Waterloo student receives national grant for anti-littering initiative

Sammie Heard says thousands of litterless lunches were eaten at JW Gerth Public School asa result of Green Bellies. Getty Images

A Waterloo teen was one of five students from across the country who recently of a Young Nature Leadership Grant from Nature Canada.

Sammie Heard, who attends Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo, received the $1,000 grant from Canada’s oldest conservation charity to help fund a program she started at a Kitchener public school.

Heard’s program, Green Bellies, rewards children at J.W. Gerth Public School for litter-less lunches. She started the program because she believes it is a simple step people can take toward reducing waste.

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“One of the first things you can do it just bring reusable Tupperware out to restaurants like reduce your use of single use packaging,” she explained.

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She received the grant about a month ago and immediately started to work on her plan at the school.

“They don’t go out to buy lunch but if you look at a kid’s lunch there’s all these granola bars and yogurt cups and stuff that has to be thrown away,” Heard said.

Heard purchased some resusable containers and visited a fair at the school, recipe ideas and the containers in hand, in an attempt to introduce the plan at an event at J.W. Gerth.

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“They called it Eco Fest and there I got the opportunity to talk to all the parents coming about what I was going to try to do in their school and gave them some like recipes they could use for granola bars or stuff like that,” she said.

Over the space of four weeks, every time a child would bring a lunch to school, it would be recorded via a QR code scanner on the wall. The three classes whose lunches generated the least litter would be rewarded with a trip to the Huron Natural Area.

The program proved to be a success.

“We ran it for a month, maybe four weeks, and within the four weeks there was over 5,000 litterless lunches at the school so they did an outstanding job,” Heard said.

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The Grade 11 student, who keeps busy by being on a provincial environmental council and holding several lifeguard jobs, is also helping other students at her high school design an environmental app, which has progressed to the international phase of a technovation challenge.

She is hoping to bring Green Bellies to other schools in Waterloo region next year.

“I’ve been in touch with my former elementary school and some other schools and I’m hoping to get the program started with them next year,” Heard said.

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