Since the Green Committee was established by the EMSB Council of Commissioners back in 2008, the EMSB has committed itself to be aware of the environment around us and the future of planet Earth through the creation and implementation of our Green Policy and Action Plan.
The Green Policy and Action are based on two principles: the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 for the decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which promotes values and respect for the environment and Earth’s vast resources; and the part of the Quebec Education Programme (QEP) that outlines the responsibilities that encourage students to have an active relationship with the environment around them, as well as keeping a critical approach towards the exploitation of the environment, the latest developments in technology and consumer goods. Thanks to the diligent work of the Green Committee and its chair Ginette Sauve-Frankel, they have established a series of orientations and incentives for our schools and centres, as well as the EMSB Central Office, to encourage and recognize actions undertaken by our students and staff in being more environmentally conscious thereby keeping our planet greener.
For the schools and centres in our youth and adult education sectors, the Green Committee outlined four pillars for them to follow as guidelines for undertaking their respective green initiatives: Education, Green and Healthy Space, Sustainable Resource Use, and Strive to be Toxic Free. Each school had to fulfill at least one of these pillars, and were given a form to fill out that outlined how each of their green or environmental activities conformed to one or all of the prescribed pillars, and to make sure that these activities were both practical and financially viable. The wide range of activities included workshops with local chapters of the Eco-Quartier; composting; the planting of trees, shrubs and flowers; guest speakers; school yard clean ups; recycling programs; the increased usage of non-disposable utensils and containers in lunchrooms and cafeterias; and the integration of environmental concerns and ideas through the school curriculum (i.e., energy awareness courses).
It was very encouraging to find out that even before the Green Action Plan and the guidelines were developed and implemented, many of our schools and centres carried out their own programs and activities. This is a bold testament to our students’ and teachers’ enthusiasm and commitment towards preserving our environment in a practical and fun manner. Here are some examples of how our school and centres are going green:
- Dante School deemed every Wednesday as “No Waste Lunch” Day
- Lester B. Pearson High School collected ink cartridges, cell phones and digital cameras for recycling and reusing purposes, and also purchased smart power strips
- Rosemount High School started an Eco-Karma Exchange Program, which students developed an appreciation for the environment; related activities in the program included volunteering at a farm, at a local food bank, or helping out with Meals on Wheels
- General Vanier School created their own arboretum and conducted field trips to the Botanical Gardens and the Biodome
- Laurenhill Academy (junior and senior campuses) planted shrubs, grass, perennials and annuals outside the school building, and held a reusable water bottle sale
- Sinclair Laird School held recycling lessons, that were conducted by its teachers, along with representatives from the local Eco-Quartier and the City of Montreal; and students were given a tour of the Miron Quarry
- The High School of Montreal Adult Education Centre placed green boxes in every single classroom.
As well, the students who are involved with our Before and After School Enriched (B.A.S.E.) Daycare Program spent their time after school doing their part for the planet with their own unique brand of green initiatives.
For example, at Pierre de Coubertin and Dante schools, students learned how to make works of art out of recycled objects and materials; students at Hampstead School’s Green Works Club were taught how to make their own recycled paper and created their own books using that homemade paper; the Green Club at Edward Murphy School built mini aquifers, in order to learn how vital it is to keep our water sources clean and safe; daycare students at Pierre Elliott Trudeau School held an afternoon bike workshop, where they learned about each part of a bicycle and how it works, as well as how to fix a flat tire and repair a bike; and students from John Caboto, Carlyle, Dalkeith, Gerald McShane and St. Monica schools developed their green thumbs by planting their own community gardens (St. Monica’s garden is also growing fruits and vegetables to promote healthier eating habits).
In the fall of 2010, a survey dealing with green activities was handed out to all 390 employees of the EMSB Central Office, along with customized surveys that were given to personnel at Pedagogical Services and Cafeteria Services. Out of the 234 who responded to the survey, it was revealed that they were aware of environmental practices in the workplace and have undertaken such steps as regulating the use of lights during off hours, the widespread use of e-mail instead of paper for correspondences, and increased recycling of material (especially paper material). The results of the Pedagogical Services survey stated that environmental education can be better promoted through workshops and student participation in environmentally-related activities in their respective schools. And the Cafeteria Services survey concluded that they planned on reducing the use of disposable products for the serving of meals in favor of more environmentally-friendly products, as well as completely eliminate the use of plastic water bottles.
As a result, the following green initiatives were introduced for the EMSB Central Office:
- Reductions in idling times of personal vehicles used by staff, school busses, and Trades vehicles
- Increased use of Eco -certified products and VOC-free products
- Energy-savings through HVAC retrofits in our facilities, printer and photocopier rationalization, use of low-power consuming computer terminals
- Paper savings through increased number of paperless meetings, two-sided printing of documents and document rationalization strategies
- Reduced use of plastic water bottles by phasing out the sales of bottled water at the EMSB, along with the phased installation of high-tech water fountains, in which a reusable water bottle can be automatically refilled countless times
- Greening components, such as trees, green spaces and gardens, incorporated in schoolyard repaving projects
The late Anne Frank wrote an entry in her famous diary that stated: “How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment. We can start now, start slowly, changing the world. How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make a contribution.” I must admit that thanks to our Green Committee and their Green Policy and Action Plan, our students and employees throughout the EMSB have stepped up and in their own way, large or small, have made a tremendous contribution towards making our planet a much safer, healthier place to live and thrive. We are indeed changing the world right now, and we are much prouder for it.
Robert. A. Stocker