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Academic Lens: Student Research on Climate Mitigation

Scott Allenby

Too often in our blog posts, we share the work that is happening in our classrooms, studios, and athletic fields from the perspective of the adult. We talk about our philosophy of education, of community building, of putting young people in situations that both challenge and support them. Today’s post simply shares the work of a handful of AP Environmental Science students as the class embarked on a project investigating and researching climate mitigation efforts around the world. 

Proctor Academy AP Environmental Science

Science Department Chair and APES teacher Alan McIntyre asked students to choose a location, for some their hometown/country and for others a place they were interested in learning more about, and to investigate what climate mitigation efforts were underway to reduce greenhouse gasses and pollution. Each student chose to approach the project differently, and each uncovered powerful data, stories, and reflections that exposed them to new information and connections related to a place about which they care deeply. Explore a few of the student blog posts linked below, and read on for excerpts from Lola ‘23 and Romy’s projects. 

Proctor Academy AP Environmental Science

Lola ‘23: Climate Mitigation in a Ski Town, Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley is a small ski town nestled among the mountains of Idaho. Sun Valley is a popular tourist destination due to its unique outdoor offerings, including amazing mountain biking in the summer months, and world-class skiing during the winter months. The Sun Valley Resort was established as the first destination ski resort in America in 1936. Sun Valley is part of the greater Wood River Valley area which is home to around 17,000 people, many of which rely on jobs in the tourist-driven industry to make a living. With the natural resources in the Wood River Valley being such a huge part of resident and non-resident lives, it is vital that the valley takes action to mitigate the effects and risks brought on by climate change. The climate-saving actions that Sun Valley takes to protect the ecotourism-rich area, can also serve as examples for other ski resorts around the U.S.  

Making Snow-Making More Efficient: 
What would skiing be without the snow? Well, whatever it would be, I'm sure it wouldn't be nearly as fun. While the majority of the snow on the ski hills in Sun Valley falls from the sky, the hill usually needs a boost of man-made snow to get the mountain open in time for Thanksgiving day every year. Snowmaking can use a lot of energy, and in recent years the resort began replacing the older, less efficient, snowmakers with new more efficient ones. My sister who works as a ski patrol woman for the resort has witnessed this replacement process first hand and when I asked her about it she said "they've started replacing the old snow gun heads for more modern ones which are cutting down on electricity usage by 700%, which pays for itself in about half a ski season." Since 2014, 283 of the 578 Borax snow guns have been replaced with the more efficient Rubis EVO snow guns. The best way to prove just how much more efficient the Rubis EVO guns are than the Borax guns, is to look at the data the resort has compiled. 

Here are a few of these data pieces: 
Cost per acre of snow-
Borax (45 Horsepower): $438/acre
Rubis EVO (3 Horsepower): $18/acre
In 2016, 125 Borax guns were replaced with the Rubis EVO's, and 697,125 KWHs of energy were saved. The resort is now saving enough energy every year to provide 127 houses with power, that is no small number, and truly goes to show just how energy other resorts could save if they did the same thing!

This project allowed me to look into my hometown in a way I never had before. I had no idea that the Sun Valley Resort was doing anything to help reduce its impact on the environment, and now I know the different steps that they are taking to do so. Reaching out to my grandma and sister about this blog gave me insight into how two very different, but similar in some ways, professional fields have experienced these changes that the resort has made. When I found the article about what Sun Valley was doing I was very excited as I was able to see not only what they were doing, but the data that proves the efficacy of the things they are doing to prevent climate change. This in-depth article allowed me to now project what I have learned onto the readers of this blog, and hopefully help them understand the impact that a big company can have on reducing its impact on the climate when the proper steps are taken. This project proved that while implementing more efficient systems can be expensive up front, these systems actually end up more than paying for themselves typically within the first year.

Proctor Academy AP Environmental Science

Romy ‘24: The Concept of a Smart City and Vienna, Austria

We were tasked with investigating climate mitigation and/or adaptation plans in our homes. My home is Vienna, Austria. To begin with, I chose Vienna instead of Bethesda, MD because I wanted to explore the difference in action between the US (which I believe the majority of my peers will be focusing on) and a more European approach. 

Throughout my research, I found myself almost overwhelmed by the numerous different resources. As a result, I was able to rely on reliable sources, coming directly from the Viennese government and the UN. As I was researching, I learned about all the different ways that it is possible to address climate change without appearing 'radical' or having to invest large sums upfront for a long term environmental and cost benefit. Despite not really putting much direct emphasis upon the topic, I found the concept of a Smart City to be the most appealing and interesting approach to a sustainable future. Although it may be a little silly, I'm amazed that the strategy isn't more common and that I haven't heard of it outside of seeing the phrase on posters when walking around the city. I think that I'm so impressed with the Smart City Strategy as a way to mitigate climate change because even though its emphasis is sustainability, the quality of life of Vienna's (Austria's) citizen's hasn't been negatively impacted- in fact, their quality of life has increased. I'd love to be able to see a similar framework begin to appear in more North American Cities, like NYC or Boston. 

Personally, the more I looked into Vienna's approach to climate mitigation, the more I'm falling in love with the city all over again. I've moved a lot growing up, and Vienna was definitely the place that I'll miss the most. When I was younger, I protested with Greta Thunberg's Friday's for Future movement, one of my friends became so involved in the protests that she ended up speaking at a protest in front of several thousand people. As I'm looking back to those days, I'm realizing that even though I fully believed & fought with the movement, that I'd never put much effort into researching Vienna's actual and current efforts. I believe that I can excuse myself, only being in eighth grade, but after this project, I've come to realize that I not only love the city - I'm also very proud of it. 

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