PEA's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan

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Building From Strength Toward a Zero Carbon Future Phillips Exeter Academy's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan April 24 , 2023
Contents Environmental Mission Statement Overarching Goals Rising to the Challenge Education Emissions and Energy Sustainability Integration Conclusion Glossary 1 2 3 4 9 15 22 23


Phillips Exeter Academy is committed to fostering a culture of sustainability in our community. Through our academic programs, we educate our students about the principles of sustainability and the threat of climate change and cultivate their capacity to take action. Through our operations, we will continue to manage our natural resources and campus facilities responsibly, reduce our environmental impact, and minimize our contributions to climate change.


Sustainability and Climate Action

Plan is guided by three overarching goals:

1 2 3

Ensure that every student graduates from Exeter with a fundamental understanding of the principles of sustainability and the issues posed by climate change.

Reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions (2005 baseline) 75% by 2031 and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Integrate principles of sustainability into all Exeter programs and operations.

These three goals emphasize and strengthen the school’s commitment to sustainability and sound stewardship of our planet and natural resources. If Exeter is to create a truly sustainable campus and meet our responsibilities to future generations, we must set goals that match the urgency and scope of the climate crisis. The world is at a crossroads, and everyone must aim higher and act more ambitiously. Exeter must do its part.


Rising to the Challenge

Exeter is dedicated to engaging our entire community about the challenges posed by climate change, and to empowering our students to become future environmental leaders.

Climate change and environmental sustainability are among the most fundamental challenges we face today. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared in 2022 that humaninduced climate change “is a grave and mounting threat to our well-being and a healthy planet.” A United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change called the impact of a warming planet the “most pervasive threat to the natural environment and societies the world has ever experienced.”

Institutions such as Exeter must rise to these challenges, both in the way we operate and the way we educate. Our mission charges us to “unite goodness and knowledge and inspire youth from every quarter to lead purposeful lives.” As we strive to create a campus that is a model of sustainability, we draw inspiration from these words.

Since the adoption of our original Environmental Mission Statement in 2004, our understanding of the immediacy and complexity of climate change has increased. Consequently, our commitment to reducing our environmental impact and educating our students has increased, and must continue to increase.

Exeter’s programs and operations drive our emissions. It is imperative that we align with our core value of creating a sustainable Exeter by reducing our consumption of fossil fuels and natural resources. While we have made significant progress, our aim is to be more expansive and ambitious across all areas of campus operations. The transformation will be complex, but this document serves as a road map for a community-wide commitment to action.

“We need to take care of our one planet. All of us have a role to play. Exonians can help find answers to our greatest challenges, and can help lead the way.”
Principal Bill Rawson ’71; P’08


Ensure that every student graduates from Exeter with a fundamental understanding of the principles of sustainability and the issues posed by climate change.



The Academy will maintain a robust, interdisciplinary curriculum to ensure that every student understands the principles of sustainability and the science, societal impacts and solutions to climate change.

Academic Program

Exeter’s primary contribution to climate action is through climate education. The academic program has evolved over the years to meet the needs of a 21st-century education. We will continue to enhance our curriculum to ensure that Exonians understand the principles of sustainability and the impacts of and potential solutions to climate change.

Our faculty have designed a rigorous curriculum that cultivates an appreciation for the natural world. Students study climate change in every introductory science course—from the physics of feedback cycles to the chemistry of solar panels. As our awareness of environmental issues has increased, our teachers have risen to the challenge, developing numerous advanced 12

sustainability-oriented courses, including

Literature and the Land Chemistry of the Environment

Human Population and Resource Consumption

Humans and the Environment

Earth and the Climate Crisis

courses, such as Ecology and Earth and the Climate Crisis. They’ve also created courses, such as Green Umbrella Learning Lab, to foster problem-solving and social innovation.

Our advanced STEM courses serve as an important foundation for our students, developing the skills critical to tackling climate change and other sustainability challenges. Our humanities classes provide opportunities to study the relationship between humans and the natural world. These courses delve into the political, economic, social and ethical aspects of climate change, including the disproportionate burdens felt by vulnerable populations, and seek to inspire our students to be difference-makers in the face of these challenges.

Students learn about marine life in tide pools on the New Hampshire seacoast.

