——By Rwick Sarkar ‘19
Over 70 students and faculty members from schools across New England came to St. Mark’s on Sunday, April 7 to attend the third annual Independent School Sustainability Coalition (ISSC) Conference. The coalition was formed by Milton Academy students three years ago, and the first two ISSC conferences were held there. This year, St. Mark’s hosted as the coalition grows larger and broadens out of the Milton community. This was by far the largest group on hand for an ISSC conference yet, helping to make the day a success.
Taking the lead on organizing this conference was Laura Drepanos ‘19 who shepherded the larger Students for Sustainability group throughout the year as they devoted much of their time towards planning the conference. Others S4Sers who were heavily involved in the planning of the conference include: Alie Hyland ‘20, Alison Bechard ‘22, Charlotte Bertsch ‘21, Daniela Ortiz ‘21, Jocelyn Cote ‘22, Kendall Sommers ‘22, Lindsay Davis ‘21, Sky Davis ‘20, Eve Elkins '21, Frances Hornbostel ‘21, Elise Gobron ‘21, Nashua Poreda ‘22, and myself. St. Mark’s students played an instrumental role in making the conference happen, including by leading different workshops on divestment, sustainability ground rules, and new ISSC initiatives.
The day began with a keynote address from Nathalia JMag, a Colombian-American fashion designer who believes in sustainable and ethical approaches to creating clothing. She has been on Project Runway and has been highlighted in Vogue after participating in the Helsinki Fashion week. Following her talk, students engaged in a Q&A session with her, learning much about the fashion industry and its role in contributing to a polluted world. It was inspiring to see a young person pursuing their passions while prioritizing sustainability.
St. Mark’s students took much away from the conference, learning about sustainability efforts at some of our peer schools. Some ideas S4S members are particularly excited about include initiatives at Taft School to reduce plastic usage in their Lions Den equivalent and an Earth Day celebration with an outdoor picnic lunch, food trucks, and a reusable tumbler sale. S4S is hoping to bring some of these initiatives to our campus soon. Broader discussions were also had. For example, the divestment workshop group discussed making an action plan as a coalition seeking to divest school endowments from fossil fuels, using the force of a coalition of students across the New England prep school world all calling on schools to take action.
In their first year hosting the conference, St. Markers made the day a one to remember and helped broaden the coalition. Moving forward, St. Mark’s students hope to continue being a driving force behind this all-important coalition of students pushing for a more sustainable future.
Students contacted local companies that prioritize sustainability in making their products and handed out free food samples from these brands at the conference.
Fashion designer Nathalia JMag delivered the keynote.
A group picture in the PFAC lobby at the end of the conference.