Environmental sustainability and responsible world citizenship are core values at Mark Day School. They are put into practice every day by our whole community, from teaching environmental literacy, to composting and recycling, to designing our campus in order to reduce our energy usage, gas consumption, and overall waste.
Planning for the construction of our new Learning Commons, Creativity Lab, amphitheater, and quad began in 2013, with special attention to further developing the environmental sustainability of our whole campus.
In 2019, our Learning Commons and Creativity Lab Project was awarded LEED Platinum status, the highest available, for its environmentally sustainable design. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.It is the first school project to achieve LEED Platinum in San Rafael and one of only three in all of Marin County. LEED certification provides independent verification of a building’s green features, allowing for the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy, cost-effective buildings. LEED certification means healthier, more productive places, reduced stress on the environment by encouraging energy and resource-efficient buildings, and savings from increased building value and decreased utility costs. The building was also awarded the Green California Outstanding Building Leadership Award for Zero Net Energy.
The green elements of these new learning and community spaces include:
- Solar panels: Solar panels are installed on the roof of our gym, Lower School, and Arts and Science buildings. We generate enough electrical power to be carbon-neutral and run up to 100% of school activities, depending on the time of year, to contribute to the decrease in reliance on fossil fuels, live more greenly here on campus, and give students the ability to monitor our electricity production and energy use.
- Bioswales: Around our campus, five bioswales are interwoven throughout our landscape to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water and to slow the speed of runoff during heavy storms to allow more water to percolate into the aquifer. Our campus is part of the Gallinas Creek Watershed, and we are part of a larger San Francisco Bay Area ecosystem that is impacted by our actions. Landscaped with native and drought tolerant plants, these bioswales also never require irrigation.
- Walls of glass: Based on research that reveals the positive impact of natural light on student outcomes, the Learning Commons and Creativity Lab spaces were designed to bring in the sunshine, including floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that open to our quad. Extensive shade studies throughout the design process maximize light without the glare of direct sun, and the windows met stringent insulation value to keep the space cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Energy efficiency: Every building system was designed for maximum energy efficiency and occupant health, including the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that circulate fresh air and allow us to bring heat or cool just to where it is needed.
These green spaces serve as living embodiments of our commitment to campus sustainability and enhance the education of our students in environmental literacy and responsible world citizenship.
Good citizens need to be knowledgeable stewards of local, national, and global resources and ecosystems. For our students to become effective stewards of the planet, they need to be able to apply informed decision-making to support a sustainable lifestyle. In the words of Oberlin professor and author David Orr, “All education is environmental education.” Our goal is to develop environmentally literate students who understand the environment in total--both its natural and human-made aspects--and how the decisions we make individually and collectively have environmental ramifications.
The ways in which students learn about and participate in environmental stability include:
- We are reducers, re-users, and composters.To ensure we are all making a concerted effort to reduce our waste, we have clearly defined the ways in which we reuse, recycle, and compost. We strongly encourage students to bring reusable containers for their lunches and post compost and recycling bins across campus.
- Our garden is an outdoor classroom. Students K-8 use the garden as a living laboratory for science and interdisciplinary study.
- Student leadership and advocacy.The Upper Division’s Green Team builds awareness about environmental issues by completing power and trash audits, PSAs, and posters.
- Outdoor education. Our outdoor education program begins in 3rd grade with an overnight trip to West Marin and concludes in 8th grade with a five-day river rafting trip on the Deschutes River in Oregon with Outward Bound. Naturalists accompany the students on all trips and educate them about their environment. This program reinforces students’ understanding of the resources of our state and our interconnectedness with nature.