Sustainable Schools Program
Our school has been involved in the Sustainable Schools program for five years. Our aim has been to increase environmental awareness and to model environmental, social and economic sustainability, bring families and community together and teach core values and practical skills.
We became involved in sustainability when we were invited to be one of the schools which formed part of a sustainable schools trail on the Mornington Peninsula which showcased sustainability projects to the community.
We have worked closely with CERES and local consultants over the last five years to become the first state secondary school to be fully accredited as a five start sustainable school. We received our accreditation last year.
Best practice in terms of sustainability is being cultivated across all aspects of the school and is reflected in the curriculum. Our efforts in terms of sustainability connect with Western Port’s commitment to building community and social cohesion in the broader sense and provides opportunities for inclusion and cultural enrichment.
We have been a model for other schools in taking steps to avert climate change and are regularly contacted and visited for advice as other schools begin their journey to sustainability. Both students and staff have presented at conferences and forums on environmental sustainability.
This year our school is taking action to become more environmentally sustainable through a Victorian Government initiative called ResourceSmart Schools.
ResourceSmart Schools is a program that helps our school embed sustainability in everything we do. We are aiming to reduce our resource use (like electricity, waste water) plus support indigenous plants and animals. This will also help us to save money. We also want to involve students, families and other members of our school and local community.
We are working with Jason Sheehan from CERES on the actions of the Core, Waste, Biodiversity, Water and Energy Modules.
This year, we’ll continue to build our sustainability program at the college. We will be monitoring our resource usage by using a website called ResourseSmart Online, working to improve our energy/ water/ waste systems and continuing to work towards including sustainability across all areas of the curriculum.
We have had a busy start to the year; with the college participating in Clean-Up Australia Day at the Hastings foreshore, Ride 2 School Day and a group of our Environmental Group students presenting at the Briars Education Week – presenting on Water Saving. We can’t wait to share our environmental and sustainable achievements with you throughout the year and help contribute to a more sustainable future for all.
Read more about ResourceSmart Schools at https://secure.resourcesmartschools.vic.gov.au
Evette Jungwirth and Alison Dowler
SPRING 2021 UPDATE:
Throughout 2021 we have been working on our Water module as part of our ResourceSmart Schools certification process. Water is a resource we are connected to as a whole school, particularly as the College grounds are close in proximity to our RAMSAR protected site of Western Port Bay. Our water sustainability efforts are not just in reducing our water consumption, but also preventing waste-water and runoff from entering wetlands carrying waste and pollution. In this way, our water sustainability projects are more holistic than simply fixing dripping taps. By completing an annual water audit with our students identify leaks that were then repaired, but more importantly we considered whether more water tanks could capture and supply water in our school and looked at areas we could focus on to prevent water pollution coming from our school.
Additionally, our Year 9-10 Art students went on an excursion to Warringine Park, Hastings, where they investigated the importance of the local RAMSAR site in Western Port Bay. Australia currently has 65 RAMSAR wetlands that cover more than 8.3 million hectares. RAMSAR wetlands are those that are representative, are rare or unique wetlands, or are important for conserving biological diversity. These are included on the List of Wetlands of International Importance developed under the RAMSAR convention.
We have a small wetland on our college grounds designed to collect excess runoff and students are able to do water quality testing and observe its condition as a learning exercise for larger protected wetlands. Our priority is to ensure our students and future leaders understand the impacts of runoff and water pollution, and how our efforts prevent so many water related problems.
The programs that we have implemented at the school to reduce our water consumption have been quite effective, and for the last twelve months we have been below the 4KL per student benchmark set by Sustainability Victoria. Over 2021 we have been using about 0.78KL per student which is a huge success on our sustainability journey. We are excited to continue to minimize our impacts into the future.
Energy sustainability is a strong focus of our school. Our students actively contribute in reducing energy waste. We have signage around the school to prevent lights, appliances, and heaters being left on when not in use. We use very little gas, and our electricity usage over 2020 was at 351 kWh per student. The benchmark Sustainability Victoria has set for secondary schools is 400kWh per student. Despite the disruption of lockdowns last year contributing to this decrease, already in 2021, we are sitting at 314 kWh per student which was prior to the most recent lockdown period.
Our energy programs and curriculum links appear to be making the difference we need, and we are committed to maintaining this decrease in our resource use. We have implemented simple changes in classrooms and to our lighting, heating and cooling at the school and are making sure our school culture and behaviours improve each year.
VCE Outdoor and Environmental Studies students had a virtual visit of the Wonthaggi Desalination plant during their lockdown period. They learnt about the sustainability initiatives that the desalination plant provides. This is just one of the many ways in which our students are being exposed to better sustainability practices. We look forward to continuing to increase this exposure throughout the next few years.
Assessing our Ecological Footprint
Our Year 12 Outdoor and Environmental Studies class recently investigated their Ecological Footprint as they assessed the impact they were having on the environment. Our Ecological Footprint is a measure of productive land (in global hectares) utilized to support human life and their needs.
The earth can support 1.8 global hectares per person, but currently in Victoria the average resident utilizes 6.83 global hectares.
Students discussed their findings and found that it is beneficial to have a smaller ecological footprint, as this means that humans are minimizing their impact upon the natural environment and their demand for natural resources.
There are many things that we can do, both as individuals and society to reduce our ecological footprint. These can include: being a conscious consumer, planting your own vegetable garden at home, using active-transport and car-pooling where possible, reducing your meat intake or reducing energy and water consumption.
By completing a short questionnaire on your lifestyle including transport habits, diet and household energy consumption; a value is calculated that indicates how many global hectares would be utilized to support your consumption.
