About

Sustainability

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
― John Muir

We are educating citizens of the world and as such, our students appreciate nature, value our natural resources, and understand the importance of protecting our environment. So important are these issues that our Board of Trustees adopted a series of "Guiding Principles of Sustainability" that have been used to guide and shape our new construction projects and adaptations to our curriculum. 

"In our pursuit of a sustainable future, we seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge, linking long-term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and reestablishing the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity."

Sustainability At-A-Glance

Sustainability News

List of 7 news stories.

  • Mental Health and Climate Change

    Giselle Perez ‘23 and I spent the majority of the pandemic drafting a resolution about the mental health effects of the climate crisis, along with Kate Roney ('20), Meagan Lashinski ('21), and Reese Lashinski (Newman '21). In this school year, Giselle and I have taken the reins on this project, and we've been meeting with a congressional representative with the goal of getting them to introduce our resolution to the house. 

    Through our research, it became incredibly clear that climate change is extremely destructive to the mental health of youth. As we approach the last of our resolution revisions, we need endorsements from both organizations and individuals. We want congress to support us in addressing this issue, and I'm sure you do too!

    Here is a petition to sign if you want to individually endorse this resolution. We encourage every one of you to sign it!
  • Mental Health and Climate Change Panel 

    Giselle Perez ‘23 will appear on a panel discussion on mental health and climate change on  Thursday, May 26, representing Schools for Climate Action. The panel is part of the launch of the University of California’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity, a new initiative dedicated to harnessing the health sector’s expertise and leadership to advance equitable climate action. Co-panelists include Jessa Calderon of the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Elissa Epel, Vice Chair in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF, Howard Frumkin of the Trust for Public Land, Kevin Patel, Founder and Executive Director of OneUpAction, and Britt Wray, a Human and Planetary Health Fellow at Stanford. 

    The panel will be held on Zoom from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm on May 26. Register here. 
  • Schools for Climate Action Named Finalist: American Climate Leadership Awards

    To honor and recognize achievements in local, regional and national climate advocacy and action, ecoAmerica has selected Schools for Climate Action as one of 10 finalists for the 2022 American Climate Leadership Awards! This organization of Sonoma Academy student climate activists, led by Sustainability Educator Nancy Metzger-Carter, is a non-partisan, grassroots, youth-adult campaign with a mission to empower schools to
    speak up for climate action. 

    Each of the ten finalist organizations receives a $10,000 award, a trophy, and an opportunity to appear on ecoAmerica's "Let's Talk Climate" broadcast in June. Schools for Climate Action also advances to the next round of judging, where they are in the running to receive a $50,000 prize! The winner will announced at the American Climate Leadership Summit on March 28. 

    Congratulations to Schools for Climate Action for this national recognition of their climate advocacy, and good luck in the final judging round!
  • Student Sustainability Leaders: How to Help

    Last week, the Student Sustainability Leadership (SSL) Impact program held an action event on campus during lunch. They encouraged their fellow students and teachers to call our House representatives and senators asking them to support bold climate legislation that is supported by the best available science. SSL provided a script and phone numbers for each of the senators and representatives which we have linked here. 

    Calling your representatives is a great and easy way to affect change. Representatives track what issues their constituents call about and calling shows them we care about how climate change is rapidly affecting not just our future but our present as well. We hope you will take a moment to call and ask for immediate action on climate change, as many SA students already have.
     
    Another important action that you can take to demonstrate your support for immediate climate action is signing this petition. This organization is advocating for a Congressional bill (H.R. 794) which will declare a national climate emergency in the United States.
     
    A recent heartbreaking event occurred off the coast of California in Huntington Beach. An oil spill is causing long-term damage to our wildlife and devastating our ecosystems. 
     
    24 Hours of Reality is a resource that can continue to provide updates about current climate events, policies, and actions.
  • Student-Written Resolution Passed By California Senate

    SCR 53–the state-level Climate Emergency Resolution co-drafted by Talulah Juniper ‘23,  Izzy Weaver ‘23, and State Senator Mike McGuire–as a project for Nancy Metzger-Carter’s Civic Engagement class last year–was approved this Wednesday in a 30-4 vote in the California State Senate! SCR 53 now moves on to the California State Assembly as a joint resolution. There is optimism that the resolution will pass there as well; Izzy and Talulah have already discussed support for it with State Assemblymember Jim Wood (D, CA-2). Following passage in the Assembly, it would move on to Governor Newsom’s office. 

    You can read more about the process of researching and writing the resolution and its path to the capitol here. Congratulations to Talulah and Izzy on this huge accomplishment! 
  • Sustainability Tips

    Kiera Kurtz '21 has put together an article with sustainability tips. In honor of Earth Day, but applicable every day, check the tips out here.
  • Let's Make Sonoma Academy Idle-Free!

    The Idle-Free Schools Impact Group has set out to educate the Sonoma Academy and greater community about the damage done by idling cars on both the environment and people’s health. Their goal is to reduce unnecessary idling in our community. 
    Read More
    • Idle Free School

Ecoliteracy

We create a culture of sustainability, extending the principles of social and emotional intelligence to include knowledge of and empathy for all living systems. We embed these principles in our curriculum. Students develop awareness of and concern for the natural world through our Connections program, the 9th grade Humanities curriculum that revolves around how geography shapes culture, environmentally-oriented classes such as Literature of the Environmental Movement and Environmental Science, Exploratory courses revolving around food and the garden, our Student Sustainability Leadership group, and our Intersession and Outings options. Students also learn how to evaluate issues and design solutions, whether through scientific and design principles or activism and advocacy.

