Despite the fact that this has been our first week at the Phillip Exeter Academy Access Exeter Course, it has certainly been a memorable first week. The constant excitement has consisted of field trips to the town of Exeter, getting lost on the 600-acre campus and most importantly, the fascinating lessons in the clusters we have chosen. The first cluster, Project Exeter: Leadership to a Greener Earth has consisted of 3 fascinating  lessons that our teachers have hooked us into. In our Environmental Science lessons that are based of the topic of alternate energy sources, we have combined our forces with Art to create the Benefits of Trees Project. Overall, the project is a true eye-opener that calculates how many trees we need to balance our carbon footprint worldwide through our very “own” tree in the campus of Phillip Exeter Academy.

It started off with us calculating our carbon footprints through an online carbon footprint calculator. As a cluster, the carbon that we emit into the air ranged from 20 to 40 tones in extreme measures. For some students, what they expected was what was true. However, for other students, their carbon footprint exaggeration compared to what they thought they would get was eye opening. Yet, this made them even more determined to strive for a better carbon footprint.

We explored different scenarios on how to improve our carbon footprint by taking local holidays, public transportation and even becoming a vegetarian! Once we had calculated how much carbon dioxide we have emitted into the air annually, we began searching for our perfect tree. After a lesson or two we had chosen our tree and calculated certain characteristics of the trees. Factors such as the circumference, the diameter, the species, the biomass and if the tree is hardwood or softwood overall impacted  the final factors: the carbon sequestration -also known by how much carbon is stored inside the tree- and what are the overall benefits of the tree.

The answers for each person ranged from Copper Beech to Sugar Maple as species to a biomass of two thousand kilograms to ten thousand kilograms. Comparing our trees to our carbon footprint helped us calculate how many trees would be needed to override our carbon footprint if everyone lived our lifestyle. This resulted in our having to plant a certain amount of trees every year, which exceeded 40 billion trees for certain people. Other factors we considered were where to plant the trees, if it was feasible the positives and negatives of planting these trees, and which species to plant.

The overall project in the Alternative Energy Class has provided us students with a challenge that we are determined to succeed in. For most people, global warming and our carbon footprint are vague terms that no one really does anything about. This is only one of the many projects we will be doing throughout our five week course here. By the end of the course, our cluster will be more aware of the fragile situation our planet is in, our impact on the earth and what we can do to improve it. The Tree Benefits have been a great way to open our minds in the first week and introduce us into what truly is out there, environmentally, in the world.