Student Activities

Students take an active role in shaping their environmental education at Exeter. In addition to their normal coursework, many students undertake independent projects devoted to sustainability themes and topics. Students have formed more than a dozen sustainability-related clubs, including the Environmental Action Committee (over 150 members). Students and advisers design initiatives to inspire individuals to make a difference through their actions both on campus and in the broader Seacoast community, such as participation in climate marches, hosting energy reduction competitions, and organizing invasive species removals in the campus woods.

Global Initiatives

It is equally essential that students have the opportunity not just to learn sustainability, but to live it. Our curricular work is supported and supplemented by experiential opportunities in the Seacoast area as well as several Global Initiatives programs that have a strong focus on environmental issues and sustainability.


Activism in Art

ESSO (Exeter Student Service Organization)

Environmental Action Committee

Environmental Proctors (E-Proctors)

Exeter Climate Lobby

Ocean Awareness Action Club

sustainability-oriented clubs, including 9

programs in 9 destinations

Immersive learning

The Island School, the Bahamas

Wilderness survival

National Outdoor Leadership School, Arizona

Habitat restoration


Pollinator research

Costa Rica

Wildlife conservation

Yellowstone National Park

Sustainability and stewardship


Geology and biodiversity


Biology field research

Isles of Shoals

Immersive learning

The Mountain School, Vermont

A student explores a glacier in Iceland as part of a Global Initiatives trip.

Environmental Speakers and Climate Action Day

To complement the classroom experience, Exeter invites sustainability leaders to campus on a regular basis to speak as part of our Assembly program. Scientists, activists and writers have all addressed and inspired our students. Previous speakers have included White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, IPCC Vice Chair Ko Barrett, MIT Professor Donald Sadoway, Environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Founding Director of Environmental Justice Initiative Vernice Miller-Travis.

Additionally, Exeter students and faculty created Climate Action Day, a school-wide, day-long event devoted to climate and sustainability-related workshops, service projects and activism. Workshops have ranged from environmental law to oyster farming to sustainable business practices. Developing and expanding the scope of this program will be important as Exeter seeks to educate its students about the impacts of the climate crisis and potential solutions.

“Conservation means the wise use of the Earth and its resources for the lasting good.”
Gifford Pinchot, class of 1884, First Head of U.S. Forest Service
Students participate in a waste audit and pollinator garden planting as part of Climate Action Day.

Moving Forward

• Strengthen the core academic mission by educating our students about the climate crisis in a comprehensive and interdisciplinary fashion.

• Leverage our geographical location by connecting to the unique history, culture and ecology of the New Hampshire Seacoast region.

• Expand our partnerships with local service organizations to develop hands-on skills and improve our community.

• Work with student groups to design and implement sustainability projects, such as dorm composting, wetland restoration or permaculture.

• Develop new environmentally themed global studies programs that will provide students with additional opportunities to explore nature, cultivate an understanding of principles of sustainability and local ecology, experience the intersection of society and nature, and study or work on specific sustainability-related challenges.

• Create sustainability-related internships by engaging our alumni network and local organizations to provide students with opportunities to gain hands-on work experience that will expose them to the evolving field of sustainability and related disciplines.


Reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions (2005 baseline) 75% by 2031 and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Emissions and Energy

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

We must do our part to help limit the impacts of global warming by significantly reducing the Academy’s greenhouse gas emissions and working toward the decarbonization of campus infrastructure and operations by 2050.

Tracking Emissions

Since 2005, the Academy has reduced its scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 60 percent, even as the campus building square footage increased by about 15 percent over the same period. This has been accomplished by converting the central heating plant from #6 fuel oil to natural gas, repairing or replacing a majority of the original steam distribution system, integrating geothermal heating and cooling into a number of campus buildings, matching all on-campus electricity purchases with renewable energy certificates, as well as employing green building practices in new construction and renovations.

The Academy expanded its emissions inventory in 2019 to include scope 3 emissions resulting from institution-funded air travel and daily commuting of employees and students. The current best practice in higher education is to track these two categories of scope 3 emissions, though there are 15 categories in total. Emissions associated with employee and student commuting were exceptionally difficult to measure accurately during the COVID-19 pandemic and were therefore left out of 2021 and 2022 inventories. The FY 2023 inventory and all inventories moving forward will once again include these emissions.

