Sustainability is the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. Ecology is the study of the relationships between organisms and their physical environment. The newly-named Waverley College Ecology group has, in 2021, been concentrating on making the relationship with our environment a positive one and one that will support sustainability.
In Term 1, we were able to celebrate and contribute towards the annual Earth Hour event on 27 March 2021. Earth Hour claimed that 2021 was the year for positive change, after the previous year that brought droughts, bushfires, toxic smoke and loss of native animals. In highlighting the small changes our students, families and staff could make by turning off their lights for one hour, made ‘Earth Hour’ this year, the most important one for our planet and country.
In Term 2, we learnt a new term ‘Plogging.’ ‘Plogging’ is the combination of two words: ‘jogging’ and the Swedish phrase for pick up, ‘plocka upp.’ Earth Day was celebrated on 22 April 2021, and together with our Ecology Coordinator, I challenged students and staff to a Term 2 plog-a-thon.
- individuals and/or small groups selecting one day of the week, when they were going to ‘plog-a-thon’ at school — they were asked to stick to this for the whole of Term 2
- picking up, or as they say in Sweden, ‘plocka upp’, at least 10 items of litter from in or around the College grounds, as well as extending this to around their neighbourhoods too
I received emails from a number of Duke of Edinburgh students who chose ‘Plogging’ as their service component. Great work guys!
One idea bubbling away, is the potential to grow more of our own fresh fruits, vegetables and bush tucker. However, with limited land space at Waverley College to do this, we would be looking towards installing a hydroponics system on campus. In Term 2, The Students of the World Ecology Group entered a competition to win a Food Ladder.
Food Ladder’s food security solutions integrate a series of custom-designed greenhouses, designed to mitigate the very specific and volatile weather variants, which are being further exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
Food Ladder projects address health, education and economic development outcomes through a multi-disciplinary approach in partnership with the local community. Programs include vocational training, STEM education and nutrition workshops.
As a city school, our food security is high, but so are our food miles. Having the opportunity to use this within curriculum syllabuses such as: Science, Geography, Hospitality, TAS and our First Nations Students, would be highly educational. Unfortunately, we were not finalists in the competition, but our entry has instigated positive communication and a growing relationship with Food Ladder.
Food Ladder have kindly provided Waverley College with access to their amazing library of educational resources. We hope to include these resources and the prospect of a Food Ladder at Waverley College in the future.
Second Waste Management Audit
Following the success of the 2020 waste management, which highlighted positive ways Waverley College could improve the disposal of waste for students and staff, in Term 2, a second waste audit was conducted. Having increased the number of recycling bins and significant simple labelling, we were hopeful that we would discover that this had decreased the amount of recyclable waste in the landfill general waste bins.
In June, along with the O’Connor House Prefects, the Students of the World Ecology group audited four bins — two from Centenary Quad and two from Kenny Quad. The bins we targeted were landfill/general waste and the yellow recycle bins. The findings showed that more plastic waste was being disposed into the correct yellow recycling bins across both sites. However, we also discovered a significant amount of food waste in both landfill/general waste, and the yellow recycling bins. Over 12kg of food waste in total across the four bins. This was a shocking discovery.
A further discovery was the amount of soft plastic waste. “If you can scrunch it, you can save it.” Soft plastics are plastics that can be scrunched in your hand. These include: chip packets, snack wrappers, cling wrap, product packaging and many more. The main issue with collecting soft plastic for recycling, is that there needs to be a designated waste bin, solely for soft plastics. If they are contaminated by food or drink, this makes them ineligible for recycling. We have sourced resources from the Plastic Police to help assist the College in providing a soft plastics recycling station.
We are also, thanks to talks with Waverley Council, taking part in a free ‘Bin Trim’ scheme run by MRA Consulting. The ‘Bin Trim’ Program is a NSW EPA initiative that supports businesses and organisations in maximising recycling, and reducing the amount of waste to landfill. Having received funding from the NSW government, MRA is the leading Bin Trim provider, with more than 8,000 organisations engaged across the state.