Our Built Environment

All spaces in our school are learning environments. When they are filled with natural daylight, have good ventilation, and are built with healthy, sustainably-produced materials, students learn better, teachers have a greater sense of satisfaction, and the wellbeing of all is increased.

In designing the Guild & Commons Building, we had the opportunity to utilize reclaimed wood throughout the space as well as locally-sourced, tamped-earth construction blocks, which use 50% less carbon than concrete. We also avoided the use of all Red List toxins. In order to accomplish this, every single material used in construction had to be vetted and, often, alternatives had to be found. 

Energy Efficiency

Carbon-Neutral Electricity
Between the solar panel arrays powering our campus, and the remaining electricity we purchase with Evergreen through Sonoma Clean Power, we are 100% carbon-neutral for our electricity needs.

Additionally, the Guild & Commons building is a Net Zero Energy building, using no power at all from the grid. Solar panels turn sunlight into electricity, a living roof insulates the building and supports pollinators, the lights are all efficient LEDs, and the building is fossil fuel-free.

Geoexchange System
The Guild & Commons uses a geoexchange system to provide both hot and cold water for the building. This pioneering technology absorbs and utilizes heat stored naturally in groundwater. There are twenty‐nine 490-foot‐deep wells on site. Water used to drive the system is recirculated through these wells. Through a very complex heat exchanger, the heat is extracted from the water to provide domestic hot water and hydronic heating through the floors, and also in unique ceiling tile. In a reversal process, cold water is produced to run through the hydronic system to cool the rooms when needed. The geoexchange system is much more efficient than a traditional water heater or HVAC system. 

Water Conservation

Water is one of our most precious resources. We not only look for every drop of water we can avoid using, but for every opportunity to use greywater and to harvest rainwater.

The Guild & Commons includes a sophisticated irrigation system that uses plants to filter reclaimed greywater from the kitchen sinks to water the surrounding gardens, as well as a rainwater catchment system.

Additionally, the installation of the turf field in 2015 allowed us to reduce our water consumption by 50%, saving 2 million gallons of water per year.

Food & Food Systems

There is nothing more central to any community than its food. Providing and eating good, healthy food that is produced as sustainably as possible—including the use of organic and local products whenever we can—is a central tenent of our Commons Food program. We also incorporate produce from our organic teaching garden into the daily lunch offerings in the Commons. But just as important as the quality of the food we eat is having a deep understanding of the traditions, cultures, and food systems from which our food comes. We utilize the teaching kitchen to learn about food preparation, culture, and nutrition.


Waste Not

We believe wasting is a waste! There is no waste in the natural world. Earthology leads the way for our students to eliminate waste and turn the materials we no longer need or use into useful resources. Along the way, we:
  • Reduce upstream purchases, including less packaging, and replace non-natural products with natural ones.
  • Reuse materials as long as possible.
  • Recycle, and make it easy to do.
  • Rot (compost). We turn organic waste into nutrients for the earth. 

Awards & Accolades

The Guild & Commons building was completed in October 2017. Designed by leading architectural firm WRNS Studio in San Francisco, and built by XL Construction in Silicon Valley, the building has gained quite a bit of attention for its beautiful and deeply sustainable design. To date, the Guild & Commons has been awarded the following:
 
  • LEED v3 Platinum, Living Building Challenge, and WELL Building Standard Education Pilot benchmarks. It is the first project in Sonoma County and one of only a few nationwide to simultaneously reach these benchmarks.
  • 2019 Business Environmental Award by Acterra, a Palo Alto-based sustainability-focused nonprofit.
  • The Long View Award Achievement in Sustainable Design. This new award marries sustainable design with the IIDA (International Interior Design Award) Northern CA Chapter theme for 2019—“Design for the Future."
  • A 2018 Beyond Green™ Honor Award, First Place in the High-Performance Buildings Category from The National Institute of Building Sciences.
  • WRNS Studio has won the Regional Excellence Wood Design Award for the Guild and Commons project. The project is featured in WoodWorks’ Wood Design Award video and the hardcover book, Celebrating Excellence in Wood Architecture 2018-2019.
  • 2018 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment—Top Ten Award
  • 2018 AIA California Council Leading Edge Award for Design Excellence and Sustainability
  • 2018 AIA San Francisco Design Awards—Citation
  • Building Design + Construction magazine’s 2018 Building Team Awards—Honorable Mention
  • World Architectural News: One of six projects worldwide recognized for sustainability, November 2018
  • WRNS Studio was named the top architectural firm in the US in 2018 by the Journal of the American Institute of Architects where the Guild and Commons was cited as one of their three outstanding buildings.
  • 2017 California Zero Net Energy School Award—Team Leadership
2500 Farmers Lane 
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
(707) 545-1770 
inbox@sonomaacademy.org
 

Sonoma Academy Is...

...the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.

Sonoma Academy admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.