Grauer School launches campus-wide effort to promote sustainability, combat climate change

Grauer students studying plant medicine in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.
Grauer students studying plant medicine in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.

The Grauer School in Encinitas has dedicated the current school year to an all-campus effort to embrace sustainable environmental practices and work to reduce the local and global impacts of climate change.

A joint resolution passed by the school’s board of trustees, faculty and students - a first for the school since its founding in 1991 - calls for action to help turn back the Earth’s rising temperatures, and to use environmentally sustainable practices wherever possible. The initiative encompasses the entire school community, from curriculum in all academic disciplines, to student activities on and off campus, as well as the school’s front-office functions. This new resolution highlights Grauer’s long tradition of expeditionary learning, which takes students on immersive cultural and ecological expeditions all over the world twice yearly, in addition to year-long experiential learning.

“The Grauer School has a long history of teaching and practicing environmental sustainability. Even our mascot, the gorilla, was intended to showcase and support a critically endangered species. But we feel a new sense of urgency to be good stewards of the environment and address climate change based on recent science, which warns of the potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction,” said Dr. Stuart Grauer, Head of School and the school’s founder.

The initiative, although grounded in the school’s academic curriculum, goes well beyond into all aspects of campus life.

“We are convinced that it is important to not only teach our students to care for and protect the environment, but to model what it looks like to live an environmentally responsible life. That’s why we are dedicated to increasing the students’ environmental intelligence through the school curriculum, and across every facet of the school’s operations,” said Craig Gertz, chairman of the board of trustees.

An environmental element has been introduced across academic disciplines at the school. For example, marine biology students are performing weekly water quality tests at local beaches, and surveying for fish and microplastics in local waterways. History students are learning about the establishment of the national park system and creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Math students are investigating the statistical evidence of climate change and calculating the costs and benefits of outfitting all school buildings with solar panels.

The school’s expeditionary learning program takes students around the world for wilderness experiences, cross-cultural immersion, humanitarian work, team building, and skill development. Recent trips have included such destinations as Bahia de los Angeles in Mexico, Zion National Park, Kenya and Ecuador.

Students are doing their part through classroom work and community service geared toward environmental causes. The student government has even created a new position this year for a vice president of sustainability.

On campus, a key goal is carbon neutrality and a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap warmth in the Earth’s atmosphere. Efforts to reduce the school’s carbon footprint include ordering supplies made with sustainable materials, moving toward paperless offices, and practices such as food waste control, composting, no-idle parking lot zones, and a ban on plastic bottles and utensils. The board’s finance committee will also calibrate investment policies with the school’s environmental stance.

In an effort to inspire others outside the school community, the joint resolution has been posted on the school’s website ( and shared with the Encinitas City Council, the National Association of Independent Schools, all members of California’s Congressional delegation, and the Schools for Climate Action campaign. —News release