June 20, 2012

EDHS an Eco-School thanks to student efforts

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin District High School has earned its first EcoSchool certification, thanks to the efforts of students in the Environmental Club.

The EcoSchools Program is part of an Ontario-wide initiative to save energy in the operation of schools, develop broad ecological literacy and encourage students to take leadership roles.

Students did an audit to see if lights, computers and televisions were being left on unnecessarily, and if waste handling could be improved. There’s a core group of about seven students in the club, plus others who help with various activities, under the direction of teacher Ross Watson.

After the initial assessment, they urged teachers and students to change their habits. Reminder stickers were placed on light switches and a pizza party was offered for the class that reduced energy use the most.

Ross Watson, Rachel Plant and Jake McEvoy
“Over the lunch hour, we had significant improvement - especially in the gym,” said Jake McEvoy.

After completing the program, the school’s score of 69.25 earned an EcoSchool certificate at the Silver level. They will be shooting for the Gold level next year.

“We’d like to have a garden, with herbs and spices, and fruits and veggies for the cafeteria,” said Rachel Plant. They would like to support that garden with a large composter, which can be turned to mix food scraps from the cafeteria.

A filling station for re-usable water bottles would promote the drinking of filtered tap water instead of commercially-bottled water.

Other related activities have included community work - cleaning up garbage and planting trees. They did not score well for recycling, saying there are not enough bins in the cafeteria. There were also announcements with environmental tips, such as how to avoid wasteful Christmas gift wrapping.

The EcoSchool effort helps encourage best practices throughout the school system, and align school operations with what is taught in the classroom.

The current curriculum also allows students to major in specialties such as environmental studies by taking certain credits in Science and Geography, as well as completing a co-op work placement.

McEvoy and Plant are taking a course entitled Environmental Resource Management, and both are graduating this year.

He is planning to study Environmental Technology at Georgian College, and hopes to get a job related to waterways. She is planning on taking additional high school courses, then the Veterinary Technician program at Seneca College, and hopes to work in wildlife rehabilitation.