You can calculate your ecological footprint by visiting: https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/change-the-way-you-live/ecological-footprint-calculator
Let’s all work in minimizing our ecological footprint together!
Over the last few years, we have been focusing on completing the Waste module, and have been working towards achieving our third star for our Sustainability Accreditation. We have previously been certified in Waste but getting below benchmark has been a real challenge for our school. Thankfully we have been reducing our volumes and as our student numbers increase, we have not seen a rise in our waste.
We have recently implemented a 3-bin system in the school grounds along with our separate bins in the classroom. By conducting a waste and litter audit of our school each year with our students, we identified areas we could focus on to reduce our waste to landfill. We have our Year 9 students who initiate Waste management ideas and projects each year as well, through their Conservation unit of Project 9.
To reduce the amount of waste going to landfill at our school we have implemented various ideas such as each classroom has a small landfill bin and a paper-waste bins which gets recycled. We promote the use of double-sided printing in order to reduce paper-usage and also ensure that all printer cartridges are recycled accordingly.
The programs that we have implemented at the school through completing the waste module appear to be making a difference on a whole school scale. By participating in Clean Up Australia Day activities on the Hastings foreshore, working with our local Indigenous association Willum Warrain, and learning about waste issues across the planet, we aim to contribute to our local and global environment with our waste practices. Each year we see our students grow and become better leaders at implementing these necessary changes.
Annual Biodiversity Audit
In working towards achieving our 5-star sustainability accreditation, it is necessary each year to complete a Biodiversity Audit of our College. This audit assessed the range of plant and animal life (both native and exotic species), acknowledges the different habitats and also determines areas of improvement (in terms of biodiversity) within the grounds.
Each year our students studying Year 12 Outdoor & Environmental Studies conduct the Biodiversity Audit, which also supports learnings in their area of study: Healthy Outdoor Environments. This investigation within the college grounds helps to determine assessing the health of our college in terms of its biodiversity. In doing so they complete the Biodiversity Audit which involves them working in small grounds, across various areas of the college to collect information and take it back to the classroom to collate it. After the information is collated, a calculation is conducted, and we are able to determine our biodiversity score out of a possible total of 115.
Our results over recent years suggest that that we are on a continual growth pattern, where our biodiversity score is improving each year thanks to the hard work of our college community and our fabulous grounds-staff. In 2020, we achieved a score of 80 (which had improved again on the 2019 score of 78). Our overall results suggest we have an impressively high number of indigenous and native plants and shrubs which provide excellent habitats for our fauna found within our grounds, as well as excelling in areas such as ‘productive gardens’ including vegetable patches and also ‘ground cover’ where we have a high number of rocks and logs which also provide for great habitats.
In 2021, we are working hard to improve our biodiversity score in the areas of ‘soil management’, which can include fencing off areas susceptible to erosion and planting plants in these areas to help prevent erosion occurring and the area of ‘weed management’ around the grounds.
In conclusion, biodiversity plays an essential role in the environmental health of our college and helps to provide sustainable grounds for our current community and future generations to come. Our college scores considerably well across all areas of biodiversity, however, it is important that we continually strive towards ensuring that we have an increasing range of plant and animal life and an overall high amount of ‘biodiversity’.
Alison Dowler & Evette Jungwirth
Clean up Australia Day
By Kyan Esler, Year 9
On the 1st of March, the year 9 students walked down to the foreshore to pick up rubbish as part of contribution to Clean Up Australia Day. When we arrived down on the foreshore, rubbish and recycle bags were provided to student leaders in each tribe. The remainder of us were given tongs and gloves to assist in picking up the rubbish. Next, we walked down to the pier where we found lots of rubbish, anything from glass to cigarette butts to plastic bags. We all filled up our bags in no time at all.
As a cohort, we discussed the importance of healthy environments and talked about how initiatives such as Clean Up Australia Day is really important because we need to give back to the environment, that provides us with food, water & oxygen. If we clean up Australia, then we will have a healthy place to live comfortably in.
I learnt how to be grateful for our environment that day. I wasn’t one to fuss over the environment, but this changes my point of view entirely. I became much more appreciative for our local environment.
If every were grateful and happy, the world would be a better place. I have been picking up rubbish more often now, if I see rubbish, I pick it up and put in the bin. Including all tribes, I think we did really well as a community. By the end of the morning, we couldn’t find any rubbish on the foreshore. We, as Individuals can have a great impact on the environment, if we try. Here are a few ways we can help our environment:
Home -Recycle what you can, turn old phones into Telstra or Optus, turn in old batteries to the CFA, put rubbish in the bin, turn of lights when your not in the room, get a compost bin, use rechargeable batteries, bye local foods or grow foods and turn off taps properly.
School -Pick up other’s rubbish, recycle your drinks from the canteen and remind teachers to turn off projectors, turn off lights, don’t waste water, use nude food, use a lunchbox instead of plastic bags, use paper bins, use importance of clean environment and use solar panels.
Community – Talk to others about this issue, use less plastics and rubbers, use more decomposable rubbish, use a lunchbox instead of plastic bags, electric cars, put rubbish bins, recycle bins and compost bins on the streets, have more hard rubbish days, throw back bigger fish, sustainable farming and use fines for littering.
Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria
The keep Australia Beautiful Victoria Tidy Towns – Sustainable Communities Awards recognise positive actions taken by communities in rural and regional areas to protect and enhance their local environments. They encompass initiatives as diverse as litter prevention, recycling, protection of environment, preserving heritage, community action and leadership and environmental sustainability programs.
The Shire is pleased to announce that Sustainability Victoria have recognised Western Port Secondary College in the Community Action over 3000 category for the Spiral Meditation Garden.