Photo provided by Creative Commons.
Brentwood School

The California drought meets Brentwood School

“We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment,” anthropologist and author Dr. Margaret Mead once said.

And yet, last year, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which was designed to hold much of the world accountable for its environmental practices. In April 2016, California, a state widely viewed as environmentally-conscious, terminated its 2015 regulations on state water conservation. Governor Jerry Brown pronounced “this drought emergency is over,” rescinding the mandatory 25 percent reduction in municipal water usage across the state.

This move constituted a tremendous mistake. Water reduction and ecological conservation must remain high priorities.

A 2015 “Washington Post” article detailed that 80 percent of all water consumed in California is used to cultivate agriculture. According to Brentwood School biology teacher Dr. Dawn Roje, most of the water we use in agriculture is drawn from aquifers, deep groundwater that is collected as water seeps through the earth over thousands of years. Years of agricultural consumption has depleted these aquifer reserves, and Roje cautions against believing that the “drought is over” given that there is no proof that the water in aquifers has been replenished.

Brentwood School has taken great steps to reduce water and waste consumption. Director of Facilities and Construction Victor Pesiri notes that the school uses biodegradable plates, cups, utensils, and bottles, has installed water bottle refilling stations and low-flush systems in toilets and urinals, and is switching to more efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting. This year, grass on the football field was replaced with turf, significantly reducing the amount of water needed for maintenance.

Pesiri says that the new building currently under construction will feature a new air conditioning system that adjusts according to outside temperatures, and Brentwood is exploring the idea of installing an industrial dishwasher to wash reusable plates, cups, and utensils.

However, there is still more that we can do on campus to better preserve our environment.

President of the Ecology Club junior Asher Radziner (’19) is working with Pesiri to place more recycling bins on campus and raise awareness about proper recycling procedures. Radziner also recommends that Brentwood eliminate straws and compost to reduce food waste. While Pesiri says that Brentwood does send green waste to a composting facility, Brentwood currently lacks space on campus to compost other waste products. Radziner believes that now, given the construction, would be the perfect time to prioritize composting.

Roje believes that using more gravel and less concrete would help more water seep through the ground into aquifers.

These additional ecological efforts will make a significant difference in waste and water reduction at Brentwood School and set an example for our neighbors and peer institutions.