Youth

Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

greencommunitingchallenge.png

Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

Captain Nichola Goddard School in northwest Calgary was built for grades 5 to 9 as a community school, meaning that none of its students had to bus in from outside its catchment area. But despite the fact that nearly all the students lived within two kilometers, many of them were still being driven by their parents. Since the school wasn’t built with motor traffic in mind, it was plagued with congestion, unsafe driving, idling cars and stressed students late for class.

A group of students and teachers at the school decided to change the way students got there. From this, the Green Commuting Challenge was born. The program incentivized walking and cycling for students. It combines teaching students about their ecological footprint with a reward system for those who walk or bike to and from school, including prizes, such as pizza and movie tickets. The challenge makes it clear that everyone can participate and aim for a reward, not just the most devoted human-powered commuters.

Students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what [teachers] tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them.
— Debbie Rheinstein, Teacher at Nichola Goddard School

The program also makes it easier for younger students to participate, with “Green Commuting Hubs” – places around the community where students meet to walk together under the supervision of a Grade 9 student. By having older students direct and promote the project, the team was able to take advantage of relationships that already existed between students.

“As teachers, we can say things until we’re blue in the face, but students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what we tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them,” said Debbie Rheinstein, one of the teachers behind the program.

The program is wildly successful. Five years after its inception, Rheinstein saw students approaching staff at the beginning of the year asking about being involved before the Challenge was even advertised to them. It had become a part of the student culture at Nichola Goddard.

Much of the Green Commuting Challenge is administered by a group of Grade 9 students called the Green Commuting Leadership Team. In addition to planning, participating in and presenting the program at the Calgary Mayor’s Environment Expo, these students are instrumental in spreading the culture of environmentalism throughout the school.

Students grew the program among their peers and also among their teachers. They started, “car-free days,” to challenge teachers to join the Green Community Challenge. Rheinstein jokes the teachers felt peer-pressured by the students.

This initiative was successful because of the engagement and leadership of the students at the school. They took a small program and grew it into school-wide action, showcasing the tremendous impact students can have on the community around them.


This story was written in collaboration with The Green Medium.

For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

A climate leadership program for the rest of us

CLP2 R2.jpeg

A climate leadership program for the rest of us

“I want to make a difference: I can’t make a climate treaty, I already compost … what’s in between?”

It’s a sentiment Mike Byerley hears often: More and more people want to get involved in climate action, but don’t know where to start.

Byerley is the director of programming with the Regeneration Learning Society, and runs the annual Alberta Climate Leadership Program.

“The program is for people outside the climate enterprise,” said Byerley, a geologist by training who worked in the Alberta oil patch for 13 years. “They are not activists, they are not climate scientists, they are not working in the policy sector or government.

“The people in the program are basically the 85 per cent of people excluded from participation on climate change.”

The five-month program, which is spread over five weekends, aims to help Alberta residents gain an understanding of the systemic nature of climate change and then apply that understanding to their own situations.

It’s our belief that the people closest to the system
are not the best to change the system.

“It’s our belief that the people closest to the system are not the best to change the system,” he said.

Each year the program accepts 25 participants over the age of 25 who are more established in their professional lives, understand the context in which they are working, and are on a leadership track. Sometimes these are people who have acquired the role of “climate person” or “environmental liaison” at their current jobs.

For example, the program’s alumni include a National Energy Board employee who manages stakeholder relationships with indigenous communities, a climate coordinator for a local governance council, as well as people from the regulatory sector and from oil and gas companies.

“They have the same cares and concerns and interests,” said Byerley, particularly people working in the oil and gas sector, “and they don’t feel like they can do anything.”

The program includes five weekend retreats in different locations (Calgary, Edmonton, Kananaskis and Red Deer). While it doesn’t have an academic focus, the program does begin with some classroom theory on economics, the petro-state, neoliberalism, and how justice affects social change.

“If you are working to change the world, people need to understand what you are asking and be interested in what you are asking,” said Byerley.

Participants then move on to develop their own projects, learning how to design, test and operationalize ideas.

Byerley said more than half of the participants carry their projects through to the end, even after they’ve completed the course. Some of the projects started during the program have led to an oil field company setting up a $2 million green tech fund, a food waste and surplus food recovery program, and an unlikely partnership between a solar energy company and an immigration resettlement worker doing home energy audits.

In addition to the theory and project work, a third aspect of the program is peer-based learning, where participants have the chance to work in groups and learn from each other.

“[We want people] saying lots of things out loud, because that changes your relationship to an idea,” said Byerley.

At the end of the five-month program, the intent is for participants to have the tools, skills and knowledge to add a climate change twist to the work they are already doing.

