Schools are fertile ground for growing environmental stewardship. How do we measure the results and continue to drive momentum?
Ontario EcoSchools program is changing the way our schools think and behave. The program works within a framework of six certification sections that operate in tandem for becoming an EcoSchool. The sections are: teamwork and leadership, energy conservation, waste minimization, school ground greening, curriculum that integrates environmental learning, and environmental stewardship.
With Ministry of Energy funding, in 2016 EcoSchools hired third-party consultants to assess two sections of the EcoSchools certification program to find out if certified EcoSchools perform better on waste minimization and energy conservation. Enerlife was asked to compare the EcoSchools scores for certified schools with the school board energy data that we have been analyzing and reporting on over the years through Toronto and Region Conservation’s Sustainable Schools program. EcoSchools has now published our Energy Performance Study final report. (Read more about EcoSchools’ research and publications.)
One important conclusion? Least energy efficient schools are found in the group of schools that do not participate in the EcoSchools Program.
Significantly, certified EcoSchools and non-EcoSchools were not substantially different enough for energy efficiency to be attributed to school-wide energy conservation efforts through participation in the Ontario EcoSchools program. This finding suggests that there is great potential for all school stakeholders to become involved in energy conservation initiatives to produce measurable results in the future.
Whether school boards are buying into one or all of the certification sections, their participation in the program has an impact. We’re seeing a shift in behaviour and culture within school boards towards initiatives that benefit the larger community and embed the idea of sustainability in our youngest minds. This is one report card we can all be proud of.