In a world where everyone is trying to minimize their environmental impact and achieve greater sustainability, the young students at Edmonton’s Ormsby Elementary School have set a new precedent.
The ambitious students and teachers at this school decided to build an Environmental Management System (EMS) according to ISO 14001 standards. Once, the school is certified to ISO 14001, Ormsby Elementary School may be the first elementary school in North America to be certified in ISO 14001.
Globally, ISO 14001for EMS is one of the most widely recognized standards to help thousands of industries and institutions improve their environmental performance. Based on the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), the standard offers a unique opportunity for organizations to set internal environmental goals and achieve a continual improvement in their environmental performance. When organizations implement an EMS based on ISO 14001, they can seek a third party certification by an accredited Certification Body - the Canadian accreditation body is Standards Council of Canada.
For Ormsby Elementary School, the journey to ISO 14001 began in early 2012 when Dr. Kanwaljit and Dr. Yogendra Chaudhry from Westland Consulting, Ketek Group met then principal, Ms. Trish Kolotyluk, to learn about the school’s environmental initiatives. After seeing the school’s various projects and the students’ strong awareness of environmental issues, Dr. Kanwaljit and Dr. Chaudhry volunteered to help the school establish an EMS based on ISO 14001 requirements.
Both Ms. Kolotyluk and the current principal, Mrs. Colleen Marshall, recognized the importance of this plan and committed their support and resources to see that the school was able to successfully implement ISO 14001. They wanted to set an inspiring example for their students and other schools. Despite challenges with time and budget, Mrs. Marshall has been able to motivate the teachers, staff and students to get involved and support the implementation of the EMS.
By building on such existing initiatives as Litter Patrol, The Leader in Me, and Garbage-less Lunch, among others, the school enlisted 13 teachers to form the Core Team responsible for designing and implementing an EMS for the school. Additionally, this program included a unique feature with the ‘Student EMS Team.’ The 10-member student team meets regularly to learn about how the system works, think about environmental issues and make strategies to address them.
“In my interactions with the students, I have noticed an increase in both enthusiasm and sense of responsibility in the students. Their ability to think realistically about their immediate environment has increased. The effort they are putting in to design their own EMS is commendable,” says Dr. Kanwaljit.
Over the last few years, some secondary schools and higher education institutions have applied for ISO 14001, but the case of an elementary school applying for this certification, with six to eleven year olds playing an active role, is extremely rare. Implementing EMS will allow teachers and students to realize a number of environmental initiatives at the same time and to use the school’s limited resources more effectively to enhance their environmental performance. Some of the most excited participants in this program are, of course, the students. Abheet, a student member of the EMS Team says,
“I am happy to be a part of the EMS team because it gives me an opportunity to help the environment. I am in control of my actions and can lead by example.”
Dr. Chaudhry points out that Ormsby Elementary School has been very systematic in its approach to designing and implementing the EMS at the school. There is so much that other schools can learn from Ormsby Elementary if they ever plan to implement a similar initiative. The school is willing to share their learning with anyone who wants to learn and replicate. Dr. Chaudhry, who is working with various Aboriginal communities on other assignments, is planning to replicate a similar program at a school in First Nations communities too.
“It is both exciting and a challenge to work with these future leaders. I am confident that as the students learn and implement the Environmental Management System, they will deal with environmental issues in a very different way. Perhaps, they will even redefine the whole environmental market when they grow up and start working!!!”
- Dr. Yogendra Chaudhry, Westland Consulting
Since Ormsby Elementary School is planning to complete the ISO 14001 certification audit, the next biggest challenge is arranging for a registration/certification fee. The school is exploring various funding opportunities to cover the registration/certification fee, and would appreciate your assistance. Organizations willing to support the school financially may get in touch with the school directly.
For more information or to contribute as a volunteer, please e-mail Kanwaljit at email@example.com.
Take a look at Ormsby Elementary School’s Environmental Policy >>