University’s joint program in forestry and environmental studies, and anthropology. He currently works with Yale’s Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative, whose Asia program he has led since its inception in 2008. David spent the last 11 years working on tropical forest restoration in the Philippines and Indonesia.