Sustainable Practices and Pawprints
At Caledonia Regional School, home of the Tigers, we work daily next to the mighty Petitcodiac River and know the importance of the environment and human coexistence. With CRHS being a tiny rural school, global concerns seem even further away for us. That’s why we wish to enhance our study of, and contribution to, sustainable development by starting at home. Under the guidance of the school’s Wellness Coordinator and a TeachSDGs Ambassador, students will spend the 2022-2023 school year studying Caledonia Regional’s climate footprint (pawprint).
Through a combination of the physical education classes and science/technology courses the students of CRHS will analyse several routine practices and systems within the school and pitch ways to improve sustainability and our climate pawprint. Students will then indicate and implement their suggestions for improvement. The systems that will be studied include:
1. Waste management
2. Water Management
3. Recycling Practices
4. Power and Fuel Practices
5. School Environment Practices
Encouraging students to make their own futures even better than their childhoods is the only way that Albert County can build the pride and commitment needed for true sustainable development. These students will grow to be the adults in this county and by empowering them at this stage in their lives they will value their environment and their school even more. This is not only a community building opportunity, but also a student agency starting point. Under the guidance of the two lead teachers the students will find many ways that the daily operations of the school can improve moving forward. Changes made throughout the duration of “Sustainable Practices and Pawprints” will persist for decades more and bring about important growth. It is hoped that the students involved will translate this project into future endeavours in the community and promote change in the entire county.
We work and play daily next to the mighty Petitcodiac River. The environment has always been on the forefront of our minds. From the second floor of the school, you can see the Kent Wind Farm on a clear day. We are essentially surrounded by sources of alternative energy, yet our school seems stuck in many traditional ways. We wanted to dive deeper into our own climate pawprint as CRHS Tigers and examine our practices to make them more sustainable.
In teams of students, we analyzed 4 systems at work. One team studied our garbage waste system where blue bags and green bags are employed in every classroom. Another team studied the water waste at CRHS comparing the flow of modern time release taps and standard taps in the washrooms. Another team studied the temperatures throughout the building using temperature sensors and averaging several days’ measurements. Our final team studied our power consumption to determine if there were ways that we could reduce our energy draw without impacting our operations.
The garbage systems team of students discovered that despite every classroom sorting waste into blue and green bags, 100% of both bags ends up in landfill. This was a significant discovery confirmed by Eco 360. For nearly a decade we have been thinking that we are sorting trash and saving the environment but, every ounce has found its way into our landfills. Our students not only discovered this reality but took steps to immediately improve the system.
The water systems team of students discovered that traditional taps use about one liter more of fresh water per handwashing compared with the time release taps. They calculated that over the course of a school year the wasted fresh-water just from washing hands would fill a traditional in-ground swimming pool. They took immediate steps to correct this reality at our school.
The heat systems team learned that even though we have a wood pellet heating system it hasn’t worked for years. We are still 100% dependent on oil to heat our school and it costs a tremendous amount of money to do so. They found zones in our school heated well above the comfortable level for learning. They also found some cooler spots like the gymnasium, but that made sense because you don’t want a hot gym. They too took immediate steps to change our heating systems for the better.
The team of students studying energy found a key problem that they could quickly address. The school’s roughly 50 computers are left running 24/7 when they are only really used by students 5 hours a day. The extra power drawn was determined using power meters and when calculating the price, it was determined there were thousands of dollars to be saved just by tweaking Microsoft Windows’ settings. This team as well took steps to immediately change this reality and make the power consumption more sustainable.
Students couldn’t believe the improvement potential that was in their own school when it came to our practices and our systems. It empowered them to know they could make real change and this experience will encourage them to spot and implement needed changes in their community as well. For many of these students, the applied science and wellness nature of this activity was the most engaging education they’ve had in years. They presented their findings to the school principal and other partners and their suggestions will be shared in the Impact Measures of this report.
Reflection & Celebration
At CRHS our goal was to improve our school’s climate footprint. Teams of students spent time examining our systems and formulating plans for improvement. Here is an account of the success our teams had this school year.
The Waste Management Team students were able to determine that all of our trash, despite being bagged differently, ends up in our landfill. They captured evidence of the garbage truck depositing both bags into a single bin and crushing it all together. Later, they interviewed a representative at Eco 360 who confirmed without a doubt, what they had seen was standard practice for our school and that all waste goes to the landfill with zero recycling happening. The students working with Eco 360 then determined a path forward to enable some recycling to happen. They determined that if the school switches to a blue and clear bag system recycling can commence. The students invited the school principal to a presentation where they encouraged her to lead the school in this direction with future garbage bag supplies. Also of note, the use of paper at CRHS is quite high and students placed signage above the staff photocopier to proactively reduce the number of copy jobs annually. The signs had simple slogans such as “Could this have been a digital assignment?” and “Did you use double sided printing?”
The Water Management Team determined that using the traditional water taps instead of timed taps uses one liter of water more per handwashing. They then did simple calculations to determine that over the course of the year, the wasted fresh water could fill a swimming pool. They reached out to the school district and found that the timed taps cost $250 per sink to install. They also encouraged district to use these timed taps, or motion activated taps on all future upgrades. Toilet were already at their water saving capacity. Living next to a mighty river gave the students extra pride in their mission to reduce fresh-water waste in our school. This was a strong start.
The Heat Management Team determined that the building has a variety of temperature zones. Classrooms were on the hotter than acceptable side and students encouraged the custodial staff to try and reduce the heat in classrooms during the winter months. It seems most teachers would just open windows and let the heat out if it got too hot in the classrooms. They also spoke to the student council about hosting “sweater days” at school where the heat would be lowered on purpose those days. They encouraged admin staff to push for the pellet heating source to finally take over for burning oil too.
Finally, the Power Management Team requested an update to the school’s computer systems this summer that would essentially shut the computers down at 4pm daily and only turn on when students use was needed. This is not only a significant way to save money but also a huge contribution to lowering the school’s climate footprint. Computers that would run 24/7 before may now find themselves only on for 4-5 hours per day or per week in some cases. Now power is being consumed ONLY when there is a student need for the computer. All the school’s lights have been upgraded to power saving versions so the digital technology seemed to be the last area to explore for power savings.
In the end massive recommendations were made to all levels of the school district based on real science using real science tools. Presentations focused on what was studied, found, and possible fixes with supporting costs. This was real science with real purpose. We took an opportunity as lead educators at the final presentations to meet with the students and discuss if we were to offer a similar opportunity next year what the focus should be on and why? They unanimously supported more action and impact. They said it was great to identify problems and suggest solutions but it was left to others to complete.