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Greening Up with The Greenhouse School


Greening Up with The Greenhouse School

When the word came out that Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Worcester Mayor Timothy Murray had bet whose town could be the first to inspire 100 new participants in the Mass. Technology Collaborative's GreenUp program, The Greenhouse School rose to the occasion.

Within a few days, the Salem alternative private school had convinced ten of its parents, staff and board to join the contest and agree to pay a couple pennies more per kilowatt to choose electricity sourced from renewable fuels.

"It's not that tough a sell," says Director Dan Welch. "It's something a lot of people thought we ought to be doing anyway, and if we can make a significant dent in that next 100, then so much the better." He agrees it's a bit gimmicky, but the need to find alternatives to the carbon economy is no joke.

"It's something we feel pretty strongly about," says Welch. A few years back the school's board set the ambitious goal of becoming energy-independent by 2005. Too ambitious, as it turned out. A series of difficult budget years and other setbacks made it more of a dream than they had intended. "Call it an inspiration," says Welch, who adds that the school is now ready to hit the ground running and tackle a few small but significant projects.

"We're in a position now where we can do some of these things, as long as we think small and grow the idea. Start with [projects] that don't need as much grant money and see where it takes us." One idea made more attractive by last week's floods: a rain catchment system. "Our roof sheds about 4,000 gallons for every inch of rain, and Boston gets about 43 inches per year." Even at a modest success level, this would replace more than half the school's water use.

Another simple project is to run the school's bus on biofuels, something that's in the works. "We'll have more to say about it later this summer," promises Welch. He insists, though, that the real progress won't be made until people's lifestyles begin to change. "My wife grew up in a village in Uganda," he says, "where water use was often regulated by the need for kids to carry it back from the river. Americans are too used to having everything to see how much we waste."

"It's true," adds Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde, the school's Assistant Director and also Welch's wife. "Waste is still very much a function of class. The more you consume, the more you waste--it's that simple." Welch points out that no matter what technologies are available and how careful people are, "It's almost impossible for someone who makes and spends $100,000 a year to create fewer carbon emissions than one who makes $20,000. The saying really rings true: live simply, so that others may simply live."

As for the GreenUp contest, how far do they expect it to go? "We have the word out now, although our numbers aren't huge," Welch pauses. One factor is that the school is just as likely to draw in new GreenUp converts from Lynn and beyond as from Salem. "We've had a positive response from people in several towns. We're just happy to be a part of it." But even if they can push Salem over the top, it may not wind up benefiting Mayor Driscoll. "My wife's family is from Worcester, so the more successful we are, the more they'll wind up canceling each other out." The real goal, of course, isn't a free dinner, but a cleaner environment. "So hopefully everyone wins," he adds. Readers who want to follow the school's progress can check it on their website at



Daniel P. Welch,
Administrative Director
The Greenhouse School
- check it out The little school with a global reach

CONTACT: Dan Welch
EMAIL: wpdanny @

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