17 Northwestern Schools certify as Ontario EcoSchools

Community Submission

Climate Change

Thunder Bay, ON – Over the past year, champion teachers, administrators, custodians and student-driven EcoTeams have enthusiastically led 17 schools within 4 northwestern Ontario school boards to achieve EcoSchools certification.

“It’s today’s generation of young people who can create the change needed for a more sustainable world, so we love the opportunity afforded by the EcoSchools program to help students and teachers start making change in their communities. We are able to help these schools get involved in real, hands-on activities that make a difference, which are really important steps to changing attitudes and building sustainability in the long term,” says Ellen Mortfield, Executive Director, EcoSuperior.

This year, Huron Superior Catholic District School Board, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, Lakehead Public Schools, and Keewatin-Patricia District School Board have joined a movement of 1,900 certified schools across the province. This success has been supported through the third year of a partnership between Ontario EcoSchools and EcoSuperior Environmental Programs, a Thunder Bay-based non-profit that supports and promotes environmental stewardship throughout the Lake Superior Basin. The partnership has provided a Northern Outreach Coordinator based at EcoSuperior who offers local resources and targeted regional support throughout the year.

EcoSchools works with 58 school boards to nurture student leadership and foster environmental learning and action in schools. Certification is based on a provincial standard of excellence and reaches 1,000,000 students across Ontario.

This year EcoSuperior Environmental Programs’ Will Vanderploeg worked collaboratively with a new certifying school, Claude E Garton Public School in Thunder Bay, to develop and execute a DePave Paradise project.  The project involved communicating with school administration to remove an area of under-utilized asphalt, excavate, and create a rain garden that will help control and absorb stormwater on the school grounds.

“I am hoping that this experience allows for some educational opportunities for the students and staff in regard to stormwater management,” Vanderploeg says. The program is executed by parent and community volunteers to assist with removing the old asphalt.

“The morning of DePave Paradise was just awesome! Families from the school came out and made quick work of the 102 square meters of asphalt that needed to be removed,” reports EcoSchools Northern Outreach Coordinator Erin Moir. “In addition to all the families that were involved, DePave Paradise brought together some really wonderful partners who provided asphalt removal service, excavation service, topsoil delivery and planting expertise.  It really was a community effort!” A big thank you to Taranis Contracting Group, Green Communities Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Home Hardware, Trash Trailer, and Earthworks Contracting.

DePave Paradise was great motivation for Claude E Garton Elementary School to engage with the EcoSchools program and complete their first application.

Some additional highlights from the 2018-19 program include:

The students of Beaver Brae Secondary School EcoTeam decided to do something about being ‘fuelish.’  The EcoTeam worked to create awareness about the effects of idling your vehicle.  They learned that for every 10 minutes a vehicle is idling it releases one pound of unnecessary carbon dioxide into the air – a major contributor of greenhouse gases. The EcoTeam decided change was necessary!  They created surveys and monitored idling cars in the school parking lot, successfully promoting anti-idling habits and saving greenhouse gas emissions.

Did you know that approximately 9.5 million tonnes of textiles enter North American landfills each year – 95% of which could have been recycled?  St Patrick High School in Thunder Bay took on the #IGiveAShirt challenge.  The school collected over 500lbs of textiles to be recycled and, more importantly, diverted from our landfill.  The students of the St Patrick’s EcoTeam worked to educate the staff and students about the harmful effects of textiles in our landfills and promoted more eco-friendly ways to shop such as second-hand stores and clothing swaps with friends and family.

St Mary’s French Immersion Catholic School achieved their first ever Ontario EcoSchools certification this year. After attending an EcoSchools – Getting Started workshop held in the fall, staff and students were excited to implement new initiatives into their school community.  The EcoTeam decided to start a battery drive where they collected household batteries.  Staff, students and families were educated on the importance of keeping batteries out of landfills, to protect both soil and water quality.

“EcoSchools continues to lay the foundation for building environmental leaders and bringing school communities together to reduce our collective impact on the earth. Through benchmarking, creativity, and innovation, our network of 1,900 certified EcoSchools is inspiring positive, meaningful action across all levels of the education sector. We are so proud to celebrate their accomplishments this year,” said Lindsay Bunce, Executive Director, EcoSchools.