Born of a desire to get Gold Coast students more deeply involved in sustainability, the inaugural School Sustainability Awards on the Gold Coast were run earlier this year, attracting a number of quality entries from schools across the coast.
Run by Sustainable Schools Network and Gecko Environment, the Awards were announced at a ceremony on 31 May, with three winners taking home separate categories.
Five finalists in both Primary School and Secondary School categories presented their sustainability projects at the night and the winners were celebrated at the ceremony.
Primary School Category winner was St. Francis Xavier Catholic Primary School in Runaway Bay with their 2020 Vision for a Cleaner and Greener School. The $1,000 prize was sponsored by Gecko Environment Council.
“We were thrilled, which is an understatement,” said school Special Projects Officer Julianna Stewart of their win.
“For us, it was affirmation that we were on the right track with our environmental initiatives. It also helped foster support across the wider school community for our 12-month sustainability plan.”
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Primary School’s project was a holistic one, addressing multiple environmental issues across the school such as waste reduction, recycling, expanding its sustainability group, and building a sustainable garden. Its 12-month plan will pick up where the shorter term project left off.
“We are [now] working on eliminating packaging in lunch boxes so that we can remove all our playground rubbish bins this year,” explained Julianna.
“We are also planning a sustainable garden which will allow us to grow fruit and vegetables for our tuckshop and will also provide an eco-system of native plants to attract birds and bees.”
Secondary School Category was won by Currumbin Community Special School in Currumbin with their e-Waste Warrior project. The $1,000 prize was sponsored by Regen Australia.
Currumbin Community Special School teacher, Toby Osborne, spearheaded the project.
“We have been pushing hard to establish and grow this program since we got it started last year. To be acknowledged so positively through this award is amazing,” he said.
The school has a history of providing students with authentic outdoor and environmental educational experiences, such as a kitchen garden. Now with its award-winning e-Waste Warriors program in place, students and the wider community have access to a fully functioning e-waste recycling facility.
“The e-Waste Warriors program allows us to process electronic waste from our local community, whilst also teaching our students a range of valuable work experience skills,” explained Toby.
“Our vision is to expand our e-Waste Warriors internal work experience program into a fully functioning innovation space that recycles all the raw materials and technical components of unwanted e-waste from our local community.
“We recognise that giving students basic trade tool skills to be able to tinker, explore, repair and invent will set them up for a brighter and smarter future as conscientious participants in society, rather than simply consumers.”
With e-Waste the fastest growing waste stream in the world, programs like this one are timely, and require support. Toby encourages community members to participate through donations to the school.
“We are especially interested in all computers, TV’s, DVD players, amplifiers and stereo equipment,” he said.
“All e-waste items can be donated directly to the school or if you are a business and you have a large load we can organise a pick up.”
Finally, the general public was given an opportunity to choose their favourite school program through the People’s Choice Award. Tangalooma Island Resort sponsored this award and presented Robina State High School’s ‘The Sustainabulls’ with an eco-excursion experience on the night.
The Sustainabulls Founder and Coordinator Amanda Chamberlain couldn’t have been more pleased with their nod for Project: Sustainable Youth.
“It is an honour to win the people’s choice award as it comes from the community, which is something The Sustainabulls value deeply,” she says.
“We do so much with very little funding. It proves that it is about the people with a passion rather than the money behind it… the only thing stopping you from making a difference is you. I know that might seem harsh, but it is true. I have always been a firm believer that if you really want something to happen, then you will do whatever it takes to get it done.
“I am so proud of what we have achieved so far, and excited about what is to come.”
Katie Norman, Co-Founder of School Sustainability Awards, was stoked with the response to the inaugural event and is already looking forward to next year’s awards.
“The quality of entries in 2019 was incredibly high, the number overwhelming and the creativity and enthusiasm of the presentations at the night was beyond commendable,” she said.
“The schools did not only engage their students in sustainability projects but established networking opportunities and potential partnerships on the night, were inspired by what others were doing and had the opportunity to celebrate together. We look forward to building on this year’s success in 2020.”
School Sustainability Awards 2019 were sponsored by School Sustainability Network, Gecko Environment Council, Regen Australia, Tangalooma Island Resort and City of Gold Coast.