Facilities and Dining
Buildings and Ground
The Pennington School campus provides ample opportunities for environmental education and for adopting strategies and practices that reflect our commitment to sustainability. As the grounds include a stormwater pond (with fish, turtles, frogs, and waterbirds!), a raised-bed vegetable and herb garden, grass and turf sports fields, energy efficient buildings, landscaped planting beds, and undeveloped woodlands, the School takes the management of the property in relation to the topic of sustainability quite seriously.
Interest in improving our campus ecologies recently inspired the initiation of an environmental remediation project in and around Lowellden Pond. We worked with an ecologist and invasive species specialist from Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space to develop a plan for the pond involving the removal of invasive species and planting of native species that will provide critical wildlife habitat. We are also working with the NJDEP and an environmental consultant to develop a plan to remove organic material from the pond’s substrate to improve water quality and benefit aquatic organisms. Students will be included as project partners throughout the multi-year remediation process.
New construction on campus also takes into account and seeks to minimize environmental impact. The Kenneth Kai Tai Yen Humanities building, opened in January 2016, earned LEED Gold Certification. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building, and Gold Certification is the second highest level that can be attained. Other recent sustainable initiatives include the installation of permeable pavement on the new parking areas and roads in 2017 and 2019 to reduce stormwater runoff and water pollution, as well as the replacement of outdoor and indoor lighting fixtures with efficient LED fixtures and bulbs.
Don Toner, general manager of the School’s dining services, has spent much of his long career here at Pennington navigating the desires of the School community, state regulations, and the policies of Sodexo (our food service provider). Mr. Toner and his team clearly think very deeply about what will work best for our community, and have integrated sustainable practices throughout the kitchen and dining hall. For example, he and his kitchen staff are leading Pennington to reduce food waste and implement best practices for disposal of the waste we do create. He set up the kitchen so that composting and the management of food waste can be done as easily, ethically, and environmentally friendly as possible. Other efforts to reduce the waste of food and other resources include:
- Bulk purchasing (e.g., jars around the dining hall containing crackers and pretzels help cut back on packaging waste)
- Serving food dishes rather than disposable plastic
- Reducing water usage by not using lunch trays
- Using compostable napkins and coffee stirrers
- Using cleaning products that are environmentally friendly and safe for human health
- Making snack bar food (sold in the Campus Center) in-house
In addition, the School is deeply committed to using locally farmed and raised products. Approximately 70-85% of our fresh food is sourced from local vendors (i.e., within 75 miles of Pennington) that work with local farms and are driven by regional seasonality. In addition, our dining services team:
- Works directly with Common Market, a nonprofit distributor that serves as a brokerage house for small farms and small businesses;
- Serves ground beef from PA Proud Angus, which must be from cows raised and butchered in Pennsylvania. The beef currently originates from a farm near Lancaster, PA;
- Makes all marinara sauce from scratch using Jersey Fresh local tomatoes sourced through Common Market;
- Serves certified sustainable seafood that is verified through Seawatch;
- Works to align our dining Program with the Real Food Challenge Standards.