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DSBN Celebrates “Electric” Conservation

Powered by student enthusiasm, many schools across the District School Board of Niagara have been able to save a shocking amount of electricity by participating in an aggressive energy conservation initiative. In one year, 75 schools were able to cut their electricity usage for a combined savings of over $183 thousand dollars. That represents a savings of 1.6 million kilowatt hours; enough energy to power two high schools for a year, or eleven elementary schools. Pine Grove Public School and West Park Secondary School in St. Catharines received awards for conserving the most energy in 2009. Applewood Public School in St. Catharines and Port Colborne High School were both recognized as the elementary and secondary schools that showed the greatest yearly improvement in energy savings. The conservation program, now in its ninth year, was developed by students, school staff, CUPE Local 4156, the teacher federations and plant department personnel at the DSBN. The Energy Conservation Committee engages students by encouraging them to assess their classrooms in terms of energy use, and provide suggestions for improvement. The Committee also provides schools with an informational package with practical steps to improve school energy savings.

“Since the program’s inception, schools have been able to save nearly six million kilowatt hours of electricity, resulting in a financial savings of more than half a million dollars,” said Energy Conservation Committee chairperson Tony Piunno. “We are very proud of all the students and schools that took on this important initiative.”

“This initiative is in tune with the DSBN’s focus on environmental sustainability, and it also demonstrates the excellent working relationship the DSBN has with its employee groups,” said Plant Services Coordinator Doug Durant.

Westlane Secondary Nabs Silver

Westlane Secondary in Niagara Falls already has some green in its school colours, but now, the school may want to consider adding some silver. Following some very diligent work by both students and staff, Westlane is now a silver-certified EcoSchool. The silver certification shows the high level of care and concern our students have for the environment.

Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education program that addresses both how schools are run and what students learn. Research shows that certified EcoSchools use 7% percent less electricity and 12% percent less natural gas than non-certified schools. To earn the silver certification, students at the school began an aggressive campaign to conserve electricity, increase the amount of materials they recycle and cut the amount of waste that ended up in garbage bins. In 2008 the school began its first-ever recycling program for bottles and cans. By doing so, there has been a huge reduction in the amount of trash that leaves the school. Staff also complemented the students’ efforts by incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. Every grade 9 student begins their career at Westlane by calculating their ecological footprint and devising ways to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Staff also translated all our educational materials into French so all classes could participate in the school’s green movement.

Butler Students Turn Green into Silver

Colonel John Butler Public School in Niagara-on-the-Lake may want to think about changing its school colours to green and silver. Following some very diligent work by both students and staff,Butler is now a silver-certified EcoSchool.“This silver certification shows the high level of care and concern our students have for the environment,” says Marian Reimer-Friesen, Principal. “I’m confident we’ll achieve a gold certification next year.”Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education program that addresses both how schools are run and what students learn. Research shows that certified EcoSchools use 7% percent less electricity and 12% percent less natural gas than non-certified schools.To earn the silver certification, students at the school began an aggressive campaign to conserve electricity, increase the amount of materials they recycle and cut the amount of waste that ended up in garbage bins. As a first step, the school brought in Niagara College to conduct a waste audit around the school. “The audit found that we were doing a good job of diverting waste, but it also showed that nearly 60% of our waste was compostable material,” says Science Teacher Brad Digweed. “ Our students immediately designed a compost program, educated other classes about it, and since then we’ve been able to reduce our waste by an additional 50%.” Staff also complemented the students’ efforts by incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. “We spent a great deal of time talking about how we impact the environment, and the things we can do to reduce our ecological footprint,” says Digweed. “Our students are even taking the environmental message home with them, and as a result, their families are taking steps to be more eco-friendly,” says Digweed. “It’s very encouraging to see our youth leading the charge for a cleaner, healthier environment.”

Sheridan Park Turns Green into Gold

Sheridan Park Public School in St. Catharines may want to think about changing its school colours to green and gold. Following some very diligent work by both students and staff, Sheridan Park is now a gold-certified EcoSchool. “Everyone is just thrilled to have earned the highest level of certification,” says Joanna Roberto, Principal. Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education program that addresses both how schools are run and what students learn. Research shows that certified EcoSchools use 7% percent less electricity and 12% percent less natural gas than non-certified schools.To earn the gold certification, students at the school began an aggressive campaign to conserve electricity, increase the amount of materials they recycle and cut the amount of waste that ended up in garbage bins. Staff complemented the students’ efforts by incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. Kim Barton’s grade 6 class wrote persuasive letters to local restaurants encouraging them to do as much as possible to reduce waste and preserve the environment. “The class was so happy to receive letters back from these companies explaining some of their initiatives. We even received a phone call from one outlet asking for our suggestions on how they could be better environmental stewards,” says Barton. The school also partnered with Home Depot in an effort to green the school grounds. “For every hundred books our students read, Home Depot agreed to plant a tree around our school,” says Roberto. “Well, we’re going to have a lot more trees soon, because our students read more than one thousand books!” The school’s 168 page application for EcoSchools certification was even submitted on “good on one side” paper, which is paper that already has writing on one side. Showing that learning never ends, students became environmental ambassadors by taking the message home during a school-wide “Greenest Family” contest. Students challenged their families to evaluate their own habits and take steps to reduce their ecological footprint.