Being Green

Gilman boys learn that even the smallest things can make a big difference in our environment.

Not too many years ago, we at Gilman threw almost everything out. Now we recycle paper, cardboard, cans, bottles, batteries . . . and even food waste.

Our recycling and composting programs are just small steps in our effort to nurture a sustainable generation, students who care as deeply about the environment as they do about character and leadership. Every division, every department, and every student does their part, every day, to make Gilman green.

Boys walk along path in front of Carey Hall

Green Gilman

A swath of green cuts across Gilman blue and gray.

Environmental Learning

Classroom and Clubs
Photograph of a sign in front of the Gilman Lower School garden.

The goal at Gilman is to live and learn green, and to nurture Gilman graduates who care as deeply about the environment as they do character and leadership.

Boys in every division enjoy outdoor education experiences: fifth grade at Echo Hill, eighth graders during Expedition Eight, and ninth graders in Gilman’s Outward Bound program. Students have planted more than 70 donated sycamores, dogwoods, cottonwoods, black walnut and gum trees near Stony Run stream. Lower School boys plant and tend a garden. 

Each division offers a club for environmental issues. A concern about the 90% drop in the Monarch butterfly population led Lower School boys to design and develop a butterfly garden, which has become a certified Monarch Way Station. In the Upper School, a year-long science course is devoted to environmental sustainability.

Gilman boys devote time to support the environment even when they are not in school. They clean Stony Run stream, helping to get rid of invasive species and test water quality. Students take time on the weekends to plant gardens. They even built our outdoor classroom, along Stony Run.

Eco-Friendly Practices

Green Roof, Gardens and More


The green roof on top of the Lumen Center at Gilman School.

Lumen Center Green Roof

A green roof lasts longer, provides cooling cost savings, mitigates urban heat island effects, may reduce requirements for storm water management systems, and demonstrates responsible environmental stewardship. Plus, the roof is pretty cool in aerial photographs!

Rain Gardens

Four rain gardens around campus not only provide beauty, but also filter rainwater, provide wildlife habitat and reduce the amount of grass to mow.

Lower School GardenS

Students plant and tend their own garden, which is irrigated with water collected in nearby rain barrels. The garden is the legacy of retired science teacher and master gardener Margaret Olgeirson. The boys also created and maintain a Certified Monarch Way Station.


Gilman purchases and uses eco-friendly toilet tissues, paper towels, and cleaning chemicals. Motion sensor lights have been installed all around campus to ensure that lights are not left on longer than needed. Lights in the Finney Athletic Center arena have been retrofitted to provide greater efficiency, and a more efficient air handling system has been added as well.


We recycle many materials beyond the expected paper, plastics and cans. The building and grounds staff collects all metals from projects, including aluminum, copper, lead and steel, for recycling. Batteries are also collected and sent for proper disposal. 

In the dining hall, anything that can be composted (including milk cartons and napkins) goes into the composting buckets. Other than milk, all other beverages are served in glasses. The only true trash generally comes from saltine wrappers or ice cream wrapper. We can see the results: before composting, the School processed 128.5 tons of trash. Since composting, that number has averaged 83 tons.

Solar Energy

Solar Panels
Visible solar panels on top of the Science Building and Lower School at Gilman.


Solar panels, 336 in total, installed on the roofs of the Science and Lower School buildings provide teachers with hands-on tool to teach about solar energy. The panels' performance can be monitored from any classroom on campus. Data gathered from monitoring the panels' performance can be used in science and math curricula in all three divisions, including in the physics, biology, and chemistry classes in the Upper School, the earth sciences units in the Middle School, and in Lower School science and math classes.

View the Lower School solar monitor.

View the Science Building solar dashboard.



Sustainable Dining

Tray-less Dining and Composting

Students empty food wast in compost bins.

We Love Compost

Food waste is a major contributor to the methane gas formation found in landfills. Methane gas is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat close to the earth's surface.

Gilman was the first school in the area to implement a commercial-scale, food waste collection for composting. At lunch, 100% of our food waste is composted. Students separate their waste into appropriate containers, only 1% of which becomes trash for landfills. and we receive new soil proportional to the compost credits we receive from our partner, Waste Neutral, for use in plantings around campus.

Our food composting program began in September 2009. In the first three months alone, we saved 17.13 tons (or 34,260 pounds) of food waste from going to landfill; the total for the year was 52,640 pounds. We've saved an awful lot of gas from escaping into the atmosphere.

To Tray, or Not to Tray

Gilman was one of the first independent schools in the area to go trayless. Instead, students receive their meals on a regular-sized round dinner plate. The thinking is two-fold: first, not having a tray to carry plates limits the amount of food one can take, therefore reducing waste, and, second, not having extra trays to wash conserves water and the energy to heat dishwashing water. Other schools have followed our lead.