Earth Day offers opportunity to pursue sustainable developmentApril 25, 2022 News Story
Students across WSD are tackling environmental projects and encouraging others to do their part to create a more sustainable planet as part of Earth Day 2022.
Earth Day, which is internationally recognized on April 22, coincides with a week of environmentally-focused activities. The goal of the annual event (which was first celebrated in 1970) is to encourage people and organizations to reduce their environmental impact.
While Earth Day has great meaning for both students and staff, schools are busy year-round with sustainable development initiatives.
At École River Heights School, students are using their voices to create awareness and make an impact at the school, community and global level.
River Heights’ sustainable development team has been dubbed Team 17. The 20-student group follows and works to implement the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The goals are simple yet can have massive global implications. For example, Goal 1 is “no poverty,” while Goal 6 is “clean water and sanitation.” While these are formidable goals to achieve, they can be worked on in small increments every day.
"With the 17 goals, it's about acting locally but thinking globally, doing things to support each other and care about the Earth," said Amanda Tétrault, an Inclusive Education Resource Teacher at River Heights and a staff liaison for Team 17.
Some Team 17 initiatives are special events meant to create awareness, while others take place daily.
"Today, we have turned the lights off for the entire day,” said student and Team 17 member Parc, referring to one of the school’s Earth Week activities.
Parc added that Team 17 also composts on a daily basis: “During lunch, we take compostable bags and go around to classrooms to collect anything compostable.”
"We also encourage people to have litterless lunches,” said student Lucy Johnson.
While the changes we make today may seem to have a small impact individually, they send a strong message about the weight of collective action.
"The students can see that little changes make a difference. It's a lot about choice. Before anything else, it's about re-thinking what we do and our purchases," Tétrault said.
Sustainable development not only promotes environmental practices, it also has a humanitarian component. For example, River Heights students are planning initiatives that will support Ukrainian refugees.
"Earth Day isn't just about the planet's soil and water, it's about the people that live here too," Tétrault said.
The teacher added that it was important for Team 17 to continue to be student-driven.
“The most important thing is to allow students to follow their passions and what they believe in,” she said. “They are leading and I facilitate.”