Eco Schools by Jan Harder

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If you, like I, had young children back in the late 80’s and 90’s I am sure you will recall the introduction of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to our kids at their schools. Of course now it seems crazy that it felt like so much work to send bag lunches without packaging. Or do you remember hearing a child warning you about the dire things we were doing to the planet when we tossed PET 2-litre containers into the garbage when we thought we were doing it all by recycling paper in the brand new black box? If you recall those times I am hoping you will be interested in learning about what “energy” Ontario is talking to our kids about with the EcoSchools program.

Over the next three years, the province has pledged $1.35 Million to educate students on ways to conserve energy to help fight climate change through the EcoSchools program. So what is this program? EcoSchools is an environmental education and certification program intended for students from kindergarten all the way to grade twelve. It started back in 2002 in Toronto, and has since expanded across the province, now reaching 95% of all students enrolled in Ontario. According to their mission statement, EcoSchools “aims to help schools develop ecological literacy and environmental practices to become environmentally responsible citizens and reduce the environmental footprint of schools.” In plain speak, it teaches our kids and grandkids how to be responsible with the environment and helps them do so through making their schools have a smaller environmental footprint.

The focus on conservation for this program ties back to the Province’s pledge of a conservation target of 30 TWh in 2032, a little more power than Toronto used in 2014. But what is the big deal? Conservation is the best economic way to manage energy needs, for every $1 invested in energy efficiency; Ontario avoids about $2 in costs to the electricity system. But better than that, it saves you money.

The funding that EcoSchools receives over the next three years will primarily go towards four new initiatives in EcoSchools:

* Supporting schools in the EcoSchools certification process

* Pushing schools to attain Platinum certification, the highest level achievable in the Ontario EcoSchools program

* Conduct a pilot to test student-friendly, online energy dashboards which monitor and display school energy consumption

* Public outreach through increased school events and media exposure

What I find really neat about this program is that it not only teaches our kids to be more environmentally conscious, it shows them how. And it does it by showing them how their schools can be made to be more sustainable. This hands-on, practical knowledge is wonderful stuff folks, because it allows the kids to figure out how to use it in their lives. And that is where the other benefits from the program come in.

Some projects may be to help local businesses to become more energy efficient, providing cost savings to small business. Some projects could even be targeted to families in need. But the best part of the program is that the kids will be able to take this

information home and show their parents how to make their homes more efficient, they will be able to use their knowledge and pass it on. This is what education is all about.

As a parent who has “been there, done that” over many years of my children’s school years I think it is just another phase that will cause people to think about their surroundings. For more information about EcoSchools, visit http://www.ontarioecoschools.org/

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