“We’re not asking people to do new work, we are asking people to add to their work,” said Byerley. “No one wants to do something new, but they don’t mind doing a little more.”

Applications are open until Feb. 25.

Learn more about the Alberta Climate Leadership Program here

For more information on clean tech projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

Hazeldean Elementary Grade 5 students Sawyer and classmates Mosaic of Voices (1).jpeg

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

At Hazeldean Elementary School in Edmonton, Grade 5 students created an energy efficiency program through the Innovative Elementary Program. The students were able reduce the energy consumption and cost of lighting at their school and teach other students and teachers about energy efficiency.

“Elementary kids are often overlooked about their ability to make changes and advocate to the things that they care about,” said Grade 5 teacher James Stuart, who manages the Innovate Elementary Program at Hazeldean. This project is one of many ways students have demonstrated the impact they can have in their school community.

They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference. [There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.
— James Stuart

The first step was to learn about electricity, energy efficiency and light bulbs. Stuart along with some energy experts taught the students about different kinds of light bulbs and how much energy is used for each. They also learned about electricity, how it is produced in Alberta and the environmental impacts of the different types of production.

Next, students used their new knowledge to calculate their school’s electricity consumption by determining the types and consumption of light bulbs, and the number of each type of bulb throughout the building. From there, they monitored how many lights were on in each classroom, checking in at various times of the day to determine when classes were in session, when they were empty, and at the end of the day.

After collecting data, the students had to decide how they would present it. To make their information accessible to everyone, including the youngest students, they used made posters with photos and simple info boxes to teach their peers about the energy consumption of objects in their classroom. They included images of smart boards, desktop computers and lights with the amount of energy each consumed. The posters were distributed throughout the school.

The students also decided to create a contest for the classroom who was able to reduce their lighting energy consumption by the greatest amount. Using the information they had about each room’s energy consumption, they created a poster for each classroom showing its energy consumption. They continued to monitor the energy consumption of each classroom at random times until the end of the contest, with the winners earning hot chocolate made from the students’ self-made solar oven.

At the end of the lighting audit the Grade 5 group presented their findings during the school’s morning announcements. Over that time, they saw a reduction of 40 kWh. That is the equivalent of a 43-inch’ plasma TV running 32 hours a week for a month.

Through this project the students in Stuart’s Grade 5 classroom educated themselves, creatively engaged their school on the topic of energy efficiency, and were able to make changes in their school’s lighting electricity consumption.

“They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference,” said Stuart. “[There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

2.jpg

Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

Project Footprint is a program aimed at young newcomers to Canada, offering environmental programming at a school and housing development in Calgary. The program, run by the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA), combines its programming and expertise to reach girls aged nine to 13 with environmental sustainability content.

Project Footprint, now in its third year, came about as a way to encourage and engage young immigrant girls in the global conversation about the environment and climate change, said Project Footprint’s program coordinator Amarjit Parmar.

We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors
— Amarjit Parmar

“We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors,” said Parmar.

 There are two parts to the program: regular weekly events with guest speakers, which focus on a wide range of environmental and sustainability topics. In addition, a mentorship program is held twice a month and connects the Project Footprint participants with older students, who work together to create and run sustainability projects.

Project Footprint participants also share their work with their community and peers. At CIWA’s annual youth forum the girls taught participants how to make reusable plastic wrap replacement using beeswax, coconut oil and fabric. Another year they flexed their green thumbs, teaching participants about gardening.

 The team mentorship projects vary each year depending on the interests of the participants. In the past, the young girls have run recycling programs, worked to reduce their plastic waste, and started an upcycling project to turn used clothing into new items.  

 “It was fantastic to see,” said Parmar about the upcycling project, which ended with a grand finale fashion show at school to show off the clothing they had redesigned. “The kids were so creative – they took shirts and made them into handbags.”

 The creativity and passion put into their projects may be fueled by the freedom and ownership they have. Parmar said the projects are based entirely on what the girls want to do, from conception to execution, while the youth mentors are there to support the implementation of the ideas and the creativity.

 “We are a girl’s program at heart,” said Parmar. “So self-confidence, sense of belonging and encouraging leadership is all there.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Students on Sustainability helps add environment to elementary education

Students on Sustainability Photo-cropped.jpg

Students on Sustainability

Students on Sustainability is a group of university students in Calgary working on bringing more environmental education to Alberta classrooms.

Growing up in Calgary and going through the public school system, the group’s founder Patrick Duke felt as though he had received a quality education, but found climate change wasn’t thoroughly included in his schooling. Even when it was, he said, it wasn’t multidisciplinary, it was often rushed, and was usually only offered within a higher level science course.

“Your grades should not hold you back from this kind of education,” said Duke, “from being aware and being environmentally conscious.”

Environmental education shouldn’t be something only for some students. Duke sees climate change as a topic that should be “for everyone – in science, the humanities and option classes throughout a student’s education.”

In his own education, Duke saw the effects of learning more about climate change in his first year of university. Duke enrolled in the petroleum geology program, “because my parents, my neighbors, and my friends all worked in oil and gas.” But when he started learning more about climate change in one of his first-year courses, he changed programs.

Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future.
— Patrick Duke

“Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about, so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future,” he said.

With Students on Sustainability, Duke hopes their lessons will “open up perspectives and career choices that a student wouldn't think of otherwise as an option.”

Duke founded Students on Sustainability in December of 2017, and started to collaborate with education groups to generate content that meets the regular requirements of Alberta lesson plans, but with a slight spin on sustainability. By the end of January the group had 28 volunteers trained to give curriculum-based lessons across Calgary, and hopes to soon expand their reach across the province.

One group Students on Sustainability works with is the Alberta Council on Environmental Education (ACEE), which helps connect students to its network of teachers. From February to June last year, Students on Sustainability delivered a total of 35 school presentations and participated in several events, reaching some 1,500 kids in their first few months of outreach.

Students on Sustainability allows for younger students to learn about sustainability from a university student who is engaged and passionate about what they are doing. Duke said that this dynamic is key to their success.

“It’s impactful,” he said. “The students often look up and connect to the university students. Having that different perspective in the classroom is great.”

Learn more about Students on Sustainability, here.

For more information on environmental education in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Lending the youth voice to sustainable city planning

Urban_Planning_2017-18.jpg

Lending the youth voice to sustainable city planning

Teenagers may seem like an unlikely crowd to be shaping city planning, but they are proving to be key players and an important voice.

“It’s our future too!” said Logan Fechter, a member of the City of Edmonton Youth Council (CEYC), an advisory committee for the city council that aims to represent the interests of Edmontonians between 13 and 23 years old. “It’s our kids’ future, so why not? ... It’s not like sustainability has to be outside of our reach.”

CEYC has several subcommittees that deal with hands-on work and draft many of the policy proposals put forward by the youth council as a whole. The urban and regional planning subcommittee focuses on topics such as transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, with the broader aim of helping to build the identity of Edmonton and its sustainable future.

This 16-member subcommittee has been pushing boundaries for three years, with projects like City Hall Solar, where it made a recommendation to council to put solar panels on city hall. The group was given the go ahead to work with city officials and engineers to determine the feasibility of this project. In the end, the group also learned not every good idea leads to an attainable project – the proposal was found to be outside of the budget due to cogeneration regulations and charges around the downtown area.

There is something special about urban planning because the work is physical and the outcomes do literally change the city, which is incredibly fulfilling.
— Logan Fechter

“There is something special about urban planning because the work is physical and the outcomes do literally change the city, which is incredibly fulfilling,” said Logan Fechter. “Even if it's as simple as giving feedback on a transit strategy, you are still bringing the youth perspective in to change the everyday reality of city life.”

Indeed, the subcommittee recently worked with the Edmonton transit system to collect feedback from 600 youth on the city’s new transit strategy so young people could weigh in on the issues that affected them.

“[If we] help make our transit system better, people won’t have to drive to all the places where they want to go,” said Kaelin Koufogiannakis, co-chair of the subommittee.

The group has also collaborated with the Change for Climate Edmonton conference to mount the “Sustainability of Tomorrow” youth speaker series, showcasing eight young adults leading their communities in sustainability.

Youth are and should be taking action on these issues and making an impact in their city. While the CEYC focuses on a range of topics, Koufogiannakis said a primary aim is to show council the youth of Edmonton really do care about sustainability.

“Youth are creative, innovative, and we are not buried by a bureaucratic need to check all of these boxes. So we can move things forward, add a new perspective and be an asset,” said Koufogiannakis.

In the future, CEYC’s urban planning subcommittee will support the efforts of City Lab, serve as the youth advisor for the new Edmonton Master City Plan and, as always, continue to give youth an opportunity to advocate for and create projects around the urban planning issues they care about.


Learn more about the City of Edmonton Youth Council, here.

For more information on how to undertake your own clean tech project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.


Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

InnovateHighschool2.jpg

Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

The Innovate Program is a way for high school students to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting and do hands-on projects based on real world problems. The students are able to take on a project of their choice and are supported by educational staff, connected to resources and provided education credits for their work. Most projects emphasize sustainable development, emerging technology, reimagining citizenship for a rapidly changing world and entrepreneurship.

