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Our schools lead the way in environmental awareness

Did you ever carelessly throw a recycling item into the garbage? Are you lax about how much waste you create or energy you use? Do you really understand the effects of global warming?

Well, the students in our local schools understand how to recycle, reuse and conserve. Each school voluntarily takes part in a unique program called EcoSchools. This program was developed by the TDSB and now is used by boards across the province.

EcoSchools is an environmental certification program for K-12 schools that nurtures student leadership, deepens ecological literacy, and builds strong communities. Schools are audited yearly and are certified at one of four levels: Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze. We currently have 311 certified EcoSchools, and 10 certified Outdoor Education Schools at the TDSB.

The certification process is rigorous and I am very pleased to say that our schools have achieved high levels:

Leaside High School Gold
Northlea Elementary & Middle School Silver
Bessborough Elementary & Middle School Gold
Rolph Road Elementary School Platinum
Bennington Heights Elementary School Gold

EcoSchools has six area of focus: 1) Foster Leadership and Teamwork; 2) Energy Conservation; 3) Waste Minimization; 4) Vibrant School Grounds; 5) Improve Student Achievement through Ecological Literacy; 6) Contribute to Healthy, Active, Safe, and Sustainable School Communities.

Schools assess their strengths and identify areas for improvement by completing the set of EcoReview questions found in each section of a program manual. School EcoTeams identify environmental priorities for the school; develop a plan of action; take action; and then document and share accomplishments with the auditors.

The program offers a structured approach to changing daily practices and thinking that can lead to reducing our board’s environmental impact, and it is closely aligned with the Ministry of Education’s environmental education policy Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow.

Our central EcoSchools staff provide tools and support to school EcoTeams through kick-off workshops, student conferences, print, and online resources, along with the auditing process to help them certify and create an environmental culture at their schools.

As a community we should all be proud of our schools’ accomplishments and the team of passionate parents, students and educators who strive to create a sustainable future for all.

Gerri Gershon is the Trustee, Don Valley West, for the Toronto District School Board.