SACO, Maine — For the first time since they began in 1998, The Ecology School has a permanent home. They traded in their rented spaces and for the last six years have been working to build a $14.1 million green campus at River Bend Farm, which opened in April.
"Every day will be Earth day at The Ecology School," President Drew Dumsch said.
The new facility features three dorm houses and a dining hall completely powered by more than 700 solar panels which create 105 percent of the energy they need. They will collect and use rainwater to water their gardens and eventually want to grow all their own produce and are looking into raising their own livestock.
According to Dumsh, The Ecology School is one of the greenest environmental residential learning centers in the country and may also be the first place in Maine to achieve the International Living Future Institute’s full Living Building Certification.
White Pine used in the buildings came from Maine and trusses were constructed just a few towns over. Dumsch says while many building projects in Maine and the U.S. saw setbacks due to the pandemic, The Ecology School encountered very few because they utilized local partnerships in their building.
The new campus, set on a 105-acre old farm, will allow the school to be open year-round for students, families, and professionals.
"We want to make ecology a fun activity that they can do whether they're a preschooler or someone who is retired," Dumsh said.
Dumsh said he would like to see all Maine students get to stay and learn at a place like The Ecology School. The school is leading a national effort to start a network of environmental schools across the country.
"Stewardship of the earth is just something that makes sense," Dumsh said. "We breathe air that came from plants, we eat food that came from the soil—so understanding how that happens is something that everyone should understand."