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.

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 a generation of 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 new 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.Gilman boys devote time to being green even when they are not in school. They clean Stony Run stream, helping to get rid of invasive species and test water quality. They take time on the weekends to plant gardens, and even built our outdoor classroom by Stony Run.

Each division offers a club that pays particular attention to environmental issues: the Lower School Greenhounds, the Middle School Greenhounds, and the Upper School Earth Awareness Club.

Courses with focus on environmental issues:

Global Environmental Issues
AP Environmental Sciences (BMS)
Chesapeake (RPCS)
Sustainable Design (RPCS)

Physical Science classes in all divisions.

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. They filter rainwater, provide wildlife habitat and reduce the amount of grass to mow.

Lower School Garden

Students plant and tend the Lower School garden. The garden is irrigated with water collected in nearby rain barrels. The garden is the legacy of retired science teacher and master gardener Margaret Olgeirson.


Gilman purchases and uses eco-friendly toiletries (toilet tissues and paper towels) and cleaning chemicals, and motion sensor lights have been installed all around campus. Lights in the Finney Athletic Center arena have be 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. The kitchen staff also recycles frying oil, which is converted into bio-diesel by our partner, Valley Proteins.

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 the occasional ice cream cup or 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, Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry classes in the Upper School and the Earth Sciences units in the Middle School.

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

Gilman is the first school in the area to implement a commercial-scale, food waste collection for composting. At the end of lunch, students separate their waste into appropriate containers, only 1% of which becomes trash for landfills. The rest becomes compost, which the School can then collect at a later time for plantings and other uses.

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. At Gilman, 100% of our food waste is composted, and Gilman receives new soil proportional to the compost credits we receive from our partner, Waste Neutral.

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

Before the dining hall opened in 2008, Gilman administrators decided to forego carrying trays in the dining hall, particularly for the Upper School. Instead, students would 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.

Gilman is one of the first independent schools in the area to go trayless. Other schools are beginning to follow our lead.