Student Agency: Transforming Mount Vernon through Sustainability

Apr 24, 2024 | All School, Blog, Lower School News, Upper School News

In the heart of Mount Vernon, a quiet revolution is brewing, and Beau Reinking, Sustainability Prefect, his committee, and his fellow Mustangs in the Tree Club on Lower Campus, are at the forefront. With a passion for environmental stewardship and a drive to make a difference, Beau shares insights into the Sustainability Committee’s journey and the impact they’re making on campus.

“Being part of the Sustainability Committee is about more than just recycling bins and biodiesel—it’s about changing mindsets and inspiring action,” Beau explains. “We’re on a mission to show that sustainability isn’t just a concept—it’s a way of life.”

For Beau and the committee which includes Grayson Richmond, Ryley Fuller, Charlotte Goerdel, Sarah Mekelburg, Dennis Norman, Edee Moorman, Frankie Whelan, Herris Fentress, and Audrey Brown, the journey toward sustainability begins with the School’s facilities. Through innovative projects like recycling initiatives and repurposing cooking oil into biodiesel, they’re transforming Mount Vernon into a greener, more eco-friendly space. But their efforts extend beyond the physical environment—they’re also sparking conversations and raising awareness among students and faculty.

Beau Class of 2025, and Lauren Dove, Class of 2024, spoke at Chapel last week. “Everyone has a role to play in sustainability,” Beau emphasizes. “Whether it’s planting gardens [which Lauren had done as part of her Gold Project with the Girls Scouts] or reducing waste, every action counts. That’s why we’re here—to inspire and empower others to take meaningful steps towards a more sustainable future.”

Central to their mission is collaboration, both within the school and with external partners. By working with local companies like Conex and Perfect Circle Biodiesel, Mount Vernon is working towards more sustainable practices. And with initiatives like single-stream recycling making it easier for students to participate, the impact is tangible.

On the Lower Campus, the Tree Club, (now with over 60 members strong) is also helping to inspire and empower others to take meaningful steps towards a more sustainable future. Working with Upper School maker teacher, Mr. Tiffin, and several Upper School Core Students during Interim, the Tree Club created reusable wooden corn hole games for the courtyard in the shape of trees. They unveiled the new games on Earth Day while kicking off a special Earth Day event for the Lower School.

Mount Vernon alumni, Maddy Long, Class of 2019 and recent Clemson graduate now works at WestRock, a leader in sustainable fiber-based packaging solutions. Maddie and several WestRock colleagues spoke to Lower School students about how paper is made and why it is so important to recycle and replant the trees we use. Students learned that paper can be recycled 7 times and for every tree, WestRock and the paper industry plants seven trees to replace the one cut down tree. After the presentation, each Lower School class moved outside to the courtyard to receive a seedling. Each student scooped fresh soil into a recycled paper box so they could bring their seedlings home and plant them.

For Beau, the journey is just beginning. With Earth Day as a catalyst, the sustainability committee is gearing up for new projects and initiatives to further embed sustainability into the fabric of Mount Vernon. From recycling awareness videos to collaborative art projects, they’re inviting the entire school community to join them on this journey.

“As we look ahead, there’s a sense of optimism and possibility,” Beau reflects. “Together, we can create a future where sustainability isn’t just a goal—it’s a way of life. And I invite every student, every teacher, and every member of the Mount Vernon community to be part of that journey.”

Watch more of Beau’s interview here!