ARCHIVED—Exemplary Practices 2008
Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.
Becoming an Eco-School
How does an entire school go green? Cheryl Carr who teaches grade nine Geography and grade 12 World Issues has the answer. Jump on the Eco-School program. "I'm a big advocate for changing the culture in a school to help it become much more environmental and sustainable," she says. Carr teaches at Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario — a school with a population of 1300 and a large ESL enrollment from mainland China.
The Eco-School program has been such a success since it began six years ago that now almost 10 percent of the student body is an active participant and it has attained a gold certification status. The transformation began with the creation of the Bethune Environmental Action Team (BEAT) now one of the cool clubs for students to join.
BEAT has become infused into the fabric of the school, but this doesn't happen on its own. According to Carr, "You have to build it, it has to be a team. We met with everyone, the caretakers, principals, secretarial staff, school advisory council to try and change the eco-culture of the school." BEAT has a student executive that drives the entire program under the guidance of the teacher advisors. The executive chooses the committees they want to run. There are three committees that meet in separate classrooms, waste reduction and energy, spirit and sales and feeder schools. The school also has a large, naturalized area and the entire membership is responsible for its maintenance.
The first major challenge for BEAT was the school recycling program. To collect recyclables students placed modified Rubbermaid garbage bins beside every garbage can in the school. Students help out caretaking staff by picking up the recycling in the classrooms and opened their own recycling centre. In addition to collecting items such as corks, eye glasses and pop tabs, the centre generates some cash through recycling objects like printer cartridges where a large box fetches between $100-150 in rebates. The school has also reduced photocopying costs by roughly 10 percent. The additional dollars can be applied to other programs, such as the purchase of computers, textbooks, and bike racks among other things.
Energy conservation is another large initiative and the Energy Conservation Police (BEAT members) ensure that lights are turned off, computers powered down and politely remind parents not to idle when dropping off or picking up their children. BEAT has developed outreach programs to feeder schools in the area educating younger students who will attend Norman Bethune with an environmental outlook and readiness. This way, the program becomes self-sustaining.
Communication and cooperation are essential elements to the success of the program where all staff, students and parents are brought onside. BEAT plans and runs a number of fun events during the year such as Waste Reduction Week. Other school departments have jumped on the BEAT bandwagon too. The music department participated in fundraising by donating money raised from their concerts and the art department decorates garbage cans each year. In these ways, BEAT has become an integral part of the school's culture.
"Probably the most important thing is to make it fun," says Carr. "Recycling is not a very exciting thing to do so we have lots of fun and lots of activities." The way Carr sees it, the students will thank you, the school will thank you and the planet will thank you too.