Rainbow District School Board declared a climate change emergency and made a commitment to have all of its schools EcoSchools Canada Certified by 2022. As the school year draws to a close, EcoSchools Canada has officially confirmed that the mission has been accomplished. RDSB is one of only two school boards in Canada to have achieved this distinction in the 2021-2022 school year.

“Achieving 100% EcoSchools certification is a very significant achievement for a school board,” said EcoSchools Canada Program Manager Clara Luke. “Being a certified EcoSchool means that a school is committed to environmental sustainability and climate action. For an entire school board to have this commitment from all of its schools signals that there has been a concerted effort to take environmental action and that the support for this important work spans the school community, and beyond - including students, teachers, school administrators, custodial staff, support staff, school board administrators and trustee leadership … We extend a huge congratulations to all Rainbow Schools and all members of their school communities who worked so hard during another challenging year to prioritize climate action and sustainability.”

From Thursday’s press release, by the numbers, Rainbow Schools earned 11 Bronze certifications, 7 Silver, 13 Gold, 11 Platinum and 1 Remote/Virtual School certification in the 2021-2022 school year. According to EcoSchools Canada, any level of certification is an achievement to be proud of. Certifications recognize achievements in key areas including ecological literacy, energy conservation, environmental stewardship and waste minimization. This indicates that schools are taking action on climate change while empowering students to make climate-conscious decisions in their daily lives, and to share these learnings with their families and communities.

Environmental Education and Sustainability is a priority embedded in RDSB’s Strategic Directions for 2022 to 2027 and the EcoSchools commitment is the cornerstone of the Board’s Climate Change Action Plan.

“Our schools have demonstrated that the smallest of changes can have profound impacts,” said Director of Education Bruce Bourget. “Students are adopting the values and behaviours required to achieve sustainability, transferring what they are learning in the classroom into their homes and into their communities. This generation is leading the way, paving the path forward for those who will follow in their footsteps.”

“On behalf of the Board, I commend all schools for their outstanding achievement,” said Chair Bob Clement. “As we celebrate the happy outcome, we can all be proud that we have made a difference. More importantly, we have instilled in students and the school communities that we serve eco-friendly practices that will last a lifetime.”

Environmental actions that occurred in Rainbow Schools included Earth Day, community clean-ups, waste-free lunch days, indoor gardening and pollinator gardens. Schools went beyond traditional environmental practices and found creative ways to make a difference.

The significance of these achievements, however, is best reflected in the overall impact these environmental efforts have on the planet by supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This school year Over 800 kilograms of waste was diverted from landfill and over 40 tons of CO2 emissions reduced from school ground greening activities and 1828 waste-free lunches were packed and taken to school.

Monthly environmental challenges proved to be an effective way to broaden the scope of environmental action and continuing education. In the RDSB these challenges included an Indigenous component, through an “Anishinaabe” perspective, students have the opportunity to experience and understand profound customs and teachings to place an even greater value on the protection of our planet, our home, Mother Earth “Shkagamikwe”. Eco-Challenges for 2021-2022 included Waste Reduction Week, World Turtle Day, World Fisheries Day, Youth Climate Action Day, Seed Swap Day and Clean Air Day.