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.