Moving for Manpower Month
Our boys love to move. If you’re here on campus during passing time between class periods,you will see the kiddos sprinting from one building to the next - not because they’re late to class, but because they love running full-tilt whenever they can. If you’re observing a class, you’ll notice that even the self-described non-athletes get into the learning activities that have them throwing, catching, and zipping about the room. Just last period, I noticed that most of my students did a funny dance or walk - subconsciously, I think - as they came up to the board to share their work.
Manpower Month at Fenn (also known as October) aims to harness that boy energy for the purpose of helping our environment and local air quality. Since 2011, we’ve been encouraging boys, their families, and our faculty and staff to set aside the car keys and find non-fossil fuel-powered ways to get to their destinations. Either daily or weekly, boys count up the miles they traveled on foot or by bike and enter that number at the sustainability website. As the person responsible for setting up and checking that site, I have to say my favorite thing is not to gleefully watch those miles tally up each day, but to read the funny stories and messages they write to me at the bottom of their mileage survey. (Biking parties! Epic Halloween candy collection! Flat tires! Obligatory rides after missed buses!) These boys are moving about their lives without the aid of gasoline or combustion, and they are having a blast.
This year, the Fenn community logged a whopping 1,033 miles - that’s roughly the distance between Boston and Atlanta (if one were to travel on existing roads), and represents 936 pounds of carbon dioxide (plus additional nitrous oxide and methane) kept out of our atmosphere. Pretty amazing impact on transportation emissions for a crew of boys who don’t even have their licenses yet!
But here is a dose of reality, and something that I hope will make all of us realize how important initiatives like Manpower Month are to young boys: In the United States, the EPA estimates that we put 4,028,463 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere each year from automobile use alone. The trend of this number has been upward over the past decade, as more cars appear on the roads. So, 936 pounds saved, unfortunately, may seem like just a drop in the bucket. However, our string of successful Manpower Months makes me hopeful that that number will start driving themselves. Maybe, on occasion, because one October they realized the value of using their personal energy to move themselves around, our boys won’t get behind the wheel. Maybe they’ll recall those moments in middle school when they were self-reliant and independent and felt a great sense of accomplishment as they arrived at a friend’s house or the pizza parlor under their own power.
I myself arrived relatively late to the world of bike commuting; I did not have someone encouraging me to rethink my transportation habits at an early age. (Okay, okay - maybe it’s a year-round human-powered transportation in the state of Maine. When the snow isn’t stinging your skin, the black flies are.) I suppose one of the reasons that I get so excited about Manpower Month now is that I’m hoping these boys can help me make up for my lost time - if we can give three hundred and thirty-three young guys the courage and confidence to ride and walk to local destinations right now, imagine the miles they all can accumulate throughout their lives.
I hope you, as Fenn families, will help me continuously remind the boys that they can use their energy and determination to make a difference, no matter how far or where they move, and no matter what season it may be.
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