When we were in grade 5, we were shocked to learn about global warming and other threats to the environment. We decided to teach our school how to live a greener life. We started Project Bigfoot, a list of 10 little things every student at our school could do to shrink our “environmental footprint.” Every class joined, adding one ring to our paper chain every time a student helped the environment.

But the more we learned about plastic bags, the more upset we became.
Ontario uses 4 billion plastic bags a year. Plastic bags don’t degrade for 1000 years; instead they fill up landfills. Bags can also be blown into waterways and then drift into the ocean, where they often cause the sea creatures to choke and die. It is ridiculous that, in a country devoting hundreds of millions of dollars to “green spending”, the government has not addressed a problem that could be solved with minimal cost.

Just getting York School kids to get rid of plastic bags was not enough. We decided to tell all of Toronto. So here is what we did:

- We created an online petition to ban plastic bags. Over 1,000 people signed from as far away as the US, Switzerland, France, South Africa and many other countries.

- We contacted and worked with our City Councillor, Michael Walker, and gave a deposition before the Toronto Parks and Environment Committee in June 2008.
We were the only kids there, and the councillors listened attentively to our presentation.

When we came back this September to begin Grade 6, we were determined to keep our campaign going.
This was our mission, and not a school project. We organized the class into committees on science, written communication, posters, media relations, and City Hall. The most organized girl in the class was in charge of keeping everything together.
We realized that even though the Parks Committee heard our message, there was no media present. Our teacher taught us how to organize a media campaign, draft press releases, and hold a press conference. We registered to speak before the Toronto Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. We wrote our own press release and sent it to every newspaper, magazine and environment group that our outreach committee could find.

Before our deputation, The Globe and Mail came to interview us and we had an article with a large coloured picture in the front section.
When we arrived to make our deputation, the room was packed with media and lobbyists and we were the only children there. We brought our home-made signs. The four of us who spoke had practiced our speeches, and we made sure to stay within the time limit. We made an emotional plea on behalf of the children of Toronto, who normally don’t have a voice.

Afterwards, all the media came to interview us: we were in The Globe and Mail, The National Post and The Toronto Star. We were interviewed by CBC and CTV, and did a live interview on CityTV, where Kailey, one of our speakers, bravely got her message across even when the representative of the plastics industry tried to do all the talking.

We were also interviewed by The Town Crier, Toronto Community News, and The Humber College journalism paper, Convergence.

At Christmas, the principal of our school who was so inspired by what we did gave all the teachers cloth bags as their present!

We made sure that the voice of Toronto children were heard, and in the end Toronto passed a law so that stores would have to charge for plastic bags. We were very proud that a small group of determined children had made such a big difference for our city!