Bessborough School’s “Green Mum”

Meera Jain, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Bessborough Elementary and Middle School. Photo by Mark Camp.
Meera Jain, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Bessborough Elementary and Middle School. Photo by Mark Camp.

Unlike Kermit the Frog, Meera Jain, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Bessborough Elementary and Middle School, finds it easy to be green. She says that for years she considered herself eco-friendly because she drove a hybrid and always recycled. But over time, she realized there was more she could do. “The more I learned, the more passionate I became about reducing plastic pollution and our carbon footprint,” she explains.

Meera studied biology and Spanish at Queen’s University, then obtained her Bachelor of Education from York and her Master’s from the University of Melbourne. She has been at Bessborough for 12 years where it is her mission to “make each child feel special” and to help them achieve new goals. She appreciates the school’s “phenomenally talented staff,” the supportive community and the easy access to technology which provides a variety of educational experiences.

In March 2017, Meera’s concern for the environment and love of education inspired her to start an Instagram blog with the handle @thegreenmum. At one point, she had 14,500 followers. On the blog and corresponding website, she included information posts, DIY projects, videos, recipes, must-have items, tips for packing a low-waste lunch and even environment-related jokes.

Meera Jain, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Bessborough Elementary and Middle School. Photo by Mark King.
Meera Jain, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Bessborough Elementary and Middle School. Photo by Mark King.

Meera’s Instagram account caught the attention of Toronto Life in 2020 when she took part in a series called “The Green Guide.” In the article, she discussed her inspirations for her green lifestyle, her techniques for reducing waste, and suggestions for making useful products at home. Meera has also been featured in a Globe and Mail article, an episode of CBC’s Marketplace and several podcasts. And she enjoys conducting workshops on green teaching for other educators.

With her busy schedule, Meera is no longer updating her Instagram page and website. They are, however, still available for reference.

She now devotes her energy to her classroom and school activities. She uses science lessons to integrate many eco-tips and her “green agenda.” For example, the students bring recyclable materials from home for projects and use washable cloths rather than paper towels for cleanup. Meera keeps a compost bin in the class, which she empties at home, and recycles pens and markers at Staples. She says that her students embrace the green initiatives and love to report “what they do at home to care for our planet.”

In pre-Covid times, Meera was also a co-leader of the Eco Club. This involved implementing school-wide initiatives such as doing “eco-audits” in classrooms and making recommendations about saving energy, organizing clothing and toy drives, and introducing “boomerang lunches” where students learn to recycle their waste, put it in the compost bin, or take it home in reusable containers. She hopes to revive the club as soon as restrictions lift.

At home, Meera and her husband, Mark, are raising their daughters, Anika, 7, and Eva, 4, in an eco-minded household. Major elements of their green family lifestyle are following a plant-based diet, buying most items like clothing from second-hand stores, doing much of their own baking and cooking, buying in bulk using glass jars, and making their own cleaning products and toiletries.

Meera concludes that “eco-education has always been, and will continue to be, a strong component of what and how” she teaches. She hopes for a growing green consciousness in the world and will keep spreading her eco-message because “small steps can lead to big changes.” Take that, Kermit!

About Janis Fertuck 94 Articles
Janis Fertuck is a retired English teacher who spent the last 30 years of her career at Leaside High School. She enjoys writing about the vibrant Leaside community where she and her husband have lived for 22 years. Her other favourite pursuits include a part-time job at a boutique on Bayview and volunteering with the Bayview Pixies.