Rainbow School Board one of two in Canada to be EcoCertified

Manitoulin Secondary School boasts a greenhouse to hone students’ green thumbs.

RAINBOW DISTRICT—The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) has reached its goal of having all of its schools 100 percent EcoSchools Canada certified by 2022.

“Eco Schools Canada has confirmed that all our schools within the board are certified,” stated Bruce Bourget, director of education for RDSB at a board meeting last week. “Our board is only one of two boards in Canada that has received this certification.”

“Achieving 100 percent EcoSchools certification is a very significant achievement for a school board,” said EcoSchools Canada Program Manager Clara Luke. “Being a certified EcoSchool means that a school is committed to environmental sustainability and climate action. For an entire school board to have this commitment from all of its schools signals that there has been a concerted effort to take environmental action and that the support for this important work spans the school community, and beyond, including students, teachers, school administrators, custodial staff, support staff, school board administrators and trustee leadership.”

“We extend a huge congratulations to all Rainbow Schools and all members of their school communities who worked so hard during another challenging year to prioritize climate action and sustainability,” said Ms. Luke.

Mr. Bourget told board members that the board had received this good news from EcoSchools Canada on June 22. He noted that, within the RDSB, 11 schools have attained the EcoSchools Canada platinum certification (the highest level that can be achieved), with 11 attaining bronze level, seven silver, 13 achieving gold and one remote virtual school certification in the 2021-2022 school year.

On Manitoulin Island, Manitoulin Secondary School (M’Chigeeng) and Central Manitoulin Public School (Mindemoya) have both attained platinum certification, while Assiginack Public School (Manitowaning) and Charles C. McLean Public School (Gore Bay) have attained gold. Little Current Public School has garnered bronze.

According to EcoSchools Canada, any level of certification is an achievement to be proud of. It indicates that a school is taking action on climate change while empowering students to make climate-conscious decisions in their daily lives, and to share these learnings with their families and communities.

The significance of the certification, however, is best reflected in the overall impact these environmental efforts have on the planet by supporting the United Nations sustainable development goals; 815 kilograms of waste diverted from landfill and 41 tons of C02 emissions reduced from school ground greening activities, Mr. Bourget told the board. “In addition, 13 schools participated in actions related to  water conservation, 281 classrooms had their energy efficiency optimized and 1,828 waste-free lunches were packed and taken to school.” Rainbow schools promoted responsible consumption and production, climate action, clean water and sanitization, affordable and clean energy and sustainable cities and communities.

The top 10 environment actions that occurred in Rainbow Schools (in reverse order), include indoor gardening and greenhouses, pollinator gardens, National Sweater Day, Take Me Outside Day, switch off lights and devices, Earth Day, community clean-up, waste-free lunch, good on one side paper and, ranked number one, create your own action. Schools went beyond traditional environmental practices and found creative ways to make a difference.

When RDSB declared a climate change emergency in 2018, a commitment was made to have all of its schools EcoSchools Canada Certified by 2022.

“On behalf of the board, I commend all schools for their outstanding achievement,” said board chair Bob Clement. “The board made the commitment, schools embraced the challenge and student and staff worked with purpose and with passion to achieve their goals.”

 “As we celebrate the happy outcome, we can all be proud that we have made a difference. More importantly, we have instilled in students and the school communities that we serve eco-friendly practices that will last a lifetime,” said Mr. Clement.

“I would like to congratulate all our schools, staff members, administration and students,” said Mr. Bourget. “The (RDSB) made a commitment and the schools, staff and, especially the students, made it happen.”

“With our ongoing focus on sustainability, our schools have reduced their carbon footprints,” said Mr. Bourget who praised the board’s environmental education committee for its leadership and all schools for their stewardship.

“Our schools have demonstrated that the smallest of changes can have profound impacts,” said Mr. Bourget. “Students are adopting the values and behaviours required to achieve sustainability, transferring what they are learning in the classroom into their homes and into their communities. This generation is leading the way, paving the path forward for those who will follow in their footsteps.”

The EcoSchools commitment is the cornerstone of the board’s climate change action plan. Guided by five key principles: promotion of global stewardship through EcoSchools Canada certification practices,  inclusive of Indigenous perspectives, evidence based and data driven initiatives, supporting educators with knowledge and resources, (and working closely with community parents-the plan aims to raise student, educator, staff and parent awareness of environmentally responsible practices), embed eco policies within the board’s strategic planning supporting, supporting sustainability and establishing environmental leadership groups to empower others to act as responsible environmental citizens.

Certification recognizes achievement in six key areas: ecological literacy, energy conservation, environmental stewardship, school ground greening, teamwork and leadership, and waste minimization. The certification standards align directly with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, making the program an excellent tool for tracking progress. It was estimated that having all Rainbow schools certified has the potential to save 916 tonnes of CO2 emissions in this school year alone.