CaGBC names top sustainably operated schools

Marguerite d'Youville - building small
St. Marguerite d’Youville Elementary in Hamilton, Ont. (pictured), and Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton have been named the ‘greenest schools in Canada’ by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC). Photo courtesy CaGBC

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has honoured Hamilton’s St. Marguerite d’Youville Elementary and Edmonton’s Queen Elizabeth High School as the greenest schools in Canada.

The second annual Greenest School in Canada competition seeks to showcase kindergarten to Grade 12 schools across the country, exemplifying how sustainability can be integrated into the infrastructure, culture, and curriculum of a school. This year, the jury was unable to choose one winner between St. Marguerite and Queen Elizabeth.

St. Marguerite’s environmental stewardship activities are student-driven and the student voice is an important criterion in the program with energy and waste conservation as a main goal. The school successfully reduced waste by 90 per cent through the implementation of major recycling and composting programs, daily litterless lunches, and a plastic bottle ban. Energy consumption is being reduced by turning off lighting and electrical devices during the day and student monitors called ‘Busters’ help by walking around looking for unnecessary energy use. Environmental and health community leaders set up booths at the school’s ‘Health EcoFairs’ to promote best practices and healthy lifestyles to students, families, and the community.

“The students and staff at St. Marguerite are so incredibly honoured and humbled by the recognition,” said teacher and enviro-representative, Lucy Hunt. “To be named Greenest School in Canada is a testament to our work of the past 10 years as a platinum-certified Ontario EcoSchool and speaks to the total commitment of everyone in our school community to care for and protect our Earth.”

Queen Elizabeth’s main educational component, called ‘Innovate,’ is a hands-on project-based program bridging the different curriculums, connecting the greater community, and providing research and experimental opportunities to students who are focused on solving real-world problems in sustainable development. The school installed smart meters to measure energy consumption in real-time and light sensors to assess natural daylighting potential. Monitored carbon dioxide levels in the school showed levels rise throughout the day, so the school put planter boxes, vegetated walls, and aquaponics systems into classrooms to help manage them.

Both urban and rural schools entered submissions based on criteria examining the school’s efficient use of resources, reduced environmental impact, and enhanced health and learning among students, staff, and teachers. The schools were expected to have an emphasis on sustainability and resource-conservation education. The winners receive $2000 to use for a green activity and will be entered into the Greenest School on Earth competition.

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