Head’s Blog: Environmental Engagement

Child_Wading_FloodOur student Green Team volunteers and a handful of other students are LCC’s “eco-warriors” who are active in considering new ways to educate, support, and advocate for our environment. Despite their efforts and a strong commitment from school administration, I am still concerned about awareness and ownership of environmental issues across our broader school community.

I write this as thousands of people in our city are out of their homes due to catastrophic flooding. Two years ago, major floods were called “once-in-a-century floods”. Unfortunately, they happened again. It can be very tough for young people to process the many elements of climate change. Many people, young and old, think they can have little real impact. I believe that none of us should sit on the sidelines; we should all consider how we can play a part in protecting our environment.

LCC has taken a lot of steps in recent years, but we cannot rest on our laurels and should do more. These are some environmental initiatives undertaken at the school:

Between 2005 and 2010, we started a student Green Team, introduced recycling in a systematic way and addressed a number of costly campus infrastructure issues, replacing inefficient furnaces, ventilation systems and energy-wasting lighting. We also constructed Montreal’s most energy efficient arena in 2008, using an efficient ice-making system called ECO CHILL. That building is LEED Silver Certified (highly sustainable standards). In 2009, we made the environment one of the seven key pillars of our school’s Strategic Plan.

After 2010, our Board of Governors adopted and published a Sustainability Commitment, and we have continued to improve our facilities with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. This was reflected in the renovation of our science wing in summer of 2010 and construction of the LEED Gold Certified Assaly Arts Centre in 2013. It has many sustainable attributes, including geothermal heating. During those years, an active staff Sustainability Committee and an LCC Parent Environmental Committee also worked on promoting sustainability practices in day-to-day school life.

We have replaced washroom taps with automatic units and installed low-flow urinals. We purchase only sustainably-sourced paper, introduced composting in our food service operations and LCC was twice named one of Canada’s Top 100 Green Employers. All along the way, teachers at all levels have considered ways to focus on the teaching and learning about the environment in our curriculum.

Beyond our committed eco-warriors, I still think we can do better by giving environmental education and sustainability a higher profile. In all fairness, many students and adults are not sure what they can do to help, either at school or at home.

Despite Canada’s small population and vast open spaces, we do not have an admirable track record on a host of environmental benchmarks. We are signatories to the 2015 Paris Accord on reducing harmful emissions, yet each Canadian produces 22 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year. That is the highest among all G20 countries and nearly three times the G20 average of eight tonnes per person.

I am pleased that the world has been effectively nudged by the work of many young environmental activists. Notably, 16-year-old Swedish Nobel nominee Greta Thunberg has presented a powerful call-to-action to youth globally. Her message and her passion for this cause are impressive. She reminds all adults that in many ways we have failed this young generation, and now it is time to pull together and act on behalf of Mother Earth.

In an effort to raise the bar on environmental issues, LCC recently joined a new Environmental Steering Committee of a few CAIS schools. We are working together to set higher standards and benchmarks and hopefully impact all of our nearly 100 CAIS schools across the county.

I invite all students to sit up, listen and take notice. How do we share ideas for improvement within our school and with other CAIS schools? I asked them to channel their thoughts through our advisory groups, Green Team or Student Council. Most importantly, let’s consider how we translate our ideas into action. This is a whole-school initiative that could have long-term impact.

To paraphrase American writer H. Jackson Brown from his NYT bestseller Life’s Little Instruction Book, 20 years from now our students will be more disappointed by the things that they didn’t do than by the ones they did. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Environment Week Sets Stage for Sustainable Practice

Blg_EarthWeek_TomatoPlant_10May2012LCC celebrated “Environment Week” in late April. Thanks to all the hard work and dedication by our green team members, the week was very successful. We had a fun cook off, planted tomatoes, had a green café with cupcakes and pastries, and even a trash art display. Thank you to all that participated in the activities and to those who wore green on Wednesday. We hope you all had a great earth week, and that the enthusiasm you all showed will continue throughout the rest of the year.