Aaron Dublenko, teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton and mastermind behind the project says, “this program assists students in developing mindsets that empower them to confidently design and implement solution oriented projects.” It also creates an opportunity for them to develop skills through hands-on trial and error and collaboration with peers and experts.

Innovate provides an opportunity for students to explore their interests, creates an encouraging space to make mistakes and troubleshoot designs as well as be creative in what they produce. Here are some of the projects students created.

Green Career Fairs

Students and staff organized five “Green Career Fairs” in Edmonton Public High Schools. Each school hosted 30-40 vendors per fair, with a total of more than 6,000 youth learning about environmentally focused career options. Students in the Green Career Fairs program created questionnaires, informative maps, and fundraised through grants for shirts, snacks and door prizes for the events.

Buildings that Teach

Through this program students explore, learn and change the way energy and resources are used in their school. In the past, students installed Smart Meters in a local arena to analyze electricity consumption. Another group researched their school’s solar passivity potential, natural light, and air quality. Others have completed energy audits, thermal analysis and used DENT meters to record light use over time in their schools. They use their research to inform necessary groups and work to cause infrastructural and behavioral changes in order to reduce the carbon footprints and costs of building operations in their schools and other large buildings.

The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change

Innovate Students are creating a series of podcasts titled “The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change.” In these podcasts, students write questions and interview their peers to create discussions about climate change and their future in Alberta. In collaboration with Edmonton’s historian laureate, the students are working to strengthen and illuminate the youth voice on climate change, as well as generate discussion about these topics among their peers.


For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.


Up to Speed: Youth Pushing Boundaries of Vehicle Technologies

20180422-DSC_0605.jpg

Up to Speed: Youth Pushing Boundaries of Vehicle Technologies

The University of Calgary Solar Car team and the University of Alberta EcoCar team are two great examples of Alberta students taking hands-on action to teach themselves and their communities about renewables and clean technology. These student groups design, build and race solar electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in national, continental and international competitions.

University of Calgary Solar Car team

IMG_5395.jpg

The University of Calgary Solar Car Team aims to participate in several competitions, but primarily in a three-day race in America. The team is made up of 65 students in four main undergraduate subteams: Mechanical, Electrical, Software, and Business. Engineering Project Manager, Morgan Grab, says one of the team’s main objectives is to involve students in every step of the design, build and troubleshooting process, giving them hands-on experience through working on an electric car and with solar modules.

Elysia Nice Render (2).jpg

Business Project Manager Sarah Lam appreciates how the team enables her to empower other people and connect to her community. She says through its outreach, primarily classroom presentations and talks, team members feel as though they are able to “generate excitement about the possibilities in energy that we will have in the future,” and to teach younger students about the basics of renewable energy and car design. They also engage with the larger Calgary community by showcasing renewables as a viable and tangible option for Albertans. Grab says that by working on solar, they show “it’s not in the background or overseas, but it’s happening here, in the heart of Calgary.”

University of Alberta EcoCar team

20180422-DSC_0900.jpg

The University of Alberta EcoCar builds two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: an urban car that emulates the look of an normal car, and a racing prototype. They compete at the Shell Eco Marathon, a continental efficiency competition in the U.S. Their team is composed of undergraduate and graduate students divided in six sub-teams totalling around 80 members.

20180422-DSC_0820.jpg

The team engages with the community through showcasing their cars at events, going to schools, engaging with political figures, university alum, and staff. Many students are drawn to the group as it allows them to practically apply their degree. Mechanical team lead, Shivam Jasawl, sees the benefit in participating in design and redesign cycles. Shivam says working on EcoCar gives him a chance to “apply what I am learning about, make my own assumptions and test them, and if everything I assumed was completely wrong, I get to ask why was it wrong and iterate it.”

“If the members of EcoCar continue to work in Alberta, we can take the principles we have learned about sustainability and efficiency and apply it to wherever we work in the future,” he adds.


These groups show things can be done differently, and students are ready to be a part of, and maybe one day lead, this innovation.

“This is oil country. When people hear that students are doing something different with hydrogen in Alberta, it makes an impact,” Shivam says.

As Grab puts it, “it’s always in the forefront of our mind that we can do things a different way. I hope that we can be that spark, that starts that innovation and gets people’s minds going about renewables. We want to show that it is possible and that there is an alternative.”


For more information on how to undertake your own clean technology project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Gener8ting Environmental Leaders

9. Gener8.jpg

Gener8ting Environmental Leaders

Each year, Inside Education hosts its flagship environmental education event at the lodge in beautiful Kananaskis Country for one reason – to “inspire students.”

