Tackling The basics
Recycle and compost as frequently as possible
All schools should have access to recycling and composting bins by now. Did you know Halton Region is the first in Ontario to offer composting bin service in all schools? Practice using your bins as frequently and as correctly as possible. If more bins are needed, discuss with those in charge.
Ensure bins are placed well, near high traffic and high garbage areas (eg. cafeteria, school entrances) to capture the most recyclables, without people having to walk too far out of their way to access a bin. Did you know that for every pop can you recycle it saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours? (source: Halton Region "Waste Diversion Guide")
Learn about Halton Region waste diversion workshops for schools plus waste management site tours here.
Turn off lights not in use
If a room is unused for a period of time, ensure lights are off to conserve electricity. Ensure classroom lights are off at end of the school day before heading home. Is daylight bright enough that lights can be turned off during class?
Strive to minimize paper use. When something must be printed or photocopied, try to print double-sided to conserve paper. Use recycled or FSC certified paper.
Establish a "No Idling" policy
Did you know a City of Burlington bylaw prohibits unnecessary vehicle idling, such as while waiting for someone in a parking lot? The fine is $100.
This also applies during winter months. It's not necessary to warm up vehicles for 15 minutes in cold weather. Besides, vehicle compartments heat up faster once you're driving on the road. Idling creates a lot of air pollution right where you live and breathe and contributes to global warming.
For more information and free campaign promotion materials, visit Dads Against Dirty Air and the City of Burlington website here.
Ready for More?
Form an eco group
This is an important step to provide a forum to identify, discuss, and act on any eco issues of concern at your school (eg. waste reduction, better waste diversion, energy conservation, greening up school grounds, promoting public transit). Members can also attend the BurlingtonGreen Youth Network (BGYN) monthly meetings to see what other schools are doing and ask questions or share their successes with others. An eco group provides a good foundation for implementing the green tips listed below.
Promote walking & biking to school
Use these infographics by Metrolinx to learn how to make your school more conducive to walking & biking and how to promote these modes of travel. Watch the "Walking to School" promotional videos: Part 1 and Part 2. View a teacher's guide here.
Also, visit Active & Safe Routes to School for more information.
Audit garbage bins for recyclables
Is your recycling program working? Even when recycling/composting bins are available nearby, people often still don't use them, or contaminate them with incorrect items. If this is happening, your eco group can investigate why, and how it can be improved.
Is more awareness needed, simple signage, better bin placement, more bins, enforcement by school staff? Often positive reinforcement is beneficial when people do recycle (eg. saying, "thank you") just to let them know people are paying attention and are appreciative.
Inspect your school's grounds for litter
In your eco group, assess the state of litter on school grounds and in parking lot. Is it excessive? Does it remain there too long. Investigate why this is happening and how it can be improved. Are more garbage cans needed in high litter areas? (by sidewalk, bus stops) Do those responsible for litter cleanup know it needs to be done more frequently? Are students aware that staff and fellow students are concerned about the problem and want to see it improved? Sometimes people just think no one's paying attention and no one cares, so it's no big deal to throw garbage on the ground.
Promote awareness campaigns
Here are some suggestions. Some allow you to register your school to help the campaign. Some offer prizes as well.
- Transit use, walking, or biking
- Say no to bottled water
- General recycling knowledge
- Burlington's anti-idling campaign
- National Sweater Day (early February)
- Earth Hour (late March)
- Earth Day (April 22)
- David Suzuki Foundation's 30x30 nature challenge (May)
- Earth Overshoot Day (summer)
- National Tree Day (late September)
- FSC Friday (late September)
- Waste Reduction Week (mid-October)
- Waste-free Lunch Week Challenge (mid-October)
- "Recycle My Cell" Student Challenge (mid-October to mid-November)
Incorporate environmental education into lessons
See BurlingtonGreen's teacher resource page for links to some great curriculum-related information and activities. Sign up your class or school for one of BurlingtonGreen's Kids Go Green workshops to teach students about recycling and other environmental issues.
Plan a field trip! Organizations such as Conservation Halton offer great opportunities for students in all grades to connect with nature.
Green your school grounds
Consider organizing a tree planting on school grounds if needed. How about as part of National Tree Day? If you need assistance, consider contacting Tree Canada. You must get permission from the school first. Also, remember it is the law to Call Before You Dig to have a free locate done of any underground utilities, at least one week in advance. Please also respect power line safe distances.
Start a school garden
Give your students the hands-on experience of creating and working their own school garden as a way of learning to appreciate nature. Visit Imagine a Garden in Every School for a comprehensive list of resources, grant opportunities, and links, or simply mark your existing school garden on their map.
Consider visiting another school's garden to see how they do it. You can also schedule a tour of the Grow to Give garden in Central Park with BurlingtonGreen here.
Become an Eco Certified School
Go for Platinum! Set your sights high and work toward the highest level of certification in the Ontario EcoSchools program. Certification is free for publicly funded schools. Funding opportunities are available to assist with environmental improvements required to meet certification standards. Ontario EcoSchools' vision is: Every School an EcoSchool!