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Chemainus secondary students looking for zero

Chemainus Secondary School Green Team members Mackey Singh, Aislinn Cottell, Rachel Bocking, Kayla Carlson, Chelsea Quist, Claire Saunders, Rachel Boudreau and Victoria Morgan are pushing hard to get their school to zero-waste status. - courtesy Chemainus Secondary
Chemainus Secondary School Green Team members Mackey Singh, Aislinn Cottell, Rachel Bocking, Kayla Carlson, Chelsea Quist, Claire Saunders, Rachel Boudreau and Victoria Morgan are pushing hard to get their school to zero-waste status.
— image credit: courtesy Chemainus Secondary

When Duncan Councillor Michelle Staples was presenting an environment outreach program to kids in schools last spring, she became aware they wanted to do more than learn about what to recycle.

“I was delivering a workshop to the Chemainus Secondary Green Team group. One of the things I realized quickly was these kids were educated about what to do,” she said. “They know to turn off the lights. They understand organic composting. What they are interested is in action.”

The Green Team has since set a goal to make Chemainus Secondary a zero-waste school. This means the school will divert all its waste to organic composting and recycling and not send anything to the landfill.

Staples said the project is in its infancy — the school district will hear about it this week — but the kids have already influenced change. The Green Team has developed a zero-waste action plan for the school.

One of its first tasks was to attend a North Cowichan council meeting to request council pay to pick up the school’s organic waste. Council agreed.

Staples said learning how to work with government and follow a process is an important part of the kids’ education.

“For the council meeting they all dressed in business-type clothes. We talked about how important that is. If you’re going to go in there, you have to leave your blue jeans behind. Show them you’re committed to doing this. How often do we hear our leaders say ‘The children are the voices of the future?’ It’s our responsibility to support that.”

The next goal the Green Team has set for itself is to take its action plan to the district level. With support and guidance from a group of mentors Staples gathered, the kids are creating a district-wide zero-waste model based on the data they collect at Chemainus Secondary. The goal is for other schools in the district to apply this model using its own data gathered from zero-waste audits performed by Staples and the Cowichan Green Community.

Staples anticipates schools in the district could be zero waste as soon as next fall if the district supports the program financially.

“The school district will ideally find funding to supply the schools with what they need to do this. By next year, they could have a zero-waste school district. Everyone is ready for this.”

Staples said the kids spearheading the change is making the difference.

“That’s the beauty in this. It’s coming from the kids.”

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