A school in my neighbourhood has a big bright sign that proudly announces that it is now an “Ontario EcoSchool”. During my elementary school and secondary school years, we would learn about the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – and think of ways to conserve energy, reduce waste and help the environment. To better understand our impact on the environment our teachers would have us brainstorm ideas, and explore our ecological values, in hopes that we would remember our school days when we became predominant users and producers of energy and waste. But we certainly didn’t have EcoSchools. As I drove by the sign, I started to wonder what it takes to be an Ontario EcoSchool.
Introducing the EcoSchool
The idea of EcoSchools has been around since 2002, and for those schools who are certified, being “Eco” is now part of their curriculum. According to the website,
Ontario EcoSchools is an, “…environmental education and certification program for grades K-12 that helps school communities develop both ecological literacy and environmental practices to become environmentally responsible citizens and reduce the ecological footprint of schools.”
EcoSchool certification focuses on:
- Ecological literacy
- Waste reduction
- Energy conservation
- And school ground greening
Ontario EcoSchools Certification is completed annually, and an increasing number of schools are becoming certified. More than 1,500 schools in 44 school boards are now Ontario EcoSchool certified. EcoSchools also list their status as Silver or Gold, and
identify any awards that have been received by the school.
So what are they doing?
Here are some of the ways that the EcoSchools program is helping to create greener schools:
- See through garbage bins
- Composting, collection in cafeteria
- Waste-free lunches
- Customized water bottles
- Ink cartridge collection
- Mobile recycling collection
- Authentic sorting signage
Part of the curriculum involves showing students how they can reduce the waste within their school system. They learn firsthand how they have come together to tackle the
issue of waste reduction. It truly amazes me and makes me proud that our province offers this kind of program to our children.
Changing the way people think and act in regards to the environment are the reasons why some parts of the Ontario School system are becoming greener. Training future generations how to be good stewards of the environment is the kind of
lesson they’ll never forget.
For more information, visit the Ontario EcoSchools website, www.ontarioecoschools.org
Michelle Rooplal has served as HSAL’s Office Manager for 10 years. With a background in human geography and sociology, Michelle has the experience needed to support both clients and staff on a wide range of projects. While away from work, she enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends.