Princes Hill Primary School became a 5-Star Sustainable School in May, 2007, as part of another nine inner-city Melbourne schools developing sustainable practices through the Innovation and Excellence program. Over the span of the program, due for completion in December 2007, all nine schools met to share their experiences, discuss the course of action and sustainable programs in their schools, including expert knowledge and advice at hand from Eric Bottomley at CERES. These have including curriculum development, school policy development and operations, maintaining auditing records and data to measure outcomes in terms of social, environmental and economic savings.
5 Star School
The Innovation and Excellence project also provided financial assistance with a budget allocated to each school. This incorporated invaluable CRT coverage to complete documentation, develop action plans and targets, professional development and training, discussion time in teams, preparing grant applications, festivals, planting days, purchasing shower timers for all nine schools, conducting visits to view programs at other schools – the list goes on!
Despite Princes Hill Primary School’s 5-Star accreditation, the sustainable school’s committee continues to look for innovative ideas to strengthen the momentum of our environment programs into the future. What often assists and inspires our green crusade are the shared experiences and innovative ideas borrowed and revamped from other schools. Conversely, like all schools, we encounter challenges along the way, whether practical setbacks such as water leakage from old piping or maintaining behavioral or ideological shifts in thinking that keep the “green campaign” alive.
For us in our school the most pressing challenge will be maintaining priority in the sustainable programs, and continuing to look at new ways to improve the programs in existence, avoiding the conviction that sustainability has been “done” now that we have our 5-Star mantle. Confidently, the operational frameworks we have developed will continue to meet sustainable targets in the future.
What follows is a brief overview of Princes Hill Primary School sustainable school program, looking at the four modules and ways in which we have sought to reduce waste, water and energy use and increase biodiversity at school. A brief overview is included about the community links developed throughout the program and our whole school Sustainable Festival in 2006.
For waste, reduction program involves compost, recycling and landfill bin stations in the school yard, with all students across the school involved through a three-week roster to audit, monitor and collect rubbish in the school yard. Tuesdays are Rubbish-free lunch days and the school has established eating areas to reduce litter in the grounds. Since these measures were introduced, approximately 24 cubic metres of compost is created each year. Every year, the school recycles approximately 14,400 litres of paper and 14760 litres of plastic and glass.
For water, buckets are placed under all drinking fountains as a way to reuse grey water, with the water collected used to water garden beds. Automatic flush systems were installed into the boys’ urinals and this year we hope to install PB Selector Flushes on existing toilet systems that can regulate the amount of water used per flush. Currently, two water tanks harvest rainwater from our roofing that are used for watering new plants and later this year a rainwater garden, provided by Melbourne Water, will be established off our new art complex building. A comparison of water records between 2004 and 2006 school years indicates a 21% reduction in water cost and 30% reduction in use, also attributed to droughts and water restrictions.
For Biodiversity, the school has participated in National Tree Day over the last three years, establishing indigenous garden beds which are mulched and weeded by our 3/4 Environment Club. A wildlife corridor was planted in 2005 to provide habitat and a food source for native fauna between the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creek. An additional 700 indigenous plants will be established on the grounds in July this year. We are also hoping to revitalize our vegetable garden program and develop a whole grounds plan, including outdoor learning centre for environmental and outdoor curricular activities.
To conserve energy, all classrooms have energy monitors who check computers, lights and heaters/air-conditioner use in the classroom. A combined look at gas and electricity use over the same two year period indicates a reduction in the school’s energy use. Estimations were issued for the gas utility charges making comparisons difficult, however, our electricity costs have dropped by $2030 per year (from $10,583 to $8213), saving approximately 15 tonnes of Greenhouse gases. The school regularly promotes active transport and bicycle programs, with regular audits showing approximately 56% of staff and students involved in active travel to and from school.
Despite our school’s 5-Star accreditation, the sustainable school’s committee continues to look for innovative ideas to strengthen the momentum of our environment programs into the future.