Minimising the amount of landfill waste is not just good for the environment, it can raise environmental awareness, and likely save the College money as well. Fingers crossed that they are able to provide us with constructive advice and solutions on how to improve our waste management even further in 2022.
EcoERC Sustainability Conference
In Term 2, we were invited by Edmund Rice College, Wollongong, to attend the EcoERC Sustainability Conference. This is a student-led conference, connecting various EREA schools who share their ecology projects and knowledge. Hayden Walker (Year 12, 2021), took part in an online pre-conference conversation with the other schools, and discussed our waste management framework and plans.
Hayden also discussed how Waverley College could participate in the conference, as unfortunately, we were unable to visit in person. The Students of the World Ecology Group created a short five-minute video to showcase a few of our waste management ideas, following our second waste audit. This video was played at the conference and was warmly received by all conference participants. Hopefully, we get a chance to attend the conference in person in 2022. The short video was also posted on Waverley College’s Social Media pages!
Climate Clever App
Waverley College is taking steps to track our energy and waste bills via the Climate Clever App.
This app will provide the College with detailed data on the energy we use, and the waste we create. The app is a very useful way to gather and show data, before and after the College’s Master Plan. The idea centres around our students and staff being able to see how much energy is used/wasted, so that we can all be involved in making the right ecological decisions to reduce it.
The data collection will be student-led by our Students of the World Ecology Group, and will be supported by teachers and staff to help advocate and push it forward. Action plan items will be set and promoted, for example a ‘Remember to Flick the Switch to Off’ campaign to reduce the amount of energy being misused at the end of the week/term.
A whole-school approach will provide significant data for students to compare bills before and after the action plan, hopefully providing proof that small and smart choices do make a difference. Thanks to the Accounts Department, so far we have been able to gather data going back to 2019, and the Students of the World Ecology Group are learning valuable life skills in reading and understanding utility bills.
Solar Energy Displays
Solar Analytics is a company behind the software program ‘My Solar Dashboard.’ This provides savings analysis, energy insights and system performance alerts to help you get more value from your solar system. In Term 4, with thanks to Mr Simon Potter, the day to day solar generation from Waverley College’s Gymnasium and Performing Arts Centre solar panels is now displayed daily on the TV screens around campus.
Some useful facts: One hour of streaming Netflix consumes 6.1 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, and one return air flight between Sydney to Melbourne generates 165kg of CO2.
Collaboration with our Waverley Community
Special thanks to the Waverley College Parents’ Association for their generous donation towards the Ecology budget. So far, this money has enabled the Ecology group to make plans to split our native bee hive, as well as install a Honey Super to gather honey, both with specialist equipment purchased from Sydney Stingless Bees. They have also supported the Ecology group to concentrate on soft plastic recycling. Furthermore, this money will go towards plans to add more greenery to areas such as the Centenary Quad, which will soften and calm the environment, whilst we wait for renovations under the Master Plan.
We have, in the past month, made our relationship with Waverley Council even stronger by signing up to take part in their new School Uniform Recycling Program, coming in Term 1, 2022. This program is in collaboration with the organisation ‘Worn Up.’ Worn Up will collect our unwearable uniform items and send them to textile companies who will then use them to make something wonderful.
We look forward to working even more closely with Waverley Council, Waverley College Parents’ Association, and other local organisations in 2022.
COVID 19 Restrictions
Restrictions kept our students and staff from campus for the whole of Terms 3 and 4. However, the Ecology group continued to meet online via Google Meets, staying connected and keeping momentum with the projects and ideas that will extend into 2022.
If you have any ecological/sustainability ideas that you would like the Students of the World Ecology group to investigate in 2022, please email me, or even better, consider joining the group! Everyone is welcome.
We wish you a safe and sustainable Summer break.
Ms Rebecca Sutcliffe and the Students of the World Ecology Group
Geography Teacher and Ecology Coordinator