WCDSB has been a proud Regional Carbon (Sustainability) Initiative (RSI) member since September, 2015, and a bronze pledging partner since 2016. In 2016, WCDSB set a target to reduce stationary energy consumption by 1% on annual basis – using the 2013-14 school year as the baseline. In addition, a 20% greenhouse gas emission target was set to be achieved by 2024 – using 2014 levels as the baseline. The WCDSB is now ninth out of 70 RSI members in sustainability leadership in the Region of Waterloo. In 2017, the Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan was developed and presented to the WCDSB Executive Council and the Board of Trustees.
The Ontario EcoSchools program has been instrumental in the development of sustainable education at our school board. With the help of our teachers and support staff at our schools (particularly custodians), our students are far more aware about the state of our natural environment and are tremendously engaged in environmental initiatives. Twenty-nine WCDSB schools received EcoSchools certifications in 2016-17 (1 Platinum, 15 Gold, 10 Silver, 3 Bronze).
One of our 2016-17 goals was to develop and provide sustainability courses and workshops for students and staff. All new participating schools were trained on the certification process through the Intro to EcoSchools workshop and received mentoring and support. In addition, ten new schools and 22 Grade 5 classes participated in the Focus on Nature workshop. This workshop is an innovative, school based program that uses photography to engage Grade 5 students in the exploration of the world around them, cultivating a connection to their environment that carries forward into their lives.
In addition, the Sustainable Cities Workshop was developed to expose students to all the necessary components and strategies required to build a vibrant sustainable city. Through collection of recycled materials and introduction of green building guidelines and planning principles, students are becoming more mindful and aware of sustainable practices.
Earth Week Challenge was created by the Sustainable Development Committee for the month of April, 2017. Three $500 awards were given to winning schools (St. Margaret CES, St. Michael CES and St. Luke CES), to support their eco initiatives. The Board’s goal remains 100% EcoSchools certification by the 2018-19 school year.
Waste audits were completed by Waste Management Inc. at two schools and waste audit reports and waste reduction plans were produced by schools with an occupancy rate of more than 350 students. Waste diversion data has been collected to help track our footprint. To reduce waste, students at all our secondary schools donate their student uniforms on an annual basis, for use by new students. In 2016-17, more than 3000 school uniforms were donated by Grade 12 students. We are also seeing a lot more awareness of waste and interest in the green cart program through the Region of Waterloo.
WCDSB is actively and continuously promoting collaboration with the local community. Several WCDSB schools received training and participated in the five-day Zero-Waste Challenge through REEP Green Solutions. Our schools also participated in the municipal Community Cleanups during the month of April, 2017. In addition, WCDSB schools collaborate with Community Renewable Energy Waterloo – a local not-for-profit organization. Developed for Grades 4 and 5 students, the CREWKids Power Saving Program teaches students about the basic methods of measuring power consumption and identifying strategies to save energy at home. Our Sustainability Office — in partnership with Conestoga College — has also supported ClimateActionWR through community engagement and education to help set new regional greenhouse gas targets for the 2020-2050 period. Finally, a new Research Partnership with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo has been established. Findings of the study will be presented in the next report.