St. Stephen’s aims for zero waste

By 
  • August 27, 2007

{mosimage}TORONTO - Wearing plastic gloves, Carolyn Tran remembers rooting through her school’s garbage with her classmates taking an inventory of all the discarded recyclables.

“We saw there was a lot of fruit that people throw out,” said Tran, a Grade 8 student at Toronto’s St. Stephen’s Catholic School. The 13-year-old hopes to look into a composting system for this upcoming school year.

Because Tran went the extra green mile last year she has been selected to attend the Canadian Stewardship Conference in Vancouver Sept. 12-15 with her classmate Shade Hudson and vice-principal Roy Fernandes.

“I just want to learn more stuff about the environment, so I can bring it back to the school, and even bring the knowledge home,” said Tran.

Last year St. Stephen’s was one of seven schools across Canada recognized by the Youth Eco-Parliament for its zero waste campaign where students learned the importance of reducing waste. The Youth Eco-Parliament is a national program that promotes the concept of the ecological footprint.

{sidebar id=1}“When you talk about snack food, waste free lunches, it’s easy to bring it into their consciousness. Just showing them the waste in their garbage can,” said Fernandes, who led the initiative.

Twenty St. Stephen’s students joined the campaign as an extracurricular activity.

They designed a web site, performed an eco-play for eight schools and co-ordinated a zero- waste conference at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

The students wrote letters to politicians and companies lobbying for better environmental practices. They sent letters to Master’s Choice Tea asking the company to remove the outer layer of plastic from its product. The company responded in kind and sent a letter back to the class with the product and its new packaging.

“It made me feel better because I’m helping the earth and now it’s going to be around longer,” said Annessa Brijmohan, a Grade 8 student.

Fernandes said while Master’s Choice Tea and a few politicians did respond to them they didn’t hear back from several others. And while they sent out dozens of media requests to cover the initiative, only CBC Radio and Salt + Light Television interviewed the students.

“Our biggest challenge is to get these groups on board and listen to what these kids have to say,” said Fernandes.

To start the school year Fernandes will relocate to St. Timothy’s Catholic School, which Tran said will makes things a lot harder to do. But she hopes to continue where she and her classmates left off last year.

“There’s a lot of students in our school who probably don’t really care or want to learn so it will be hard to get through to them,” said Tran.

Her solution is to keep pushing recycling with announcements and posters and with the influence of friends telling them to do it.

“I think that every little thing you do matters. Just use one water bottle. Use a recyclable lunch container. When you go to the grocery store use cloth bags. Even turning off one light bulb — it can make a difference.”

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