By Shawn Phelps
Most of us remember Kermit the Frog’s lament, “It’s not easy being green.” Shaun Kronenwetter, this year’s Eastman Charitable Foundation scholarship recipient, agrees with Kermit. In his opinion, “going green” may not be easy, but it’s essential. He is preparing himself to be part of the solution to address environmental challenges.
Shaun has lived in Eastman since the day he was born. Growing up playing near the Brook Trail, watching leaves rush downstream under the Brook Trail bridge, and swimming in the lake inspired a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Watching his mother, Mary, work in her garden and accompanying her to The Fells to build fairy houses are among Shaun’s treasured childhood memories upon which his interest in the natural world was built.
After graduating from Grantham Village School and Lebanon Middle School, Shaun attended Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass. It was there that he took a deep dive into Environmental Science. Shaun describes his AP Environmental Science teacher as an “environmental pessimist.”
“When you do your research, you read a lot of depressing environmental data,” Shaun says. He is a self-described optimist who believes there is still time to stop climate change. He is planning to play a role in changing policy to try to save the environment as we now know it.
In Shaun’s sophomore year, he applied for a grant from Deerfield Academy to build bee “hotels” to encourage pollination. He received the grant, built three bee hotels, and donated them to Eastman. The structures are located on the golf course (16th Hole), at South Cove, and at the Community Gardens.
A few years ago, a friend asked Shaun to join the Eastman Lake boat builders, led by John Larrabee. The group spent school breaks building the “Loon-I-See” skiff now moored at South Cove. While working on the boat project, Shaun began to realize that his mentor, John, had extensive knowledge about and great enthusiasm for the environment – especially the lake. To increase his own environmental knowledge and experience, Shaun spent several summers working with Eastman’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). Under the direction of – yes, John Larrabee – the group worked on erosion prevention at West and South Coves, built rain gardens and a boat launch, and a accomplished a variety of other projects. Shaun questions whether he would be on the same educational and career path without the YCC experience.
When Shaun decides to do something, he dives in and immerses himself in the experience. That trait seems to come naturally for him. He was in the water almost before he could walk. He has been a competitive swimmer since age 4 and swims competitively for his college team. For the last six years, Shaun and his friends have swum the length of Eastman Lake, from North to South Cove. All of this has taught Shaun how to work cooperatively within a team and has given him a supportive network of friends with a common interest.
Now a freshman at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Shaun is studying Environmental Policy and Economics. “I like math and interacting with people. With this double major, I can help companies make a profit while reducing the environmental impact of their business. That’s called a ‘green footprint,’” Shaun says.
Colby seems to be a perfect fit for this young environmentalist. The college is committed to being a “green campus,” with solar power, an emphasis on recycling and working toward a zero carbon footprint. After college, Shaun is considering pursuing a law degree. He would then have the legal knowledge necessary to hold companies accountable for environmental damage caused in the course of doing business.
Shaun’s biggest environmental concern is the health of our oceans. While on a small island off the coast of Greece in June, he jumped into the ocean and was shocked to see a large plastic bag lying on the ocean floor. “If we lose the ocean, we’ve lost everything,” he says. Much closer to home, Shaun’s biggest concern is the disappearance of some of Eastman’s vernal pools, which provide habitat and breeding ground for amphibians. Maybe that’s what Kermit meant when he sang, “It’s not easy being green.”
We wish Shaun success in all his future endeavors.
Shawn Phelps is the President of the Eastman Charitable Foundation, which supports and promotes environmental stewardship and education through grants and scholarships. Learn more at www.ecfnh.org.