students mixing compost

Since the 1930s, North Country School has helped children grow an awareness of the need to sustain our society and our planet. Our national and global realization of this need has produced some now-familiar concepts: environmental education, campus greening, and sustainable living. North Country School has long served as a model and resource for other institutions, and we continue to hone our practices and teaching.

We believe three broad strands, often interwoven, constitute the basis for the sustainability of healthy life on Earth:

  • Appreciation and protection of resources, both natural and human-made;
  • Promotion of physical and emotional health;
  • Peaceful interactions in our community and beyond.


Our location on a working farm, one of only 200 left in the Adirondack Park, provides an ideal setting in which to teach children hands-on, environmental awareness and ecological truths.

We encourage simple and sustainable living and making respectful choices about our use of resources. We seek, live 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.


More than 60 years of gardening have brought our community the benefits of harvesting and consuming food grown in soil enhanced by carefully tended compost. In addition to our homegrown sustenance, we often purchase food that is grown locally and that minimizes unhealthy ingredients.

At a school with farm chores, sports activities, and outdoor education, healthy exercise is a given. Emotional wellbeing is nurtured in small group settings and in close relationships. We aim to make healthy practices easy for our students to understand and appreciate for all the world’s populations. We do not take food and good physical and emotional health for granted.


Peaceful conflict resolution and compassion for those with fewer advantages is encouraged and modeled, and social justice is encouraged. Respect for differences and celebrations of diversity teach students that superficial labels are never to measure people’s worth. Our graduates become people who embrace diversity and possess a deep appreciation of the environment.


Students save table scraps from every meal to feed to the pigs or use as compost. North Country School’s composting program processes 100,000 pounds of food scraps and animal manure annually.

With support from a NYSERDA grant, North Country School and Camp Treetops has designed and constructed a game changing compost system, turning what was once considered a greenhouse-gas causing waste product into a valuable soil amendment. The compact, 20-foot, continuous-flow drum 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 automated 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 for bulking. 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, starting the food cycle anew.

We are pleased to offer this design for all. Whether you want to purchase a composter, or are interested in building your own, we are happy to help you navigate the decisions that work best for you. Site tours are available upon request, and the design and operating manuals are free to download through our website. Happy composting!

For more information contact:

Chris Moore, Director of Facilities and Sustainability, at (518) 523-9329, ext. 5400, or by email at:




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, our now-retired 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. Today, NCS-Treetops is recognized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a leader in the area of sustainable forestry.

A new forest management plan was developed, building off of earlier efforts. It 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 the management strategy is the recognition that the landscape is dynamic and always changing. With care, we can steer that change in a positive direction, working to keep the landscape healthy, biologically rich, ecologically dynamic, and naturally beautiful. 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.



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