GHG Emissions 2005-2022

Scopes 1 and 2 25,189 23,830 22,977 21,342 16,196 9,236 9,082 9,310 9,986 10,267 9,271 9,067 10,488 0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2015 2016 MT CO2e 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022


The Academy will reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by implementing energy-efficiency measures and utilizing renewable energy.

To provide thermal energy and electricity to over 2 million square feet of building space, Exeter purchases, generates and consumes a substantial amount of energy each year. The Academy’s central heating plant burns natural gas (and occasionally #2 fuel oil) to generate steam for heat and hot water, and our electrical substation routes grid electricity to the vast majority of campus buildings. Gasoline and diesel power our vehicle fleet, generators and equipment. In recent years, geothermal heat pumps have also been utilized on campus and currently provide heating and cooling to eight locations. The campus also produces about 575,000 kWh of electricity each year via the 535 MW solar array on the roof of the William Boyce Thompson Field House.

54 Exeter’s
Annual Solar Production 497,115 579,369 608,181 573,997 629,624 0 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 600,000 700,000 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 kWh
The solar array on the roof of the Thompson Field House.
solar array generates enough electricity to power

Natural Gas and #6 Fuel Oil Consumption

* The data reflect the transition from #6 fuel oil to natural gas as the primary fuel source for the central heating plant.

* Spikes in electricity consumption reflect activities associated with the construction of The David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance and Thompson Field House.

66,473 198,608 181,056 178,340 85,170* 33,094 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 64,081 75,292 177,928* 172,424 165,511 161,276 166,254 179,213 177,773 157,101 150,515 157,640 0 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000 140,000 160,000 180,000 200,000 2005 Natural Gas 2006 2007 2008 2009 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 MMBtu #6 Fuel Oil
12,524 12,748 12,797 13,050 12,293 16,218 29,278 * 21,612 * 16,332 15,782 14,277 13,581 14,249 0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000 35,000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 MWh
Electricity Consumption

Moving Forward

Emissions Inventory

• Update greenhouse gas emissions inventories annually and make reports available online

Reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions (2005 baseline)

75% by 2031

• Develop a campus energy master plan.

• Evaluate low carbon biofuel alternatives to natural gas in our central heating plant and emerging carbon capture technologies.

• Continue working with consultants to explore opportunities for on-campus solar arrays.

• Integrate geothermal or air source heat pumps in building renovations and new building construction where feasible (see Green Buildings).

• Meter all buildings to monitor energy consumption (steam and electricity) and implement measures to make existing buildings more energy efficient (e.g., window replacement).

• Convert remaining non-LED lighting to LED.

• Continue to perform energy audits on faculty housing and implement energy-efficiency measures during renovations.

• Purchase renewable energy certificates to match 100% of electricity used in off-campus buildings and residences.

PEA does not currently purchase carbon offsets and does not plan on utilizing offsets to meet the 2031 carbon reduction goal.


Achieve Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

The best science tells us that this needs to be the goal for our global society to prevent the most extreme consequences of climate change. Achieving this goal will require enormous investments to address the environmental and social impacts of climate change that are already occurring. Many leading colleges and universities have committed to achieving this goal or to achieving carbon neutrality and have published detailed plans. Others are in the early stages and do not yet know how they will achieve their goal, however they express it. All plans at the moment focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions.

At Exeter, we are in the early stages of evaluating what it will mean to decarbonize our campus and school operations. Stating this goal shifts the conversation to a different set of challenges and potential opportunities. We will explore all possibilities. We will focus first on scope 1 and 2 emissions, with a particular focus on converting our central heating plant away from fossil fuels. For any emissions we are unable to eliminate, we will consider the use of carbon offsets resulting from carbon removal projects that meet the criteria of durability and additionality. We will also consider this strategy to offset any remaining scope 3 emissions. This is a long-range goal, but the effort to imagine a zero carbon emissions school begins now.

“Exonians are bound together by our school’s mission to unite goodness and knowledge and by our founding value of non sibi. Perhaps nothing embodies these principles better than our commitment to achieving a more sustainable world. Just as we continually re-examine every aspect of Exeter life to ensure we are the best version of ourselves and living up to our founding principles, we must reassess our commitment to sustainability and our impact on the environment.”



Integrate principles of sustainability into all Exeter programs and operations.

Sustainability Integration

Green Buildings

We will design, build, operate and maintain environmentally responsible and efficient buildings that enhance occupants’ health and well-being.

