During the 2019-20 school year, I had the pleasure of working with a curious and passionate group of twenty-six grade ⅘ students at Kootenay Orchards Elementary School in Cranbrook. I saw a definite shift in their ideas and thoughts surrounding sustainability during our short time together. From creating hand-sewn reusable snack bags to making their own Christmas cards with paper they made from recycled materials, these students fully embraced the Beyond Recycling program. Their teacher, Stephanie Halldorson, would often report to me about ideas that students had shared with her about how to live a more sustainable life – from going to city council to pitch a toy-lending library concept (to reduce their consumer footprint) to planting a cherry tree in their schoolyard with the prize money they received from winning the Eco Challenge (the cherry tree would be a visual reminder to make sustainable choices and care for our earth). And their lunches became more thoughtfully packed – a direct impact of the messaging from Beyond Recycling being taken home at the end of the school day.
One of my favorite days with these students was our Debate day. Hearing twenty-six young voices intelligently debate the pros and cons of energy sources such as Fossil fuels, Nuclear, Solar, Wind, and Hydro made me very proud and showed me that the Beyond Recycling program is current, engaging, and making huge impacts in communities throughout the Columbia Basin.