From Gold to Platinum

Jenna Roher


I participated in the NTCI Leadership Retreat in Orillia from October 12 to October 14. Mr. Nicolet, the teacher advisor of the NEAT club at North Toronto, led a discussion regarding the NEAT club. Topics included what it means to be eco-friendly, the importance of being aware of taking care of the environment, and to especially consider and be proactive towards being eco responsible at our school.

Our school is a gold eco-rated school. Our goal for this school year is to move our eco rating to the platinum level! We are fortunate to be in a brand new building and to have a field and we must maintain an eco-friendly approach to preserve these facilities. With our great facilities, we have an amazing opportunity to reach our goal.

It isn’t that easy though. Everyone must step in and contribute. It has to be the whole NT population who comes together to make this happen. This means, reducing our waste and disposing the waste we create properly.

During a discussion, we made a mind map of the word waste. “Waste” was drawn in the middle of a page and related words were drawn around it. Some of the words we brainstormed were: disposal, resources, plastic, Styrofoam, damaging, careless people, landfills, wasted energy, etc.

Through this exercise, we learned the significance of this one word. Waste takes different forms. We learned how people needlessly produce a great amount of waste. We, as NTCI students, are fortunate to be able to take advantage of the school’s resources and must ensure we limit our waste.

As a school, we could reduce our waste in many ways. Everyone has lunch, either at school, or off the property. Approximately 1000 students per day are bringing packed lunches or are going to nearby restaurants. Students must be careful to reduce waste when packing their lunches and when buying lunches. For example: it is easy and eco-friendly to use a reusable container. They save you money since you don’t have to buy plastic bags and also reduce waste for our school! Another way to be eco-friendly is to use recycled paper for taking notes. Teachers can also reduce the handouts and put more materials online, which will decrease the amount of paper being used.

The NEAT club did a project where it gathered garbage from outside the school, in classrooms, and in the cafeteria. The results were surprising. Firstly, the majority of the garbage could have been recyclable, or could have been composted. They took a picture of all the food that wasn’t eaten and thrown out. This included, a perfect peach, a wrapped sandwich, a water bottle, a juice box  after the discussion. It included two full containers of New York Fries and many other fully consumable foods. This was disgusting to watch, as there are homeless people in the school’s area who would greatly appreciate any of that food.

We had the opportunity to go through a garbage can and experienced a similar feeling to that of the NEAT club. At first, I just watched some of the grade 12 students in my group sorting through the garbage. I soon realized that I wasn’t entirely clear on what was or wasn’t recyclable. I was amazed to learn that Starbucks and Second Cup coffee cups are not recyclable! They have an interior plastic lining to prevent liquid from leaking. Therefore the cups are considered garbage and not recyclable. The only cups that are recyclable are Tim Horton’s coffee cups only if you recycle them at their stores. Recycling is a big factor when dealing with an eco-responsible society. Other items we found included CD ROMs, plastic bags, paper, etc. These items are reusable.

There are four groups of waste items: recyclable (blue or green bin), garbage, reusable, or compost. Read the labels on your items and on the bins to ensure you are limiting your ecological footprint.

We will be receiving new composts to NT. They will be placed in certain classrooms where you will be able to deposit your food waste in the compost bins and watch the worms eat it away! This would be eliminating a boundary to reduce food waste. There are a few boundaries that are limiting our school to become a platinum eco-school including negative habits when depositing our waste, teachers and students who do not care, laziness, limited recycling and limited garbage bins.

At North Toronto, students have to be more aware of their actions. If each person communicates with one other person in the school and at home about the importance of being eco-friendly, we could spread the news quickly through our school and community! We can learn to recycle and compost to become an eco-responsible society. If we all work diligently, we can achieve our goal and become a PLATINUM rated school! Come on NT! We can do it!