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Seventeen schools qualify as EcoSchools (3 photos)

Students and staff worked together to gain certification

THUNDER BAY — Schools in Thunder Bay and several other regional school systems have won certification under the Ontario EcoSchools program.

The program recognizes schools that successfully involve students and staff in energy conservation and waste reduction programs.

Over the past year, 17 schools in the northwest achieved certification under a partnership between Ontario EcoSchools and the Thunder Bay-based non-profit EcoSuperior Environmental Programs.

Participating boards included the Lakehead District public board, the Thunder Bay Catholic board, the Superior Greenstone board and the Keewatin Patricia board.

EcoSuperior's Erin Moir served as outreach coordinator, and says she was impressed with the response.

"The energy that students and staff put into building environmental awareness and behaviour change is incredible. The ripple effects of classroom and school-wide achievements are far reaching, often leaving an impact on the whole community," Moir said.

A news release Monday outlined some program highlights.

At Thunder Bay's Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate, a team of five students led the development of a vermicompost (composting with worms) collection system and a "living green wall" which students researched and built themselves.

At St. Elizabeth School in Thunder Bay, a team created an "energy hog" award that discouraged classes from leaving the lights on when the classroom was unoccupied. By the end of the school year, it was hard to find a classroom that qualified for the award.

In Manitouwadge, students developed a recycling plan, even though there is no municipal recycling program. In addition, starting this September, teachers will collect recycling from the school and drive it to a Thunder Bay recycling depot when it is convenient.

According to a 2017 report, three of the top energy-performing school boards in Ontario were located in the northwest.

They were the Superior-Greenstone board, the Northwest Catholic board, and the Kenora Catholic board.