Regina school’s award-winning ‘Green Team’ continues work within pandemic rules

While extra-curricular activities are on pause, a Regina elementary school is finding ways to carry on the efforts of its award-winning environmental club.

Since 2018, members of the Douglas Park School Green Team have worked to educate fellow students — and teachers — about what and how to recycle.

In that time, the group has managed to divert more than 4,000 pounds of recyclable plastic from the school’s garbage.

“Everyone here is very into helping the environment,” said Grade 6 student Erika Emile, who has been involved since the start.

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“They’re not just here because of the stuff we get to do, they’re here because they actually want to help.”

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That dedication earned the group a 2019 waste minimization award this summer from the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic robbing students of an official awards ceremony, members were optimistic new restrictions won’t cancel their club completely.

“I’m really proud of the Green Team and I hope that when the Grade 7 (students) leave for high school, more kids can join it,” said Abby Tetlow, who is in her final year.

In August, the student-led Douglas Park Green Team won a 2019 waste minimizing award from the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council
In August, the student-led Douglas Park Green Team won a 2019 waste minimizing award from the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council. Daniella Ponticelli / Global News

Before the pandemic put all extra-curricular activities on hold in Regina, the team dedicated lunch hours to meetings and recesses to action.

“Every 2:15 p.m. recess some of our members would have gathered to collect all the recycling in the school and they’d sort it and wash it,” said teacher Lindsay Geiss, who is one of the coordinators.

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Geiss said there are still some Green Team activities planned this year, however, these need to take place during school hours.

The group plans to have pairs from the same cohort collect recycling, and share sustainability tips over morning announcements.

“We’re very lucky that these senior members of the Green Team are very motivated and very passionate about protecting the earth and sustainability,” Geiss said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, pairs from the same cohort may collect recycling during school hours
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pairs from the same cohort may collect recycling during school hours. Lindsay Geiss / Submitted

The idea for the team evolved from a school project, in which students identified a need to enhance recycling efforts and education. From there, parent volunteer Allison Tetlow got involved.

“I love that they are creating this amazing legacy, They’re going to have this passion for saving the environment and it’s going to be life-long,” said Tetlow, whose three daughters are part of the team.

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“They’re going to spread the awareness and they’re going to be the ones that will change the world.”

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In its first year, 20 students focused their efforts on keeping common single-use plastics, mostly used in lunches, out of the garbage.

They soon found that students weren’t the only ones throwing out recycling.

“Our staff room garbage bin and recycling bin were not properly done in the past, so we’ve really tried to educate in the staff room as well,” Geiss said, adding the team created informative posters for the lounge.

Read more: COMMENTARY: Sustainability thrives at tackling environmental crises, post pandemic

Last school year, the team created YouTube videos showing how to identify and properly clean juice boxes. They followed up with a public service announcement on how to conserve water when doing this.

On Wednesday, a few members of the team donned masks and gloves for a quick school yard clean-up — an activity they used to do together.

“The thing I enjoy most is that we get to help the community and at the same time, we get to do it together,” Emil said.

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“It’s always a bit easier when we’re just doing it as a community instead of just one person.”

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