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32 Professionally Speaking December 2020 T he staff and students at the school where Lisa Jeffery, OCT, teaches have been eco-friendly focused for 14 years, but their EcoTeam wasn't truly engaged outside of Leamington District Secondary School until six years ago. Back in the summer of 2014, locals were told a massive harmful algae bloom appeared in nearby Lake Erie. The damage was widespread and far-reaching: Leamington, Ont., residents were advised not to swim in the lake; Pelee Island businesses suffered because tourists stayed away; and neighbours southwest in Toledo, Ohio, didn't have access to safe drinking water. The environmentally conscious folks at Leamington District had a plan of action. "The EcoTeam decided to put all their energy into learning about the issue, educating our community about it and working with stakeholders to try to reduce the high phosphorus levels that were contributing to the problem," says Jeffery, who teaches Grade 11 and 12 university preparation biology. "They called their mission, 'Algaeca- tion,' and it really made an impact. In May 2015, we held a Harmful Algal Bloom Summit to bring together citizens, scientists, First Nations leaders, industry representatives, all levels of government, and students in Grades 5 and 12. We learned from one another and worked collaboratively to develop solutions. We received media coverage, and our EcoTeam was asked by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to provide input on strategies to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie." Since that time, says Jeffery, Canada has committed to reducing phosphorus levels by 40 per cent, and the EcoTeam found a successful formula to effect change through their school group. "They learn about an environment- al issue from experts, develop and deliver educational programs for students and adults, then engage stakeholders to develop solutions. We've since used this formula for other causes, including wetland conservation, pollinator protection, food waste, invasive species, plant- based eating and climate action," Jeffery says. She also credits the Essex Region Conservation Authority as a valuable resource, support and collaborator when implementing solutions to environmental issues. The truth is there's no shortage of environmental causes to bring attention Strategies for creating eco-friendly and sustainable schools. BY LISA VAN DE GEYN

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