Greenest School in Canada Winners


The Greenest School in Canada jury was so impressed with the 2015 submissions that they were unable to choose just one winner. The two winners were chosen because of the innovative and impressive ways they approach sustainability and engage their students and local community.

First place: St. Marguerite d'Youville in Hamilton, ON and Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton, AB
Second place: Lord Shaughnessy High School Career and Technology Centre in Calgary, AB
Third place: Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School in Kitchener, ON
Honourable mention: Munro Academy in Balls Creek, NS

Tied for first place: St. Marguerite d'Youville in Hamilton, Ontario

This Platinum certified Ontario EcoSchool in Hamilton, ON, is making real efforts to bring sustainability education to its young students by incorporating environmentalism into the curriculum and the school culture. All of the school's environmental stewardship activities are student-driven and student voice is an important success criterion in the program, with energy and waste conservation as a main goal.

The core of their approach to sustainability education is the breadth of activities they participate in, which include an outdoor classroom maintained by students where there is an emphasis on caring for the surrounding trees. The school reduces energy consumption through turning off un-needed lighting and electrical devices during the day, and student monitors walking around the school on the look-out for unnecessary energy use.

The school has been able to reduce waste by 90% through the implementation of major recycling and composting programs, as well as daily litterless lunches and the banning of plastic water bottles. This means the school's total waste is just one bag of garbage per day, with the rest going into a recycling or green bin.

Among its other programs, there is a butterfly garden that encourages children to be outdoors and studying nature; field trips that include hiking, feeding birds, visiting the local compost facility, and identifying flora and fauna in the region; and Health EcoFairs where environmental and health community leaders set up booths and help promote best practices and healthy lifestyles to students, families and the community.

Environmental stewardship and responsibility have evolved at St. Marguerite over the years and today's students are dedicated, vocal and proactive leaders whose work is benefitting the whole community.

Tied for first place: Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton, Alberta

This Edmonton high school embodies the ideals of a green school, with its constant work to improve environmental advocacy through direct student engagement and programming. The students have access to a variety of initiatives that emphasize environmental education, and staff have also ensured that the physical building is being monitored in order to maximize energy and water efficiency, and mitigate negative environmental impact.

Their main educational component, called INNOVATE, is a hands-on project-based program that bridges the different curriculums, connects to the greater community, and provides research and experimental opportunities to students who are focused on solving real world problems of sustainable development. Whether investigating a challenge, creating or inventing a solution, developing a club or business, or implementing a humanitarian initiative, the INNOVATE program allows students the time and space to pursue their environmental interests while earning high school credits. As a part of this program, students have twice presented at the annual COP UN Climate Change Conferences to youth delegates: in Doha, Qatar (2012), and Lima, Peru (2014).

Queen Elizabeth also embodies the ideals of the green building movement. In terms of energy management, the school has installed Smart Meters to measure energy consumption in real time, which helps inform student efforts to reduce waste electricity. They also use light sensors to assess potential for natural daylighting and reduce traditional lighting dependency. They were the first school in Edmonton to install solar PV modules; to date they have produced over 4.7 mega-watt hours of electricity. Perhaps most impressive, after monitoring C02 levels in the school and noticing a rise throughout the day, the school incorporated planter boxes, green walls and aquaponics systems into classrooms to address and manage the increase.

Second place: Lord Shaughnessy High School Career and Technology Centre in Calgary, Alberta

The Centre scored big points with the jury for its especially strong community engagement activities. These include an Energy and Environmental Innovations program which offers courses to students across Calgary, and a city-wide sustainability conference that they host annually. Working with community associations and the City of Calgary, the Centre is helping to develop a local greenspace into an urban agricultural area. The school itself has also dramatically reduced their waste, including building a biosand filter to treat waste water used by their aquaponics system, and they have installed solar panels to offset a significant portion of the school's electricity demand.

Third place: Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School in Kitchener, Ontario

This 160-year-old school proves that any school can adapt and thrive in a sustainable way. Emphasizing environmental engagement and education to its population of over 1100 students, the school brings the natural and agricultural features of the local region to the downtown core. This includes an urban farmyard, a greenhouse, a green roof and living wall, as well as community and sculpture gardens. A rainwater harvesting project has also been used as a demonstration project for the community, with associated seminars and workshops.

Honourable mention: Munro Academy in Balls Creek, Nova Scotia

The jury felt it was important to acknowledge Munro Academy for its efforts to provide environmental education to a school population of just 39 students in rural Nova Scotia, ranging from pre-primary to Grade 12.