Reducing, reusing and recycling
The school has successfully reduced its waste, water and energy consumption and fossil fuel use through efforts such as:
- Complete composting of about 25 kg of organic waste from its kitchen per month, using three thermal composite systems and half a dozen vermi-composite systems;
- Decreased fossil fuel use with solar panels estimated to be around five per cent of electric energy use;
- Reduction of natural gas heating in the greenhouse with the use of geothermal heat storage, evacuated tubes providing solar heat to the fish tank, and four-layer polycarbonate panels providing R5 insulation;
- Usage of low-flow toilets, sensor-activated sinks and water bottle refill stations;
- Recycling of fish waste in the aquaponics system;
- Recycling of paper and cardboard, and juice, pop and milk containers, with funds from container recycling used for special education programs such as Skills Alberta;
- Deep garbage bins that allow waste to compost and are only picked up once a year, decreasing collection costs and fossil fuel use;
- Installation of automatic lights in the bathrooms and some classrooms; signage to remind teachers to turn off lights; and
- An auto shutoff computer program.
Getting the community involved
With all of its projects, Lacombe Composite High School partners with the community on building and implementation, and to share training and advice. Through an Adopt a Garden initiative started by its agricultural program, the school gets community members to help take care of its gardens over the summer months, and local groups are invited to speak about environmental topics in classes.
These programs feed into Lacombe’s larger goal of providing an environment that fosters mental, physical and emotional growth while encouraging responsibility, respect and understanding.
Trinity College School in Port Hope, ON
Trinity College School has made it a priority to provide opportunities for students to develop the knowledge and skills that foster sustainability literacy as part of academic and co-curricular activities for its 450 students in grades 5 through 12. It’s all part of a five-year Sustainability Plan focused on reducing environmental footprint and the creation of a healthy, sustainable community.
The “three Cs” of a green school
For Trinity College School, a green school is embodied in three ways: campus, curriculum and culture. As such, the school offers many opportunities for students to learn more about sustainability, from studying examples of green cities to offering outdoor education classes and environmental studies courses. Its Junior School outdoor classroom has conducted activities such as seeding a pollinator meadow, building bee hotels and planting vegetable gardens to learn about sustainable food practices. In order to plan for even more improvements beyond what is required by the Ontario Ministry of Education, it is currently in the process of benchmarking its sustainability curriculum for all of its classes and subject areas.
There are also a number of co-curricular activities focused on sustainability, including:
- A “Farm Field Forest” initiative that runs three days a week, enabling students to build a greenhouse and shed and work on a half-acre farm that harvests vegetables for the school’s dining room and the local community health centre;
- Programming to help with the local outdoor education centre and a poverty coalition garden;
- An annual student tree-planting campaign adding hundreds of shrubs and trees each year in honour of veterans;
- Environmental “Service Saturdays” encouraging students to participate in activities such as shoreline cleanups;
- A year-round competition among the 10 Senior School houses that awards points towards a “Green Cup” trophy for taking eco-actions; and
- Annual sustainability awards for students who demonstrate significant leadership and service towards the environment.
In addition, the school promotes sustainable food production by sourcing 100 per cent of its beef and in-season vegetables locally, and it works to create a greener habitat by preserving chimneys for endangered chimney swifts, removing invasive species such as garlic mustard, and inoculating a 300-year-old ash tree to save it from the emerald ash borer.
These initiatives have helped the school achieve 106 of the 144 objectives outlined in its five-year sustainability plan, with one year left to go. Meanwhile, building a sustainable future continues to be a core pillar of Trinity College School’s overall strategic plan. To this end, the school has established a Green Revolving Fund using the savings from its retrofits that can be applied towards future projects.
Driving results in energy and water savings and waste diversion
Over the past five years, Trinity College School has decreased its natural gas consumption by 23 per cent, an achievement it attributes to window replacements and upgrades to its building automation systems and boilers. More technology improvements are in the pipeline to further reduce its natural gas usage, which currently accounts for 60 per cent of its 2,000 tonnes CO2e annually.
The school is also making significant efforts to manage its annual energy consumption through the following measures:
- Regular electricity audits;
- Power-down campaigns;
- A major lighting retrofit involving the switching over of 80 outdoor lamps, all indoor gym bay lights and all arena lights to LED;
- Equipping all new buildings with passive solar lighting systems;
- Usage of light occupancy sensors; and
- Planned installation of a 400 kW solar photovoltaic array, 220 kW of which has currently been completed.
The annual waste diversion rate has improved to 70 per cent from 40 per cent. To reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, the school sends its kitchen waste to a farm, unused food is turned into soups and sauces, and composting occurs in Trinity’s Junior School and farm program.
Lastly, water consumption has been reduced by about 11 per cent through water device audits and replacements, and rainwater is collected and used in the school’s garden programs. The school also works to reduce its footprint by purchasing carbon offsets on some trips taken overseas and by its headmaster, promoting carpooling, and by encouraging students to cycle more often and teaching them how to repair their bicycles in a bike shop started by teachers and students.
Making health and wellness a priority
The school’s facilities demonstrate a clear focus on providing a healthy environment for both students and teachers, beginning with its location on a 100-acre campus with naturalized areas featuring high biodiversity, offering inspiring views from large, openable windows in all classrooms. Air quality is tested regularly and the school has made efforts to improve lighting quality, with staff testing lumens in each area to ensure sufficient brightness for productivity and wellness.
Trinity also features a significant amount of greenery throughout the campus, with a green wall that filters rainwater and improves air quality, plants growing in all of its Junior School classrooms and some of its residence rooms, and native plant gardens created by students.
Students are encouraged to go outside through mandatory fitness programs and a weekly outdoor classroom throughout the year, with wellness weeks organized in the winter.