The Island School

Founded in 1998 by Chris and Pam Maxey, the Island School is a high school oasis in Eleuthera, The Bahamas that focuses on living sustainability in the twenty-first century. We've partnered with The Island School to create a boardshort for their school uniform to further reduce their ecological impact. Tegan Maxey, daughter of Chris and Pam, inherited her parents' entrepreneurship spirit and started her own company, Querencia Studio, which is helping the Island School be as environmentally as possible. We've had the pleasure of talking with Tegan about her experience growing up on Eleuthera and how it has impacted her relationship with the ocean. Always going out of her her way to chose the sustainable option, Tegan exemplifies the true meaning of keeping it clean. Check out our full interview with her below!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the island of Eleuthera, in The Bahamas. It is one of the outer islands known for being very long and very narrow. It is 110 miles long but only a mile wide at its widest point. While the north end of Eleuthera is quite built up and touristy, I grew up in the quiet southern end of the island.

How did your childhood impact your relationship with the environment?

I had the unique opportunity of being raised amongst an international group of scientists, teachers, and activists who were all consciously aware of the way their actions impacted the ecosystems in which we lived. Furthermore, I learned to swim before I could walk and feel sometimes that I am more comfortable in the water than out of it. Beyond my love for the ocean, though, I became overwhelmingly aware of the environment in my early teens as I watched a lot of the animals I grew up swimming with slowly decline. Growing up by the sea undoubtedly nurtured a love for this planet that, until recently, I thought everyone had.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in living sustainably?

My dad has been my biggest inspiration for living sustainably. People often ask what it was like growing up with Chris Maxey. Aside from the fact that I’m fairly certain he is a few cards short of a full deck (in the best way possible), he is also one of the few people I have ever known who stubbornly sticks to their principals in such a steadfast and honest way despite the world around him or the status quo. The most prominent instance of this is in his commitment to the environment. I grew up in a house without paper towels and trash bags because they are unnecessary waste. Most people can’t even imagine that. I also grew up with the understanding that trash is not “trash”, but a resource. In fact, we don’t take trash out in the Maxey household we sort resources so that our glass bottles can be turned into cement, and our cans can be sent to a recycling facility.

Can you tell me more about the work that you’re doing with the Island School?

Querencia Studio’s work with the Island School through our Q Agency division is extremely important to my business partner, Devin, and me. As an alumnus of the school, Devin has a close relationship with Eleuthera and the Island School. We actually met on a phone call to discuss the best ways to improve Island School branding, merchandising, and uniform. After establishing Querencia Studio, we created Q Agency to do just that. Our work with the Island School is based around the idea that there is always a sustainable option. Almost all schools have apparel, but it is usually lower quality and unsustainable. Q Agency has taken over the Island School’s store and is currently in the process of making it 100% sustainable. Working with Fair Harbor has gotten us a huge step closer to this goal as sustainable swimwear isn’t often cost effective for a small school.

How about Querencia Studio?

In just a few weeks we will reach our one-year anniversary for the launch of Querencia Studio. In the past year we have launched a “Q” collection of t-shirts and sweatshirts, and collaborated with Goodwill NYNJ.  Currently, we are gearing up for another “Q” release and planning our first big “Studio” launch for the summer of 2018. Our Q Agency division is also growing as we take on more clients across several disciplines and continents.

How do you live a clean lifestyle?

While I can’t claim to live a completely clean lifestyle, I do my best to make conscious decisions in both what goes in and what goes on my body. If there is a sustainable option, I will go out of my way to get it. I also try and stay pretty active. I am a firm believer that exercise makes life better, and that being healthy and doing good lead to overall happiness.

What are your favorite activities to do outside? (do you surf?)

I do surf, though I’m sure most people would classify what I consider surfing as just a series of embarrassing wipeouts. I walk a ton, perhaps it’s just being in New York, but if I am able to walk somewhere I will rather than taking public transport or a car. My favorite outdoor activity is SCUBA diving. I even have my BCD, regulator, and wetsuit hanging in my closet in Brooklyn.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

At this point, I’ve spent more of my life traveling than not. As kids, we would often go on family trips and since high school I traveled nearly non-stop until moving to NYC last summer. I endeavor to set foot on every continent and would like to see as many places as I possibly can. The top of that list right now is New Zealand. Checking flight prices is probably one of my favorite hobbies, if I’m being honest.

Do you like to cook? If so, what’s your favorite meal to make?

I love to cook! My favorite meal to make is probably shredded chicken tacos. I have a weird obsession with pickled vegetables, and usually have a jar of homemade pickled onions or radishes in my fridge to go along with it.

What would your ideal barbecue consist of? Who would you invite to it?

The ideal barbecue for me is an all day event. At home, in Eleuthera, we’ll head out on the boat in the midmorning and go fishing. We use Hawaiian slings, only take as much as we need, and pay close attention to which animals are in season. While some people don’t agree, I see this as one of the most sustainable ways to source food. By early evening we are back at the dock, cleaning the fish and lighting the grill. On a small island where we communicate via VHF radio that everybody listens in on for entertainment, everyone is invited.

How would your friends/family describe you?

This is a difficult question. I think most people would agree that I’m an impulsive goofball. I work when there is work to be done, but rarely shy away from a good time whether it’s a day at the beach or a dinner with friends in the city. 

Sea's the Day!
Written and Interviewed by: Caroline Danehy

caroline danehy