As mentioned during the assembly, we have created a recycling bin for electronics. There are four bins, such as phones, batteries, ink cartridges etc. If everyone would bring one thing that could fit into one of these categories, it would really make a difference. The recycling company that collects these has agreed to donate the money to MIRA, which works to help disabled individuals lead their lives independently as functioning members of society. They do this by providing dogs bred and trained to respond to their adaptation and rehabilitation needs. They need as much money as possible, considering they provide these services free of charge. Please bring in what you can, and again thank you for such a successful week! —Kelsey Wiseman ’13

A Balancing Act for the Environment

SpeakforthetreesOn October 1, a handful of Green Team students and I had a wonderful day helping the environment. How did we help the environment? We spent the day at Mount Royal at a “Speak for the Trees” workshop.

The day started with an introduction to two grassroots organizations Roots and Shoots and Evergreen. Then we were engaged in activities that focused on eco-systems. We learned that when one species or habitat of the eco-systems dies or is harmed it affects all members and leads to unforeseen complications. We then got together in our school groups and brainstormed ideas of the kind of changes we wanted to make throughout the school that would benefit the LCC community and make us more eco-friendly. One of our ideas was to help create a student lounge that would serve local and fair-trade produce, house a recycling/composting centre and have posters that would encourage “Green” thinking. All schools got a chance to present their ideas. After lunch we got down to business. We had two outdoor activities that connected with the balancing of the eco-system. We helped to get rid of the invasive buckthorn plant, and we planted wild raspberries with the aim to introduce native species to the mountain. –Claire Greenbaum ’13

The “Corvée du Mont-Royal” and the “Castor Humain”

CorveeThe Corvée du Mont-Royal is an annual event put on by Les Amis de la montagne where groups of people help beautify the mountain by picking-up garbage and planting new trees. On May 2nd, a few students from our Green Team got involved.

The instructions were simple: pick up garbage and, for safety reasons, dismantle campfire pits and shelters. Temporary shelters or lean-tos, right? Not so. These shelters were intricate winter homes made from twigs, tree trunks, and other foliage. They were constructions made by “des castors humains,” as our guide stated.

The shelter that we happened upon had two rooms; crawling space only. This shelter was built for real survival purposes and not some “survival in the woods” contest. Supposedly, the mountain is home to many homeless in the winter time. So, why was I helping to dismantle someone’s home? We were told that it was for safety reasons since the occupants leave their homes in the spring and the unoccupied “shelters” can then be ill-used by others (e.g., the building of bonfires).

The spot was marked for another team to finish the “clean-up.” As we were leaving a heavily laden man was approaching the shelter. He stopped and stared at us. Not a word was spoken. Obviously, this homeless person was not ready to leave his winter home just yet…

The Corvée du Mont-Royal will become one of the Green Team’s regular annual events. We hope you can join us next year. —Vilma Scattolin, Faculty Advisor to the Green team

Earth Week: Biodiversity – “We are the World” (April 19-23)

EarthWeek2010It was an interesting experience to brainstorm with the Green Team on biodiversity –this year’s theme for Earth Week. Most of the websites that we researched revealed how important biodiversity is for humans since the many living beings on our earth allow us to obtain food, shelter, medicine, leisure, etc.

What’s wrong with this picture? As humans we are one among millions of species that exist on Earth. We are not the most significant part, yet we have a very egocentric idea of our place on our planet. True we depend on other species for our survival, so shouldn’t other species depend on us for their survival? We need to start looking beyond our own concerns and look at the world around us as full of energy, beauty and strength; characteristics that we should be incorporating in our own beings.

Our chosen theme of “We are the World” stresses how we can make a difference in the world not only in terms of caring for fauna and flora, but also with a concern for social justice.

We have a number of fundraisers set for Earth week in hopes not only to raise money for important causes, but also to raise awareness.

EarthWeek2010_ChildWorldWe will hold a raffle for a metal wall decor, which was made by an artist from Haiti entitled “children of the world.” Tickets will be available at the Front Office and proceeds will go toward relief efforts for Haiti.

EarthWeek2010_GreenGenTshirtsWe will sell “Green Generation” T-shirts with the slogan: “Reuse the Past, Recycle the Present, Save the Future,” written on the back. The money raised will be given to our local SPCA.

EarthWeek2010_TapWaterAidWe will have a “Fill the Water Jug with Coins” campaign to raise money to buy a gift from Water-Aid, such as a water pump, that will help a third world community obtain access to safe water.

We hope that you will be part of our celebration!

–Vilma Scattolin (Faculty Advisor) & the LCC Student Green Team