Sustainability Program Overview

Our goal is to imbue every part of the program with an environmental component; and to endow every student and teacher with an understanding and appreciation of his or her role in stewarding our resources.
Paul J. Stellato, Head of School

Curriculum and Co-Curricular Programs

Curricular Highlights:

  • Fully integrated garden education program in Lower School
  • 4th and 9th grade pond studies
  • 6th grade sustainability class
  • Garden and outdoor classroom used by all grades

Co-Curricular Programs:

  • Lower and Middle School Food & Garden Clubs
  • Upper School Garden Apprentice Program
  • Upper School Energy & Climate Scholars program
  • Green Panther Certification for classrooms and offices
  • Harvest Dinner and Garden Festival
  • Upper School Environmental Action Club (EnACT)
  • The Great Giveaway (collection of used school supplies at end of year go to local charity)

"Educating for Sustainability" Curricular Framework

Sense of Place

Those moments in our curriculum where we explore the natural, cultural, and historical identity of this specific place and discover a knowledge of home that defines us and for which we are responsible.

Interdependence and Community

Those moments in our curriculum where we explore the qualities that sustain healthy local and global communities: diversity, cooperation, collaboration, interconnectedness, and caring.

Ecological Thinking

Those moments in our curriculum where we apply the basic principles of ecology to our thinking. We encourage systems or contextual thinking (how parts relate to the whole), notice networks, cycles and nested systems.

Stewardship and Service

Those moments in our curriculum where we practice a care for one another and the commons, and nurture a sense of responsibility for individual and communal actions and their consequences.

Visionary Thinking and Transformation

Those moments in our curriculum where we learn to rethink the fundamental assumptions around which our knowledge is based and to create new paradigms required to design sustainable societies.

Buildings and Grounds

We work continually to reduce our environmental footprint. Some highlights of our efforts are below. Here are our Sustainability Guidelines for Building and Grounds passed by the Board of Trustees:

Facilities Guidelines

Energy Efficiency

  • LED lighting
  • Highly programmed building control system for HVAC
  • High efficiency boiler and chiller
  • CO2 occupancy sensor control of outside air heating and cooling
  • Double pane, high insulating windows
  • Regular maintenance on our HVAC system
  • Energy audit and greenhouse gas assessments

Water use reduction

  • Low flow toilets
  • Water bottle refilling stations
  • Improved field irrigation

Waste reduction, conservation, and purchasing

  • Composting of all table and food scraps (about 15,000 lbs/year) into our organic garden.
  • Successful recycling program including paper, cans, bottles, chip bags, florescent batteries, Greenware packaging, Styrofoam, markers, crayons
  • Stationary paper 60% Forest Stewardship Council
  • Green cleaning supplies certified
  • Recycled paper products in bathrooms
  • Most publications online
  • IT: soy based toners, 100% recycled copy paper, sustainable used computer recycling and donations

Grounds and Maintenance

  • No mow zones
  • Longer grass
  • Integrated pest management system


Partnership with FLIK Food Services

  • Four-star Green Restaurant Association certification
  • Fresh food prepared by chefs
  • All reusable plates, cups, and flatware
  • 19% local food purchases
  • No disposable single serving packaging in food service and catering
  • PDS garden food in cafeteria
  • 100% post-consumer recycled paper napkins
  • Corn starch compostable cups/plates/snack containers in snack bar
  • “Cage free” eggs and local dairy products
  • Menu choices low on the food chain
  • “Healthy Me, Healthy Planet” Tuesdays promoting a low impact, nutrient dense lunch
  • Monthly “Low Impact Lunch” (no ovens or units that heat used that day to prepare or serve food)
  • Almost no single serving containers

Parent Community

Parents Association standing committee on Sustainability and the Garden

PDS has a no car idling policy.
Switch off your engine if you’re standing still for more than 10 seconds at drop-off or pick-up.

Did you know that:

  • Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine
  • Idling causes harmful fumes and is expensive
  • Idling for more than 3 minutes is illegal in NJ

Idling Facts and Myths

Myth: The best way to warm up a car is by letting it idle for several minutes
Fact: Idling is not an efficient way to warm your vehicle, even in cold weather. A slow drive-off during the first mile is the best way to warm a vehicle’s transmission, tires, suspension, steering, & wheel bearing.

Myth: Eliminating unnecessary idling won’t save money
Fact: One hour of idling can burn up to one gallon of fuel, and avoiding 5 minutes of idling each day can save $35 every year. When you idle, you go 0 miles per gallon—talk about money going up in smoke!

Myth: Frequent re-starting of car engines damages my car
Fact: Re-starting has little impact on engine components like the battery and starter. You can actually reduce wear and tear when you turn off your vehicle rather than idling. Excessive idling can damage your engine components like cylinders, spark plugs, and the exhaust system.

Myth: Shutting off and restarting my vehicle uses more gas than if I left it running
Fact: Thirty seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine. If you are going to stop for thirty seconds or more (except in traffic), turn off the engine. Some experts estimate even 10 seconds is the break-even point.

Myth: Pollution emitted from idling cars is insignificant to my health & environment
Fact: It’s quite significant because toxins emitted from idling can impair our lungs & heart. Idling fumes have been linked to asthma, decreased lung function, cardiac disease, cancer & other serious health problems. Those most at risk are children, the elderly, and those with respiratory ailments. Prolonged exposure can possibly lead to death.

Myth: Sitting in an idling car prevents exposure to car exhaust fumes
Fact: Not so. According to the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), exposure to most car pollutants, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) & carbon monoxide (CO) is much higher inside vehicles than on the road side. Higher exposure occurs when sitting in traffic congestion, highways or in a line-up of idling vehicles at a school or drive-thru. In these situations, CO levels can be seven times the outside air level.

Key Faculty