Waste Not Want Not: Changing the Channel on Apathy

McMath Explorations

Robert Alexander McMath Secondary
  • Grade 10
Video Project (1 video)

Community Coach(es): 

Neil McCallum, SD38 Eco-Wise Grant, #sd38ecofriendly, Kate Elliot from SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Science @SFUFASS, Mr. Pardeep Prasad, Custodian.

Would you like to upload a supporting PDF?: 


Waste Not Want Not:  Time to Change the Channel on Apathy


Waste not, want not.  That’s what our granny or nai-nai used to say to us or something like that, but really, in Canada, we live in a community that doesn’t want for much.  We’re so lucky that our school and community has enough energy, heat, food, and resources that we’re not wanting.


But are we wasting? 


Sadly, yes.


There's 27 of us in our grade 10 Explorations program at McMath Secondary in a school of 1400 and a staff of around 100;  in small groups, we became investigative reporters, looking at different areas where we are wasting resources in our school community.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of areas where we were still not making the grade.


Classroom lights were left on, ghost power cords chugged away, our recycle bins were stuffed with misdirected garbage, room heat was set to tropical, our garden was in disarray, and students were so interested in buying their latest gadget on Amazon that they weren’t considering the impact of their holiday purchases.  We had our work ahead of us if we wanted to make a difference in our school.


We contacted various mentors and organizations in our community from our McMath Explorations teachers, our Richmond School District Sustainability teacher consultant, one of our custodians, Mr. Prasad, Kate at SFU’s FASS in the Class program, and various classroom sustainability education programs like BC Hydro Power Smart, RCBE’s Waste Free Lunch Challenge, and the David Suzuki foundation, to name a few.


For energy savings, we found out from interviewing teachers and students that many people in the school were unaware or oblivious about saving energy or using alternatives. We needed to put energy saving at the forefront.  In order to educate our school about all of our initiatives, we put in announcements on the p.a., put up posters, talked to our friends, and became social influencers, posting about good practices on our Instagram accounts.


At McMath, one group put up “turn it off” posters in every room of the school, right next to the light switch, reminding people to power out.  Another group found out that few teachers knew how to program the energy saving thermostats so students learned this skill and taught teachers an energy saving lesson.  Two groups explored reducing heating and electricity costs by having “bundle up” and “lights out” days where we turned down the heat in the entire school for a day and the lights for a lunch time.  Powering out reminders and tips like wearing warmer clothes and using natural light were shared again through school and social media.  Yet another group educated fellow students about solar energy by letting them charge up their precious cell phones at lunch by using solar powered chargers.  It was amazing! Electrifying, even.


Another group with connections with our Natural Environment Club noticed that students were wasting our recycling potential by throwing items into the wrong bins and contaminating collection.  This group did a soggy garbage inventory, shared their results, and designed infographics and posters for classrooms and bins to let people know how to use this resource properly.


An enterprising group tackled lunch waste, in particular, straws by sharing reusable alternatives to those plastic straws (that will outlast us all) and selling better straws to the school community.


Channeling the holiday season, one group looked at the waste that happens with gift giving.  They came up with 12 days of giving that included more sustainable, earth friendly gifts.  Furthermore, they promoted upcycled gift bags that were made from old city banners, crafts made by McMath students.


Finally, one group decided to make the most of our school’s farming heritage by getting our school ready for spring gardening and looking into microgreen harvesting which can be done even in the coldest winter.


We actually did a lot.


To celebrate this and tell our story, we decided to film a pretend music tv “channel” of all the activities we did, our stories of investigating waste, and the tips we learned about not wasting the wealth of resources around us. 


We hope that in addition to our main story video that viewers get to go deeper into our stories with our 7 music video parodies and essays that we linked in our pdf.  The videos are actually quite hilarious and jam packed with good tips.  There’s so much more we could share but only so much space. 


We know that this project was a turning point for us.  


We are no longer one of the oblivious ones.  We know that the changes we made to the school culture will last long after our grade 10 program ends.  Those energy saving light switches, the newly labelled bins, the rooms set to save heat at night, those plastic straws or wasteful gifts that won’t be bought, the refreshed school garden, the solar power chargers, all of this and the education of our 1500 staff and students will continue to do good.  Many of us are continuing with our endeavors with our school’s Natural (Environment) club, doing established weekly recycling, gardening, and educational endeavors.


Our nai nai, our granny, our opa, a-mah, nana, nani, ba-chan, ji-chan, lola, and our grandmas would be proud of us.   We thank our elders for their guidance.


Our Instagram McMath Explorations account is @explogreengames


  Our School District was our strongest community supporter @sd38ecofriendly