Supporting Environmental Sustainability

Reducing Our Footprint

The teaching power of the outdoors has always been part of the Thacher ethos; today, this extends to our deeply rooted commitment to fostering in our students a lifelong respect for nature and the environment.
Well aware of the significant environmental challenges we face today, Thacher strives to be a next generation leader in sustainable practices. This means not only minimizing the environmental footprint of our own campus, but also inspiring students and equipping them with the tools they need to be good stewards of our planet. Lucky for us, Thacher students have been spearheading meaningful work in campus sustainability for years. We’re just now catching up to the ever-growing student interest and passion in this area—and there’s still more work to be done.

Today, students get their hands dirty—literally—working on the hog and chicken programs (sustainable food systems), the apiary (ecosystem health and food systems), and the “bio-swale” (water conservation) out at Carpenter’s Orchard. A state-of-the-art composting system installed at the base of Horn Canyon helps us significantly cut back campus waste. Our newly installed 2,898-panel photovoltaic solar array is expected to supply as much as 90 percent of Thacher's electricity needs. And we’re constantly on the hunt for additional opportunities to reduce and conserve water resources—think greywater from dorm washing machines, installation of low-flow devices all over campus, landscaping and athletic field upgrades that reduce water consumption—that will help us become a leader among sustainable schools.

We also recognize the profound opportunity and responsibility we have to integrate our sustainability efforts into our curriculum. Sustainability and conservation are complex issues that bring with them implicit trade-offs, strong political forces, complicated science, and multi-faceted financial implications that lend themselves to a powerful, multi-disciplinary, applied learning opportunity. Additionally, Thacher's geographical reality—high desert, extremely scarce water, and endless sunshine—suggests that we have a keen obligation to lead by example, educate, and motivate our students to become informed, committed, and powerful leaders.
 

Fundraising Progress

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  11. 0
Percent Raised: 97%

Goals

List of 4 items.

  • Generate 90 percent of our electricity through our new solar field.

  • Dramatically reduce fuel consumption

  • Reduce our water usage by millions of gallons per year—by 50 percent of the 2013 baseline.

  • Source much of our food from organic and local sources.

Supporting Environmental Sustainability

Solar Energy

Here in the sun-drenched Ojai Valley, Thacher is embracing the opportunity to tap into renewable energy and significantly cut our carbon footprint.
The recent installation of a solar array out at Carpenter’s Orchard, which commenced in January 2016 and was completed in March 2017, is the School’s largest sustainability project to date. The 2,898-panel photovoltaic solar array covers roughly half of the 5-acre “Carp” pasture. It is expected to supply as much 90 percent of the School’s electricity needs, reduce our carbon footprint by 35 percent, and save between $175,000 and $250,000 per year in energy costs. Thanks to the generous support of the parents of the class of 2015 and other committed alumni, parents, and friends, the $3.5 million cost of the solar array is fully funded.

With the array completely installed and online, our sights are now set on additional opportunities to further reduce Thacher’s reliance on grid-produced electricity. Most recently, we installed a battery storage capability that will not only decrease our need for non-renewable energy on campus but will also provide a backup safety power source for the whole community.
This project is fully funded—thank you to our supporters!

Supporting Environmental Sustainability

Water Conservation

The Ojai Valley, and Southern California more widely, remain perilously dry—we know that now more than ever Thacher needs to make material strides to steward our water, capture rainwater, and conserve our resources as best we can.
Before the winter rains arrived, Lake Casitas was at 35.2 percent of capacity. Today, even with the above average rains, the lake has only risen to 36.7 percent of capacity. Thacher, and most of Ventura County, rely heavily on Casitas, so the level of water doesn’t just represent the dire drought conditions in our region, but also poses a direct threat to the School’s access to adequate sources of potable water. Thacher needs to do something extraordinary now.

In recent years the School has made great strides toward increasing our means of capturing and storing water and reducing our water usage, but these efforts fall short of the degree of self-reliance we think we can and should attain. After careful planning, the board and members of its buildings and grounds team have identified three promising initiatives that would save millions of gallons of water annually—potentially more than 40 percent of Thacher’s current annual water use. And thanks to a generous gift from the parents of the class of 2017, we have already made significant progress on this critical initiative.

Measure, monitor, and manage.
The first step was to continue to build Thacher’s capacity to measure, monitor, and manage all of our potable and non-potable water sources. An additional 40 controllers and 30 smart meters were recently installed to enable us to control and monitor Thacher’s complex potable and irrigation systems, which could save up to 3.6 million gallons of irrigation water a year.

Secure a safe, reliable, long-term source of potable water.
We currently source our potable water from Lake Casitas and Senior Canyon. Thacher hopes to develop a way to become as self-sufficient as possible, regardless of drought conditions. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to convert the well that currently supplies water to our Horse Program—a very reliable producer, even throughout the drought— to a well that supplies all of Thacher’s potable water needs (approximately 3 million gallons/year). The plan is to install a new liner, grout, and take steps to make the well sanitary per state and county standards.

Reuse Upper Field irrigation water & WWTP effluent.
The design of our athletic field allows us to collect and store water accumulated during rain and irrigation. We hope to add the capacity to capture runoff from the monthly field draining and add filters and aeration so that we can reuse the water to irrigate Upper Field. To achieve these, we’ll purchase and install two very large tanks, add a pumping station, and install an aeration capacity. We estimate that this will reduce water needs by approximately 1.2 million gallons/year, if not more.
 
 

Seeking Grant Funding

Our dorm rainwater-capture system for toilets and non-potable water was recently awarded a California state grant that will fund projects that will help us save close to 2.5 million gallons of water per year. Additional proposals are in the works to obtain grant funding for a Horse Program rainwater recapture program and a stormwater recapture program that uses bioswales. These grants would provide about $2.75 million and would save about 2.3 million gallons of water annually—all without raising funds through our traditional networks.

Supporting Environmental Sustainability

Organic and Local Food

We’re reimagining how we source and handle our food here at Thacher.
Not only does locally and organically produced food present an opportunity to decrease our environmental footprint, but it also offers the chance to promote better health and nutrition for our students. Our Dining Hall now serves organic and free-range chicken, organic milk, humanely-raised eggs, and seafood from sustainable fisheries. It also sources as much as 60 percent of our produce from local farms during peak season, among other initiatives.   

A new organic food program, which we are pleased to announce is fully funded, will help us take it a step further and source as much of our food as possible from local and organic farms, with the goal of obtaining more than half our food from organic sources. Continued investment in initiatives like the hog and composting programs, which take food waste from the Dining Hall and put it to use feeding our hogs (which in turn become food for the community) and fertilizing campus plants, trees, and gardens, will also help us build a more sustainable food program while providing our students with unique experiential and applied learning opportunities.
This project is fully funded—thank you to our supporters!

Campaign News

A coeducational college preparatory boarding high school
The Thacher School