Every day, campers discover the value of simple, sustainable living and environmental stewardship. Treetops has long served as a model and resource for other institutions, and we continue to hone our practices and teaching.
Our location on a working farm in the heart of the Adirondack mountains provides an ideal setting in which to teach children hands-on environmental awareness and ecological truths. We encourage making respectful choices about our use of resources. We seek to live by and teach environmentally responsible practices. Reducing waste and recycling are integral parts of our program, and we strive to minimize our consumption of water, electricity, and fuel.
The daily life of Camp observes decades-long practices of recycling, repurposing, and otherwise using what we have and making what we need. For instance:
- children save table scraps from every meal to feed to the pigs or use as compost
- campers make new sheets of decorative stationery from paper collected in the recycle bin
- children knit hats with our sheep’s wool.
Nestled in the wild beauty of the Adirondack Park, our environmental education extends far beyond our campus. Throughout the summer, as we explore mountains, rivers, and lakes, we follow the principles of Leave No Trace — a set of conservationist outdoor ethics. These principles guide a reverent and intentional relationship with nature as we hike, canoe, and camp in the wilderness. When children discover the stunning beauty of the Adirondacks, they become inspired stewards of the land. Children learn that the natural world is dynamic and always changing. We teach children that they have the power to steer this change in a positive direction, working to keep the landscape healthy, biologically rich, and ecologically diverse.
Camp Treetops and North Country School’s composting program processes 100,000 pounds of food scraps and animal manures annually. Campers save table scraps from every meal and process this food waste daily into compost to be used on our farm.
With support from a NYSERDA grant, Camp Treetops and North Country School designed and constructed an in-vessel compost system, turning what was once a greenhouse gas causing waste product into a valuable soil amendment.
The composter turns all sources of food scraps (yes, even milk, meat, and a stray T-shirt or shoe) to nutrient-rich material in 28 days. The system mechanically turns the drum one to three times a day, tumbling the food scraps as nearly completed material falls out of the open end – just like a giant stomach. All organic material is mixed with a carbon source, such as wood chips or sawdust. Zillions of bacteria do all of the hard work; it is our job to provide the right conditions. The nearly processed material undergoes secondary decomposition in a pile, and the completed product is deposited on campus garden beds helping us to grow more delicious and nutritious food in our gardens.
Over time, a number of people have worked together to consider the challenges and opportunities of owning more than 150 acres of diverse forestland and to explore how thoughtful management can contribute to the well-being of the community. In the early 1990s, former Director of Sustainability and Facilities John Culpepper put forth a plan to manage the forest in a more intentional, sustainable way. Board Member Sumner Parker led the board’s support of John’s conservation plan, which was made possible by the generous support of donors like Bob deCourcy (CTT staff 42, parent 55-65) and The Baldwin Foundation.
A new forest management plan was developed in 2016 that defined overarching goals for the forest—fostering ecological integrity, enhancing recreational and education opportunities, and sustainably producing wood and maple sap—and prescribed specific management activities to accomplish them.
At the heart of our management strategy is the belief that the forest should be attractive, accessible, and conducive to reflection and exploration, which is especially important for the curious children (and adults) of School and Camp. At the same time, we can garner wood for building projects, carbon neutral biomass energy for heat, and sweet maple syrup. When the forest can provide these things today without compromising its ability to provide them in the future, that’s sustainability. When the forest becomes more diverse, complex, and resilient, not in spite of but as a result of providing these things, that is true stewardship.