Champion: Cochrane High School

More than 500 Cochrane residents helped develop the award-winning Cochrane Sustainability Plan (CSP) – but it’s up to all of us to implement it.  You can get involved by signing on as a Champion, Ambassador or Citizen of Sustainability, and by making a commitment to sustainability.

Cochrane High School Water Conservation System

The staff and students at Cochrane High School have created an effective water conservation system that provides fresh water for the school’s garden

One of the first organizations to sign on as a Champion was Cochrane High School.  Teacher Stephanie Bennett is a Board Member with SPUR – Sustainability Partners Uniting Resources – and was involved in the Plan’s development.  Stephanie recently shared the reasons why sustainability is a priority at her school.

Q.  Why did Cochrane High become involved with the Cochrane Sustainability Plan?

A.  Our school’s Sustainable Development Committee consists of volunteer students whose mission is to get our school to use its resources wisely, and produce less waste.  This will help retrofit our school in a more sustainable fashion.  The CSP consists of pathways, which are the guardrails to guide our town’s future growth.  Many of these pathways fit within our Sustainable Development Committees’ mandate.  Because of all the sustainable projects we have accomplished to date, it only seemed natural that we get involved with the CSP.

Q.  Why is sustainability important to Cochrane High?

A.  The CHS Sustainable Development Committee recognizes that our school is a physical entity that consumes resources and produces waste.  We wish to design projects that realign our school activities and operations in such a way that we make our resources last.  It is our goal to be the change we wish to see in this world.  It is important to us that we walk the talk as best we can to prove to ourselves and to others that sustainability, although a long process, is functional and doable.

Q.  What are the main steps Cochrane High takes to be sustainable?

A.  Our sustainable development projects focus on energy and water consumption and waste production.  The sustainable development project proceeds in phases that contain elements of all or parts of these processes.  For instance, phase 1 was all about energy consumption whereas phase 4 was about energy, water and waste reduction.  Our website has all the information about each phase and a list of our donors at http://www.sustainabledevelopment.ca.

Q.  Why should other Cochrane residents get involved with the CSP?

A.  Change is tough no matter when it happens.  We are changing at Cochrane High in terms of how we operate.  We are becoming very aware of our paper consumption habits, energy usage habits, water consumption habits, food waste habits, etc.  We feel we can do a better job of our resource usage and waste production.  In the end we will save money because we are modifying our operations.  We have learned a great deal about energy production, lighting options, water conservation, composting and recycling.  These are some of the Pathways outlined in the CSP and if residents embrace whatever level of sustainability they can, eventually this should translate into more disposable cash for them.

Q.  What are the benefits of being a CSP Champion?

A.  It is our hope that being a CSP Champion will mean another avenue for our school to share with others about our sustainable development project.  It is a way for our school to give back to our community, which has supported us so well with previous phases.

Q.  How has being sustainable helped the school and the students?

A.  We are still waiting to get data from the school division regarding our electrical, gas and water consumption bills.  We are hoping that with the latest phase we’ll move up a spot in the rankings regarding these school expenses.  This is an indication that these phases do help us save operational costs to the school – not to mention reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste.  Our Sustainable Development Committee has been going strong for eight consecutive years, which indicates that the students are interested in making a positive change to our school community.  The projects are student driven and provide them with a real sense of accomplishment when they are implemented.  Their legacy will be more than a memory.

Q.  Pathway 2 is about protecting our water supply.  How is Cochrane High helping achieve the goals of Pathway 2?

A.  Elements of phases 4 and 5 contribute to conserving our water supply.  We implemented many things in phase 4.  One component of phase 4 involved installing seven dual flush toilets and four waterless urinals in our school.  Yes – waterless urinals.  And no, they do not smell, thanks to a strategically placed carbon cartridge!

One component of phase 5 was the design and installation of an innovative eavestrough system atop our tennis court fence.  This eavestrough captures rainwater that is collected into two rain barrels.  We use water from our rain barrels for our school garden.  This system has done very well considering all the rain we have received this summer.

Q.  What advice do you have for other businesses and organizations that are trying to be more sustainable?

A.  Start looking at all the simple things you do in your daily operations.  Is there a way you can change these operations such that it minimizes your waste and saves you money?  How about a simple motion sensor where your light switch used to be?  How about a stainless steel 3-bin recycling bin to sort your garbage right at your fingertips?  What about a low flow toilet?  Simple acts by many add up to big change.

Contact the Town of Cochrane to see what your options are and ACT!