FIN IN THE NEWS: Parkland students' green campaign goes to Ottawa

By Jennifer McFee, Coquitlam NOW September 24, 2010 7:03 AM

A group of Parkland Elementary students spoke out against pesticide pollution last spring, and their environmental call is still reverberating in the Canada's Parliament.

Last April, the Grade 4 class took a strong stance against cosmetic pesticides. They crafted containers of all-natural slug bait and pesticide-free weed killer to distribute to leaders at each level of government. Every package came with a personalized letter urging politicians to ban pesticides across the country.

New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly hand-delivered the green gifts to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as party leaders Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe.

When MPs returned to the House of Commons on Monday, Donnelly put a motion on the order paper calling for a nationwide ban on pesticides beginning next Earth Day, April 22.

Special education assistant Louise Allan, who co-ordinated Parkland's environmental initiative, was thrilled to watch the ripple effect of the students' efforts.

"They're too young to vote, but they can still make a difference, can't they?" Allan asked.

Ten-year-old Natalie Rosner thinks so.

"I felt quite happy that Ottawa had gotten the bait because that means that they could think about banning pesticides all over Canada. Then there'll be less problems with cancer because it causes sickness and kills animals," she said. "If we don't take care of the environment now, who knows what it will be like in the future? It might be completely different. We should take care of what we have now." Her classmate Vanessa Bavaro shares the same view.

"I do think it will make a difference. I think it's possible to change the laws," she said. "It's important to me because I like helping the environment and I'm a big green person. It's important because I can stop this with everybody else. Everybody else in my class was really proud -- as proud as me -- because we all helped out."

Another initiative from the same class will make its way to Ottawa later this fall.

Donnelly will expand on a litterless lunch initiative launched by the Coquitlam classroom by creating a week-long challenge across his riding. Elementary and middle school students will be encouraged to eat litter-free during Waste Reduction Week from Oct. 18 to 24, and schools will receive a tracking sheet to mark how many kids participate each day. The class with the most litter-free lunches will be announced in the House of Commons in December. They will also be treated to a free litterless lunch, compliments of Donnelly.

"This was one of the things the Parkland class showed me," Donnelly said. "That's some of the work that's needed around the whole region -- not just in Coquitlam or in my riding, but across Canada."

Parkland student Melanie Osborne shared some advice for other students who want to reduce their lunch waste.

"When they go shopping they should tell their moms or dads, 'Don't buy that much packaged food.' Also, instead of sandwiches wrapped in Saran Wrap, you can put them in containers and not waste so much plastic," the 10-year-old said. "When you have all the plastic, there's toxins that make it so it's really bad for the Earth. So you should use containers instead because you can reuse them a lot."

For information about the litterless lunch challenge, contact Donnelly's office at 604-664-9229 or e-mail donnef1@parl.gc.ca