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Employing the Sustainability Compass to Encourage Team Building and Deepen Dialogue

This year we expanded our school EcoCommittee to a Board recognized subcommittee including representatives from our Parents Association, Administration, Faculty and Student Body. While our previous student/faculty committee had been able to make significant progress over the years, this new organizational recognition afforded us the opportunity to invest in sustainably-minded systems at the more structural levels of our school.

One area where we wanted to expand our influence and impact was with our food service program.  Branson’s lunch program has been a long-time school centerpiece. The wonderful program charges a flat rate to all families (augmented by financial aid for those who qualify) and provides a light breakfast and a full lunch including hot entrees, salad-bar, soup and pasta bars as well as healthy beverages and a weekly dessert. The meals are prepared from scratch, in-house by an independently contracted company. By most standards our lunches well exceed expectations.

However, Peter, the Committee Co-Chair, and I wanted to leverage this incredibly successful program toward even greater impacts. In our minds, this existing centerpiece and the routines of a community-shared meal offered further potential to educate and inspire our community on the complex and interconnected web of food-related sustainability issues and futures. 

For our introduction of this subject to the committee we employed The Sustainability Compass as a tool to quickly get the group on the same page of understanding.

After introducing the Compass, we divided our group into two smaller groups, each with one of us as trained facilitators. With the central ideal of “a fully sustainable food program at Branson” we prompted each group to list as many factors as possible in each sector.

An incredibly rich conversation grew up within each group. As the variety of individual ideas began to flow, so too did the “what ifs?” “what about” and “i had never thought of” queries and discussions. As visible in the image, complex diagrams attempted to capture the envisioned connections.  

While only the beginning of the process, this exercise surpassed our hopes in providing a dynamic and exciting foray into the subject of food. The process provided each individual an opportunity to participate, have their insights heard and valued, and to learn from each other.  And, the group came together with a stronger sense of purpose and newfound energy to engage in the process of imaging and growing the Future of Food at Branson.


Picture of Eric Oldmixon

Eric Oldmixon

Eric Oldmixon has been an Art Teacher at The Branson School for over 20 years. Along the way he has served a variety of roles and spear-headed many sustainability-related projects including the founding of the student-led “Environmental Action Committee”, the school garden, and the first organizational EcoCommittee.

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