“At the Gener8 Youth Energy and Climate Summit, we have students from all over Alberta learning with and from experts on energy and climate change. At the end they will go back to their schools and communities and effect change,” says Steve McIsaac, executive director of Inside Education.

In the “Energy Dialogues” session, 16 experts in solar, wind, oil and gas, parks, air quality and climate change came together. Students got to pick seven tables they would visit to learn from and pick the brains of the experts in 10-minute sessions. It’s high-energy and very intense for both presenters and students.

Part of the take-away is for students to undertake an action when they go home.

“While we do provide some parameters, it’s student-directed and student-driven. Afterwards, students have done everything from upgrading toilets in their school’s staff room, to conducting stream bank rehabilitation after the 2013 floods, to installing solar panels on their school rooftops,” says McIsaac.

Former Medicine Hat High School student Jasveen Brar’s experience at Gener8 inspired her to study sustainability when she enrolled at Dalhousie University. She got involved with Students on Ice studying climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic and a few months ago took a group of students to the United Nations in a follow-up project. “It wasn’t until I visited Antarctica that I realized I knew so little about how the world works, and the real impact that we, humans are having on the planet,” Brar says.

“In 2016 we directly connected, in classrooms and field trips, with 23,000 young people, ranging from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Two hundred teachers participated in our teacher professional development programs and 500 students participated in our youth summits,” says McIsaac.

Inside Education was founded by McIsaac’s mentor Jim Martin in 1985. Martin was a teacher and principal in Indigenous communities. “He believed in taking the students outside,” says McIsaac. “He wanted to provide them with learning experiences… that will be life changing.”

In professional development programs Inside Education takes teachers to wind farms, the oil sands and elsewhere to provide hands-on experience. Other Inside Education student alumni got involved with the Centre for Global Education. That’s the same program where students wrote a white paper that was delivered at the Paris Climate Change Summit by Premier Rachael Notley. More recently, students prepared a white paper on climate change education and the programs schools can undertake to take action on Climate Change.

McIsaac says one of the differences in students these days is they don’t want to wait until they graduate to make a difference – they are taking action now.


Read the full story on Green Energy Futures here

For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Relighting Schools

Relight Tempo school large.png

Relighting Schools

Dan Lafferty is the owner of Relight Solutions, a company that specializes in installing energy efficient lighting in commercial and multi-residential properties. The company is based out of Vancouver, but has recently expanded to Alberta with hopes of going further. It currently employs five people in the province, with backgrounds ranging from industrial electricians to electrical engineers.

Relight is currently working on a project at Tempo School, a private school in Edmonton. The school has older lights and wanted them to last longer, not only to reduce energy costs but also to reduce the maintenance costs of having to regularly replace the old lights. Relight designed a project for Tempo School that includes installing new LEDs with daylight controls that turn off the lights when there is sufficient sunlight entering through the school’s skylights.

The school will receive a rebate of $11,500 through the Energy Efficiency Alberta’s Business, Non-Profit, and Institutional Energy Savings Program and expects the annual energy savings from the project to be $13,500 per year. With an additional $8,000 of lighting maintenance cost savings per year, Tempo School expects to earn back its upfront investment in just three years.

Lafferty sees energy efficiency as an integral part of the new energy economy. According to him, Canada is a resource rich country and he wants us to use our resources more efficiently. He says that up to 40% of commercial building energy use can come from lighting. And if we reduce that by 50% through energy efficiency, it reduces overall energy consumption by 20%. This reduction means that we will have 20% less emissions to address in the future through other mitigation methods.

Lafferty comes from a business background and it was his experience working for a tech company that developed energy-monitoring software that got him interested in energy efficiency. He decided to start a company focused specifically on energy efficient lighting because lighting improvements have a very quick payback – typically two to three years in the projects Lafferty has been involved in – and he sees a lot of room for growth in the industry due to the massive building stock with inefficient lighting. Plus, electricity costs are rising while the cost of the efficient light bulbs and other energy efficient technologies is decreasing. Energy efficient lighting is the “lowest hanging fruit to make drastic changes to our consumption as a society,” says Lafferty.

One reason Lafferty expanded his business into Alberta was because of the Alberta government’s energy efficiency rebates. He thinks that by providing a lucrative financial incentive, the market will adopt technology more quickly. In his opinion, a lot of our environmental problems aren’t from a lack of technology, but a lack of adoption of technology. Providing financial incentives allows for quicker adoption of that technology.


Check out the Relight website here.

For more information on how to undertake your own energy efficiency project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.