What Dr. Wolfe is doing for sustainability


Tavisha Khanna, Staff Writer

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Renna Wolfe, an AP Biology teacher at Country Day. She’s been a part of the La Jolla Country Day community for the past eight years and has significantly impacted all the students she teaches. Apart from being possibly one of the best teachers I have had, Dr. Wolfe has taken some fantastic steps to make our planet more sustainable. 

To stay sustainable, Dr. Wolfe cares about the little things because she believes that each small step helps create a more significant impact. She reduces the number of clothes she buys and tries to shop for clothes in the most environmentally friendly way possible, ensuring that they practice fair trade, are organic, and execute environmentally friendly procedures. Her family places considerable emphasis on reducing the amount of waste they create overall. By purchasing bar soap in paper or in environmentally friendly packaging, eradicating packaged food items by cooking and making food from scratch, and eating out very rarely, they significantly reduce the amount of waste they create. Apart from this, to help eliminate food waste such as produce scraps, they ensure that everything is composted in a worm bin to help divert the food waste away from landfills. If Dr. Wolfe were to suggest a single lifestyle change, it would be to start composting; she says that composting is a great way to help use your food scraps while also being productive for your soil or garden. 

Perhaps one of Dr. Wolfe’s notable features is her one-acre backyard dedicated to creating a food production space. This space aims to create the majority of the produce her family consumes and have enough extra to give away. This project started in January 2020, and so far, they have made a tremendous amount of progress. By June 2020, they were already able to donate some of their produce to a local food bank every week. Dr. Wolfe believes that by relying on her backyard large garden/mini-farm, she can reduce her inherent carbon footprint. They grow tomatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant, pumpkins, kale, chard, and broccoli. They also boast over 35 fruit trees, most all grown from seeds. She has found that the mild weather of Southern California allows for all of these vegetables to grow really well, and has rarely grown something that has not turned out properly. Before she really was into her garden, her family was only somewhat vegetarian, but her family is now fully pescatarian as a result of learning and reading. They raise their own chickens in their backyard and use their eggs. She likes the reassurance that her eggs are from chickens that have been treated well and are raised in an environmentally friendly way. In addition, they have installed solar panels to help further reduce the energy they consume. 

As Dr. Wolfe continues to grow her garden, she is looking to implement new ways and techniques to stay as environmentally friendly as possible. For example, she is looking at ways that human waste can be turned into usable soil, and ways she can conserve water in the drought-prone area of California. 

From everything that Dr. Wolfe has read and learned, she gathers that we have been on a ridiculously unsustainable trajectory as a culture and society. Society’s consumerist mindset has normalized unsustainability. She concludes that this ethos is not compassionate towards the planet, other people, and, in fact, all forms of life. Therefore, she believes that there she has a moral obligation to be more sustainable for the future of the planet, keeping the climate stable, conserving biodiversity, to name a few. As she watched a ton of documentaries pertaining to this topic, she noticed that a major theme was that growing your own food is the best step to take because mass-agriculture is very draining to the planet’s resources. 

As an educator, Dr. Wolfe feels like she can do a much better job to educate her students and encourage them to be more sustainable. Apart from educating about sustainability, during the unit revolving around “Ecology”, Dr. Wolfe often tries to bring up her garden in conversation during class and even wanted to invite her class last year to her large garden/mini farm to help out and learn more, but obviously couldn’t due to COVID-19. When possible, she hopes to follow through with that plan.

Some tips that Dr. Wolfe has for people who want to be more sustainable include taking small steps. If everyone makes a few small changes, a little goes a long way. Try to reduce your energy consumption, reduce the amount of plastic and packaging you go through, and make conscientious decisions when deciding to buy something. She also encourages trying to grow even just a small amount of food. To try it out, you may find that you really enjoy it, and even just a small garden can help you reduce your carbon footprint. She learned that converting spaces and reallocating water from plants such as grass is an easy way to conserve water and grow more vegetables. 

Dr Wolfe is really excited to see a community garden at Country Day and is incredibly proud of all the work the Green Team and the school have done, such as the addition of solar panels and the removal of plastic cups. Additionally, she really thinks that if our school were to compost our food waste and reduce the amount of plastic and paper we use, it would be a particularly amazing feat. In terms of conserving water, she thinks that replacing areas of grass with succulents or gravel would be a great way to help. She also would love to see more education about recycling and other environmentally friendly practices. 

Overall, I had a fantastic time learning from Dr. Wolfe, and I hope that she encourages all of you to actively take steps to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Photo credit: Getty Images