The Academy adopted its Principles of Sustainable Construction in 2011 and is committed to building efficient, durable and comfortable buildings. Since 2008, Exeter has constructed six LEED-certified buildings and has incorporated geothermal heating and cooling systems in eight campus locations, including the recently opened New Hall. The David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance and the Thompson Field House each received the U.S. Green Building Council NH's Building of the Year Award in 2021 and 2019 respectively. The 12-unit faculty housing development being built at 35 High Street utilizes all-electric construction, avoiding HVAC and appliances reliant on fossil fuels. 6

LEED-certified buildings


The Goel Center for Theater and Dance

William Boyce Thompson Field House

Valhouli House

Grainger Observatory House

Irving Forbes House


Elizabeth Phillips Academy Center

The Goel Center for Theater and Dance

Geothermal Wells

Since 2007, 163 geothermal wells have been installed on campus. The upcoming replacement of Wetherell Dining Hall and the renovations of the Academy Building and Davis Library will increase the total number of wells to 263.

Timeline of Geothermal Well Integration

6 3 2 49 15 60 28 100

Moving Forward

• All-electric construction of new, nondormitory housing.

• Incorporate geothermal systems in new construction and renovations where feasible.

• Utilize an enhanced building envelope in all new construction.

• Consider building certifications for new construction projects (LEED, Passive House, etc.) on a case-by-case basis.

Existing geothermal wellfield beneath the Academy lawn, providing heating and cooling to Phillips Hall.
2008 2009 2012 2015 2017 2021 2023–2027 2007
Valhouli House Grainger Observatory House Irving Forbes House Thompson House Phillips Hall Downer Family Fitness Center The Goel Center for Theater and Dance New Hall New Dining Center Davis Library Academy Building

Natural Resource Management

We commit to environmental stewardship of our natural resources with a focus on providing educational and recreational opportunities.

In addition to the picturesque main campus and athletic fields, Exeter owns over 1,250 acres of forests, wetlands and fields. The adjacent Academy Woodlands encompass about 850 acres and over 7 miles of scenic trails popular with students, faculty, staff and the local community. Unbeknownst to many, the Academy also owns an additional 426- acre tract in nearby Fremont, NH, which includes a large section of Spruce Swamp, the largest wetland in Rockingham County. The Academy’s consulting forester has developed detailed management plans for both properties, with a focus on practicing restorative silviculture and providing educational and recreational opportunities.

Moving Forward

• Engage faculty to increase the use of Academy Woodlands and Fremont property for educational purposes.

• Quantify the amount of water used annually for irrigation and develop strategies to reduce consumption.

• Identify additional opportunities to replace turfgrass with meadows or low-mow areas.

• Continue to manage Academy Woodlands and Fremont property in accordance with natural resource management plans.



We will operate a campus fleet that supports a clean environment and public health while minimizing the consumption of fossil fuels.

The Academy maintains a fleet of vehicles for use both on and off campus. While the vast majority of these cars, vans, trucks and buses are powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE), a number of electric utility carts are employed as well. Six Level 1 electric vehicle (EV) chargers are located in the Thompson Field House parking garage. There are also three Level 2, dual-charging stations that can provide charging to six EVs available for use by the campus community and visitors.

Moving Forward

• Replace ICE vehicles with EVs when due for replacement (subject to availability).

• Add EV chargers at parking locations across campus.

• Develop a fee structure for EV charging.

• Develop a procedure to track vehicle emissions produced by third party transportation providers.

6 electric vehicle charging stations

Electric golf carts help our tour guides introduce new students to campus.

Waste Diversion

The Academy will provide more opportunities for the campus community to reuse, recycle, compost and otherwise divert materials from entering the waste stream.

Phillips Exeter Academy is working to divert materials from entering the waste stream in a number of different ways. Zero-sort recycling is available across campus buildings and residences. Pre- and post-consumer food waste is collected in the dining halls and popular outdoor dining locations. At the end of every school year, facilities management staff work with Casella Waste Systems and Goodwill of Northern New England to hold Green Move-Out, during which students can donate clothing, electronics, school supplies and more to those in need. Green Move-Out is also held at the conclusion of Exeter Summer.

Moving Forward

• Develop a strategy to expand composting to dormitories.

• Hold an annual e-waste collection for the Academy community.

