Reynolds secondary teacher Heather Coey dishes out food at the salad bar at the school. The salad bar is one of a number of environmental initiatives she's helped co-ordinate at the school. Others include an outdoor green space/garden program and a recycling system.

Great Teachers: Going green in a multitude of ways at Reynolds

Heather Coey inspires students to recycle, grow natural food at Saanich school

Environmental initiatives are in full bloom at Reynolds secondary in Saanich, where one teacher is using a pilot recycling program to sprout off new initiatives to reduce the school’s environmental footprint.

Heather Coey, a leadership and science teacher, is at the helm of many such undertakings at the school. The first began seven years ago with one of the Greater Victoria School District’s first recycling programs.

Through the program, the school has replaced most garbage cans in the hallways with 13 recycle stations, which include the recycle tower, green compost bins and bottle return bins.

“Students now tell me that when they go someplace and can’t recycle, they’re looking for places to (do so),” Coey said. “I’ve had parents tell me they have to recycle (elsewhere) because they’re so used to doing it at school.”

On the fourth Saturday of every month, Reynolds hosts a program where the community can drop off items for recycling that can’t fit in their blue boxes.

Using funds from the recycling program, Coey has expanded the school’s environmental initiatives.

The green spaces projects has sprouted up recently and encourages students to grow their own fruits and vegetables in plots located at the front of the school and in the inner courtyard.

“Money that they earn from the recycling depot feeds back into other environmental projects in the school,” she said.

“For example, it’s gone to help purchase fencing and benches at the front of the school. We’ve planted crab apple trees, evergreen trees, chocolate lilies, flowering red currents in order to get a more natural area reclaimed.”

With the popularity of the first garden, the district jackhammered out a piece of asphalt in the inner courtyard to allow students to create a second green space. There they grow kale, parsley, chives and purple sprouting broccoli.

The ability to grow their own food inspired another major program: the salad bar.

For 20 weeks of the year, students who are part of the Green Group pick vegetables from the garden and serve them to their classmates and staff for lunch.

Grade 12 student Isabelle Leslie, a member of the Green Group, hopes to inspire other students to grow their own food.

“I think it’s nice that the people who get the salad bar or walk by realize that we’ve grown some of the food here,” she said. “It might inspire them to do it themselves.”

Hannah Berry, also a Grade 12 student, said Coey’s passion for the environment is infectious.

“She’s really passionate about environmental stuff; not just in the school; I know she tries to live that way too, which is a really good influence,” Berry said. “She’s a good model, she tries to walk the walk.”

Coey hopes to inspire a lifestyle change both in her students and the greater community through these projects. “(It’s) just a paradigm shift in the way you live your life to consider living sustainably, and that the planet is finite and that the choices and actions you do are going to make a difference,” she said. The goal is “for students to experience that difference actually happening, so that they can be very hopeful that the future can be bright.”

Coey’s energy around environmental initiatives has clearly rubbed off on her students.

Kendra.wong@vicnews.com

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