Engineering Progress

Meet Greg McKenna, sustainability resource director

HPA’s institutional commitment to environmental sustainability relies upon the support of countless Ka Makani, including Greg McKenna. Raised in Red Deer, Alberta, educated at McGill University in Montreal, McKenna came to HPA in 2009 with his wife, Lauren. Since then, their daughter, Zoë ’33, and son, Avery, have joined them in the HPA ‘ohana. Over the years, McKenna has served in numerous positions, including physics teacher, swim and water polo coach, and Robertson Hall dorm head. Last year, as the school launched its visionary sustainability plan, he was appointed HPA’s new sustainability resource director. A veteran teacher who holds a master’s degree in civil engineering, McKenna moves easily between campus management conversations and classroom instruction. We asked him about the first year of the HPA Sustainability Plan and the school’s next steps.

The first year of any big, bold project sets the tone and lays the groundwork. What were the wins for HPA last year?
We made a lot of progress with the infrastructure and core practices we need for long-term success. All the campus buildings are now monitored with electricity meters and tied into our IT network. This allows us to analyze consumption and pinpoint where we can be more efficient. We also instituted consistent waste sorting on both campuses to generate a clean recycling stream that our vendor really wants; plus, at the Upper School, we enlisted the entire sophomore class to help manage the recycling process, which makes it truly educational. The other key win, in my opinion, was the shuttle service we initiated to move county bus riders from in-town locations to our campuses. Although that service is now curtailed due to COVID, this is an important baseline program we intend to resume, to keep additional vehicles off the road.

What excites you most on the curricular side of sustainability?
I think it’s seeing HPA’s capstone program become such an incubator for sustainability projects and student initiative. Last year we watched students in 5th, 8th, and 12th grades exhibit such creative curiosity. They approached sustainability from many different disciplines and perspectives. And to be part of a faculty that is truly dedicated to mentoring and supporting these future leaders—I feel so fortunate to be working among my colleagues.

On the Green Horizon: HPA Sustainability Plan priorities for 2020-21

  • Use the new electricity meters to inform faculty and student awareness campaigns

    “The new system allows us to measure real-time results and report back to users on what was successful.”

  • Install a similar metering system for water usage

    “Before we can make decisions on alternative approaches or infrastructure, we need to be able to monitor and understand our consumption. We’ll be placing gauges across the Upper Campus and also replacing fixtures that don’t meet guidelines for low water use.”

  • Focus on curricular integration and expansion

    “HPA will complete a faculty self-study this year as part of its regular WACS accreditation. This presents an opportunity to explore and define our next steps on goals such as staff development and community wellbeing.”

  • Launch an afternoon faculty speaker series

    • “This will be a place to share expertise we already possess within the HPA faculty, where we can think about how the signature pieces of our school are connected to sustainability, from place-based learning to residential life to the outdoor program.”
  • Push forward with composting

    “We enhanced composting in our school gardens with material from the dining halls. Now we’re getting ready to debut a test program with residential faculty in the dorms.”

  • Work with local producers in the HPA school store

    “This is a wonderful forum for collaboration with our community. We want to showcase goods that are locally and sustainably sourced and don’t need to be shipped here for consumption.”

And you are teaching your own capstone class this year!
Yes! It’s called Sustainability Through Action, and students will be looking at ways they can take concrete steps to advance sustainability, whether through community initiatives, action campaigns, or other products. As with every capstone class at HPA, I want to help students exercise both their intellectual and professional skills in the “real world.” This is the pinnacle of academic learning at our school, and I’m really excited to be working with seniors again.

We’ve got ten years until 2030, when HPA aims to realize some pretty ambitious goals. What’s the key to success, in your view?
Ultimately, we have to build this vision even more into our curriculum and conversations—in classrooms, dorms, and across campus. It’s got to be a whole-community effort. One of my big goals this year is to work with more students, teachers, and staff to empower them to take on pieces of our implementation plan.

It’s already beginning to happen. We surveyed the faculty at the end of last year, to measure curricular progress against the 2018-19 academic year. Teachers are incorporating sustainability themes to a much higher degree. We are continually certifying all new employees through the Green Classroom Professionals certificate program. This means every adult on this campus will be equipped to evaluate their area and make changes wherever possible. And that’s exciting.