Cheshire Academy has made a substantial commitment to sustainability in the past few years, and despite the global pandemic keeping many students homebound, the school was still able to celebrate Earth Day in a big way.
The theme of this year’s Earth Day was “When the World Works Together” and Cheshire Academy made a point to feature speakers and programs from all over the world in order to educate students about global sustainability.
The day began with a Zoom meeting with author Bijal Vachharajani from India, author of the children’s book, “A Cloud Called Bhura: Climate Champions to the Rescue,” which details what happens when a dark brown smog cloud consumes a local village. Vachharajani shared what it is like to live in India, how climate change impacts every aspect of daily life there, and what inspired her to write her book.
“Climate change is usually whatever someone else thinks it is,” Vachharajani explained. “And they are all right, but that’s usually just one part of it. Climate change is everywhere we look and with this book I hope to reach children who can make a real difference. Children are often the most inspirational and admirable because they don’t worry about what the public thinks — they just do.”
Vachharajani explained how the “Fridays for Future” protests, started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, inspired her to focus her climate change message on children — the generation that will ultimately have to live with the consequences.
After Vachharajani’s talk, Cheshire Academy held numerous programs and activities throughout the day for students, all centered on the environment.
“We have our students really immersing themselves in the Earth and nature,” explained Jennifer Dillon, Cheshire Academy’s sustainability coordinator. “We wanted them to literally get their hands in the dirt, so we had some students going to Boulder Knoll Farm and helping out over there. For our remote students, we had Zoom sessions giving tours of Tanzania, and presentations by various (Cheshire Academy) alumni as well.”
Dillon explained that Academy students also went to Long Island Sound, where they participated in the “Save the Sound” efforts by removing approximately 86 pounds of trash from the Sound in one day.
While COVID-19 changed the way the school approached its Earth Day programs, Dillon was quick to point out that the global pandemic has had a strangely positive impact on environmental initiatives.
“There is a silver lining to the pandemic, and it’s really had a big impact on a lot of sustainability efforts going on,” she explained. “Remember in the beginning of the pandemic when we started to see reports of animals appearing in places where they shouldn’t? That’s because the animals are returning to where they had been pushed out. This pandemic has made people take a step back and reconsider their impact on the environment.”
As for Cheshire Academy’s efforts to create a more sustainable campus, last year the school began the daunting task of switching out all their light bulbs for more sustainable LED lighting.
“We are proud to say that we completed that task right before the pandemic hit and, honestly, we haven’t noticed a huge difference, which is the best part,” Dillon added. “When you can make a difference and people don’t notice a big change in their daily life, that is what sustainability is about.”