6,816 lbs of donated goods at the Academy's Green Move-Out 2022

• Increase campus waste diversion rate.

• Work with outside partners to track the collection of food waste and volume of compostable materials.

Students follow composting and recycling guidelines on campus.

Preferred Purchasing

We support the procurement of products and services that are environmentally and socially responsible.

The Academy purchases Green Seal-certified cleaning supplies, 100% recycled content paper towels and toilet paper, compostable grab-and-go containers and cutlery, and a number of Energy Star-certified products. While specific departments remain responsible for their own purchasing, the recent introduction of new procurement software presents opportunities for a more systematic focus on sustainable purchasing across departments.

Moving Forward

• Identify opportunities to purchase more environmentally and socially responsible products.

• Increase the number of local, fair-trade and organic dining options.

• Move toward 100% recycled content and Forest Stewardship Council-certified office paper.

• Purchase Energy Star or EPEAT-certified laptops, monitors and printers.


Conclusion: Our Path Forward

Phillips Exeter Academy will observe its 250th anniversary in 2031. We are determined to celebrate that milestone among a student body that understands and is committed to the principles of sustainability, on a campus that has reduced its carbon emissions by threequarters, in a community dedicated to integrating sustainable practices across all operations. This strategic plan establishes these goals for our 250th anniversary, and commits our school to develop a plan and take action to decarbonize our campus by 2050. Our actions will determine whether or not we achieve our goals. We will update our sustainability and climate action plan at least every five years and report progress toward these and other goals.

To learn more about the Academy's historical and present sustainability efforts, visit

Sustainability Leadership

Bill Rawson ’71; P’08, Principal

Warren Biggins, Manager of Sustainability and Natural Resources

Andrew McTammany ’04, Science Instructor and Sustainability Education Coordinator


Environmental Stewardship Committee

Warren Biggins, Manager of Sustainability and Natural Resources

Jason BreMiller, English Instructor

Patrick Garrity, Associate Director of Communications

Sydnee Goddard, Science Instructor

Melinda Leonard, Director of Dining Services

Andrew McTammany ’04, Science Instructor and Sustainability Education Coordinator

Betsy Stevens, Science Instructor

Heather Taylor, Campus Planner and Architect



All-electric buildings

Buildings in which all energy needs are met with electricity rather than fossil fuels. Includes energy used for space and water heating, air conditioning and all appliances.

Carbon removal

The process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere via methods that include natural strategies like tree restoration and agricultural soil management; high-tech strategies like direct air capture and enhanced mineralization; and hybrid strategies like enhanced root crops, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and ocean-based carbon removal.


The process by which carbon emissions are reduced and ultimately eliminated via adoption of renewable energy systems.

Energy Star certification

Energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Energy.

Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)

Leading global ecolabel for technology products.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification

A certification that ensures products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

Geothermal heat pumps

These systems (also called ground source heat pumps) provide space heating and cooling and, in some cases, hot water for residential and commercial buildings. The technology uses an indoor heat pump unit and a heat-exchanging ground loop buried underground (or underwater) to transfer thermal energy between and amongst the ground and the building. Geothermal heat pumps provide exceptionally efficient heating and cooling.

Greenhouse gas (GHG)

Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halogenated fluorocarbons, ozone, perfluorinated carbons and hydrofluorocarbons.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

Building rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Renewable energy certificate (REC)

A REC is issued for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated and delivered to the electric grid from a renewable energy resource. RECs are tradeable, market-based instruments that represent the legal property rights to the “renewable-ness”— or all nonpower attributes — of renewable electricity generation.

Scope 1 emissions

Direct GHG emissions. Scope 1 emissions occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the institution. Includes natural gas, fuel oil, refrigerants, vehicle fleet and generator fuel, and fertilizer.

Scope 2 emissions

Indirect GHG emissions. Scope 2 accounts for GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the institution.

Scope 3 emissions

Other indirect GHG emissions. Scope 3 emissions are a consequence of the activities of the institution but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the institution. PEA’s emissions inventory includes those from daily commuting and institution-funded air travel. Scope 3 emissions include 15 categories in total, such as emissions from purchased goods and services, waste generated in operations, investments, etc.


Defined by the U.N.’s Brundtland Commission as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability also incorporates the concept of the triple bottom line, a framework that examines an organization’s social, environmental, and economic impacts.

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