Schools doing their bit for sustainability
Helping pick up paper, food wrappers, bottles and any other rubbish that accumulated in a school yard was one of those onerous tasks for students rostered on to help with yard duty.
But school communities are now looking beyond simple clean-ups and looking at the issue waste, as part of an overall acknowledgement of a need to teach sustainable practices, in a much broader way.
The efforts of regional schools in developing a greater understanding of environmental sustainability has impressed an authority responsible for co-ordinating waste services across much of western Victoria.
Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group has noted a significant buy-in from schools as part of a voluntary statewide Resourcesmart Schools program.
Sustainability Victoria promotes the program and the recovery group manages it across an area including the Wimmera.
Recovery group executive officer La Vergne Lehmann said schools tackled waste, energy, water and biodiversity through operations, curriculum and community engagement.
“Some of our schools are doing amazing work with their students and communities,” she said.
Ms Lehmann said Resourcesmart Schools was a free program that helped schools manage energy, waste and water in environmentally and cost-effective ways.
“Not only do the schools save money, but students are also involved in leading the process in their school,” she said.
“Schools are encouraged to establish an environmental leadership team with their students, who drive the process for their school.”
This year Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group has teamed with a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program to offer both programs at minimal cost to schools. Schools receive training for the programs and benefit from having a facilitator regularly visit them.
Ms Lehmann said this had resulted in a 30 percent increase in the number of schools taking up the Resourcesmart Schools program this year.
“We know that if students learn about these things at school, they are able to take that knowledge home and pass it on to their families,” she said.
“Knowing how to read an energy bill and identifying how much power is on peak or off peak in their home can save their family some money as well.”
A Resourcesmart Schools Awards event for the region will be in early December.
“Celebration is a really important part of the Resourcesmart Schools program and that means celebrating the achievements of the schools as they progress through their modules as well as some of the outstanding activities that are happening in those schools and communities,” Ms Lehmann said.
There are more than 70 schools across a broad region involved in the program, which has expanded into early learning centres and community or neighbourhood houses.