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Sustainability at Bryn Mawr

The Bryn Mawr School strives to be a sustainable, eco-friendly campus in all aspects of our facilities and learning. Check out some of the practices and initiatives that keep our campus and our minds green.

Waste Reduction

  • Installing composting bins for food and paper waste in the Dining Hall
  • Community education around recycling and composting
  • Instituting a single stream recycling across campus in conjunction with Baltimore City
  • Initiating the “Ban the Bottle Campaign” that helped install water fountains and remove plastic water bottles around campus
  • Making use of online/electronic publications and communications to reduce paper usage
  • Recycling and donating old electronic equipment
  • Installing hand dryers to reduce paper towel usage by 45%


  • Planting native vegetation and hummingbird/butterfly gardens across campus
  • Developing a Landscape Master Plan that provides consistent plant palettes with an emphasis on native plants
  • Installing a turf athletic field to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides as well as to reduce runoff
  • Continuously removing invasive plants in the North Woods along Stony Run in addition to ongoing native plant projects

Energy Conservation

  • Building-by-building conversion to low energy and motion detector lights
  • Renovations to the Lower School to reduce energy demand by installing heat–reflective roofing, an energy efficient HVAC system, and making use of natural lighting
  • Installing a replacement high efficiency boiler system in the Katherine Van Bibber Gymnasium and Cafeteria building
  • Installation of bio-based floors and other recycled materials for Student Center project
  • Installation of motion sensor sinks in restroom renovations


Environmental issues and lessons are incorporated at all grades levels, and within all subjects, to promote sustainability as a core value. Read more below about how each division educates children about sustainability.

Little School

Students regularly compost and recycle food, paper, plastic and metal waste. Paper and plastic products are often reused in a creative way. The Little School science curriculum incorporates many lessons that emphasize the value of natural recourses and their importance to us -- for example, how do trees help us? What can you reuse? What can you recycle?

The science curriculum also incorporates many lessons that allow students to observe their world, such as the changing of the seasons, weather patterns and more.

Lower School

In the Lower School, students explore the environment and ways to take care of it. For example:
  • In the spring, kindergarten students take a field trip to a farm to learn about plant and animal life cycles.
  • In first grade, students read books about recycling, talk about ways to reduce and reuse materials, and practice these in the classroom.
  • In second grade, girls study insect and honeybees, including making a model of the honeybee hive
  • In third grade, students study erosion and ways to prevent it, as well as weather cycles.
  • In fourth grade, students learn about where our drinking water comes from, as well as how to clean and conserve it. Students also make posters to post around the Lower School to inform students about water usage in the United States.
  • In fifth grade, students complete a two-month-long unit on the environment, learning about ecosystems, the Bryn Mawr campus, and the plants and animals that are a part of it.

Middle School

In the Middle School, students learn about environmental resources and sustainability through class work, field trips and research projects. Some of the highlights of the Middle School curriculum include:
  • In sixth grade, students study the structure of the atmosphere, determining the ground level ozone level as well as how air pollution relates to this. They also complete a unit on local drinking water resources, water use, and conservation. In the spring, girls study the Chesapeake Bay, considering such topics as water quality, ecology and conservation.
  • In seventh grade, students consider ecology topics such as populations, communitie and ecosystems. Course work includes a section on waste removal and pollution, and the effects of development, farming, and invasive species on local ecosystems. In Global Studies, students complete a unit on sustainable development, which includes desertification, deforestation, and Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement.
  • A highlight of the Middle School curriculum is the seventh grade Sustainable World Investigation (SWI) Project, which is a semester-long research project on global sustainability. About one-third of the student-generated research questions concern environmental sustainability. Recent topics include water use and quality, farming, air quality, deforestation, climate change, desertification, coral reefs, and the effects of mining.
  • In the eighth grade, students consider the question of air quality and atmospheric composition. Using chemistry techniques, they consider the question, “How can we improve air quality in our community?”
In addition, field trips to the Chesapeake Bay, the Real Food Farm, Camp Letts and more give students real-world experience.

Upper School

Upper School students learn about the environment and sustainability in a variety of ways, including class work, optional summer courses, independent studies and extracurricular activities.
  • In ninth grade physics, students complete a project on differences between gasoline, hybrid and electric engines, to understand how each functions, and what their capabilities are.
  • In chemistry classes, students consider a wealth of environmental topics, including air and water pollution, climate change, recycling processes, invasive species, endangered species, and biodiversity.
  • In biology classes, students complete an extensive unit on biodiversity, the effects of carbon emissions, and conservation including a unit on each biome and natural adaptations.
  • Advanced Placement Environmental Science is one of the most popular senior science electives year after year.  Each student is responsible for developing her own project to impact conditions on our campus, within the community or somewhere else on the planet. Projects have ranged from organizing a farmer's market on campus to encouraging local eating and grass-raised beef burgers through an on-campus cookout.
  • In pre-calculus, students use carbon dioxide data collected in Hawaii to create predictions for future levels of CO2, and learn why such predictions vary greatly.
  • All Upper School students at Bryn Mawr take a dance class. Students are encouraged to regularly use re-purposed materials for costumes.

Upper School students also lead the school-wide organization, Environmental Coalition, which organizes events and activities throughout the year, including an Earth Week speaker, Harvest Fest and educational forums about current events that have to do with the environment.