June 12, 2013

Environmental Club promotes green values

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Environmental Club at Erin District High School had another successful year, despite the interruption in teacher assistance with extracurricular activities, and the rabbits.

An herb garden was dug on the far side of the parking lot, to supply some fresh greens to the cafeteria. While the chives and oregano are doing fine, the parsley was pre-consumed by the local rabbit population. Chicken wire or marigolds might be used to deter them next season.

The club is supervised by teacher Ross Watson. He was unable to help for a few months this year due to the Ontario teachers' ban on extra-curricular activities, but that didn't stop the students.

"They've done a fantastic job this year," said Principal Kelly Shaw. "They ran it on their own, showed leadership and made things happen."

The school has for the second year earned an EcoSchool certification at the silver level – just one point short of gold status in the rating system.

EDHS Environmental Club members and their EcoSchool
plaque: (left to right) Jade Choquette, Danielle Merrithew
and Bridget MacGillivray, with teacher Ross Watson.

The EcoSchools Program is part of a provincial initiative to save energy in the operation of schools, develop ecological literacy and encourage students to take leadership roles.

The club has about eight members for meetings, and a few more for activities. They've achieved several of their goals, including installation of two water bottle filling stations. The equipment is mounted to the wall, providing a button to conveniently fill reusable water bottles with tap water, instead of drinking purchased water in plastic bottles.

"People really like using them," student Bridget MacGillivray. The club sells some stainless steel bottles, and is looking for ways to promote them.

They have set up double-walled digester-style compost bins behind the school. Students who work in the cafeteria use them to dispose of kitchen food scraps. They were also used for sod from the garden, which should benefit from the compost next year.

With a variety of reminders and messages to the student (and teacher) population, including live video announcements, the club is hoping to change energy-wasting habits.

"Some people are trying, and some are thinking that others can do it," said MacGillivray.

The club did an audit to see if lights and monitors were being turned off when not needed. They also sorted through a day's worth of school garbage.

"It was interesting to see what the kids are throwing out," said Watson. Along with the usual trash, there were binders of course material and lots of full lunches and unopened food.

The club does a Green Christmas promotion, urging people not to be wasteful and to consider wrapping gifts in newsprint.

"We're excited about what may lie in the future – we're interested in community links, including Transition Erin," said Shaw.

There are no detailed plans yet, but there is discussion about "greening" the school grounds with a small orchard, and construction of an outdoor classroom on the sloped lawn near the front door.

Seating in this area could be used by various classes, and would be useful during lunch since there are not many places for students to sit outdoors.

"We'd like to make it a beautiful place where kids want to be," said Shaw.