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We Mean Green: Our First Sustainability Plan

Nearly 140 secondary students, staff, and special guests at the “We Mean Green at Burnaby Schools” event generated ideas that will help inform the Burnaby School District’s first Strategic Sustainability Plan.

We’re gathering thoughts from the entire Burnaby Schools community as we work to create our strategy to better support the planet and reduce our environmental footprint. While we’ve always done our best toward sustainability, we recognize there’s an even greater impact to be made with a concrete plan that mobilizes our efforts and sets targets on climate action.

Our first step is engaging with students, staff, families and partners. These conversations – that will help guide the future of sustainability in our District – began in-person at the event in March and will continue virtually in an online platform.

Join the conversation on ThoughtExchange now.

Grade 12 student Azzam Haq from Burnaby South and Grade 12 student Emily Ng from Burnaby Central emceed the kick-off event called, “We Mean Green at Burnaby Schools: Sustainability Visioning & Expo.” It was held at Burnaby Central and involved leading voices from throughout the District, including secondary students from all eight high schools and elementary students from Confederation Park and University Highlands.

Emily began by telling the students in the room how much their thoughts matter:


We all hold an important voice in the District. I hope the ideas we generate today will extend into the future.”

Board of Education Chair Gary Wong told the room that a commitment to increase awareness of climate change and decrease our environmental impact is a goal in our Strategic Plan, which we launched in September. He set out how the conversations both in the room and online will help inform our first Sustainability Strategic Plan. When done, it will pull together all of our work in the District and serve as a multi-year roadmap to ensure we meet key sustainability goals.

Chair Gary Wong:


We are here to listen, share, and learn from each other. Together, as a community we can make a genuine impact…You may very well be asking yourself: ‘What can one person do?’ or ‘What can one organization do?’ In my view, the answer is both as simple as it is complex: “Be bold. Take action.”

Lilah Williamson is no stranger to taking action for the planet. The key note speaker at the event, she was also a local leader in Vancouver’s highly publicized Climate Action Strike last September. Additionally, the Grade 10 student at Alpha Secondary is one of the founding members of Sustainabiliteens.

Lilah told her peers in the room at “We Mean Green:”


Youth, when we stand together, we hold a lot of power.”

Superintendent Gina Niccoli-Moen also spoke to students about the power of their ideas to make a difference. Niccoli-Moen left her vehicle at home in favour of running to the “We Mean Green” event. She told students that every idea has the potential to make a difference:


You are clearly the agents of change. You are who will take us forward in this organization toward greater sustainability. Know your impact will have a lasting impression on the legacy of Burnaby Schools.”

It’s critical that our Strategic Sustainability Plan reflect the voices and values of our entire Burnaby Schools community. That’s why our first step is engagement. All students, teachers, staff, administration, partners, and families are receiving a direct email to take part in an online conversation about what sustainability means in Burnaby Schools. On a platform called Thoughtexchange, the community will together explore the question: “Think BIG. What are your boldest sustainability project ideas?” Feedback will be open until March 20.

Join the conversation on ThoughtExchange now.

Partners have also played an important role at the event. Students from Burnaby Central and Gilpin schools came to the expo portion of the “We Mean Green” event, where they could learn from and ask questions of: Be the Change Earth Alliance, BC Bee Supply, BC Hydro, BCIT Sustainability Office, Burnaby Mountain Secondary School’s Earthwise Club, Burnaby Youth Sustainability Network, Fortis BC, Plastic Bank, SFU’s Embark Sustainability and Sustainability Office, Society for Protection and Environmental Conservation, Stream of Dreams Mural Society, Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery, Sustainabiliteens, Urban Salmon Project, and Youth4Action. The expo also featured two art installations from Burnaby Central: one from First Nations students on the theme “What does the environment mean to you?” and another on the “True Cost of Fashion” from a Human Geography Class.

The event was opened and closed by Elder Roberta Price from the Coast Salish Snuneymuxw and Cowichan Nations.

When complete, the Strategic Sustainability Plan for the District will lay out the direction for implementation of goals to increase our climate action response. It will also further empower our youth to be the leaders of today and tomorrow in sustainability.