Students from various grades of St. Ambrose Catholic School show off their "litterless lunches", highlighted as part of Earth Hour 2012. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Earth Hour in Toronto's Catholic schools

  • April 3, 2012

TORONTO - It may have been lights out for an hour at 95 Toronto Catholic schools during Earth Hour on March 30, but St. Ambrose Catholic School went three steps further by encouraging students to participate in the morning announcements, bring a littlerless lunch and dress in black.

“This year we are focusing on the theme of 60-plus, going beyond just Earth Hour,” said Kathleen Sztuka, Grade 4-5 teacher and school science representative. “We see the awareness of the kids growing.” 

Sztuka, a 20-year educator, organized this year’s event and wanted to do more than simply flick a switch, which she did note is the equivalent of removing 43,000 cars from the road for an hour when done collectively. Making students stand out was the thinking behind ditching the school uniform for funeral wear.

“It’s symbolic. We are doing it to make a statement that we care about the planet,” said Sztuka.

Sztuka also spearheaded the litterless lunch concept, which she said half her students already do daily. To qualify as litterless all lunch items had to be recyclable, decomposable or reusable. After the data is collected, she plans to present a report to her students on how much energy was saved during Earth Hour.

Angelica is one student who has taken the message to where the heart is — home.

“I tell my parents about recycling. They don’t really care as much but I force them to do it,” said Angelica.  “Recycling and all these Earth Hour things weren’t really as important when our parents were young.”

Her commitment to the environment was noticeable by her completely litterless lunch, which she not only brings regularly but also personally packs. She said her parents know the importance of ecology but they don’t try as hard as she does.

It was exposure to Earth Hour a few years ago that inspired her to change.

“Knowing that this day can make a change inspires you to make more changes for your everyday life and to think more about the Earth and not yourself,” she said.

One successful day of conservation isn’t enough for Sztuka. She plans to organize a week-long litterless lunch event to give students a visual of how much garbage they can keep out of the trash.

“We have to try showing them more tangibly how it’s helping.”

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