CERES Education Interview with Kirsty Costa
Victorian Environmental and Sustainability Educator of the Year 2013
Group Manager of CERES Education
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I’ve always loved being in nature and spent a good chunk of my childhood camping with family. When I was 13, I saw the ugly face of deforestation and this sparked what would turn into a life-long mission to protect our forests and other natural spaces. I lived in Adelaide for 3 years and did a Bachelor of Arts at Adelaide University. During this time, I got involved in the Environment Collective and ran some campaigns based on campus and local issues. I guess this is where my love of environmental education started as I came to realise the change a small group of people can make using creativity and communication.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
I’ve had so many wonderful moments in my journey so far, including working on Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaign. But I will always remember the day I started working at CERES. I walked through the front gates and couldn’t believe my luck. I thought, “I am so privileged to be working here” and I still feel the same way almost 5 years later. I work with the most incredible team at CERES Education – people who are highly intelligent, amazing educators, passionate about what they do and committed to making this world a better place.
I’ve also really enjoyed watching ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic, a program initially created by CERES and the Gould League, grow to involve over 1000 schools in 2013 and spread through every region in Victoria.
Working at CERES means there are highlights all the time… I particularly love it when a teacher comes up to me after a workshop or presentation to tell me they had a great time and I’ve got them thinking about how they can make more sustainable lifestyle choices.
3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you/are you overcoming it?
One of the biggest obstacles we face is that schools often see sustainability as “just one more thing” they have to do. They sometimes struggle see the possibilities for integrating it into existing curriculum, existing operations and making it part of their community building activities. There is no easy answer on how to change this attitude but ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic is working to support schools to see opportunities, not ‘burdens’. It’s so amazing that the State Government is funding facilitators to go out and work with schools to give one-on-one support. I see the success of ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic all the time and many schools now changing the way they think about incorporating sustainability in what they do.
I think that sustainability is not “just one more thing” schools have to do. It is the most important thing they have to do. Literacy and Numeracy become obselite if we don’t have enough food to eat or clean air to breathe.
4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?
This year, CERES Education is working a lot closer with our partners to make ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic the best it can be. Teachers are often overwhelmed by the amazing sustainability education programs on offer and we’ve tried to help them work out how the jigsaw fits together. We are ‘connecting the dots’ to over 70 exciting partner programs that engage students and teachers in different sustainability campaigns or projects – and support a school’s ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic journey. I am excited how many collaborations are taking place at the moment between schools, organisations and governments. Gone are the days of organisations working in silos – partnerships are the key to creating a sustainable future.
5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?
Don’t worry about those people who are putting up blockers or resisting the change you want to create. They are entitled to their opinions but not worth having lengthy debates with (even if they are in roles of leadership). Find ways to work around them and eventually they will either get on board or step out of your way as you start to achieve successes. Instead, focus your energy on the people who are willing to support you with your projects – build up mass participation this way.
Don’t forget to CELEBRATE – the big and the small. The more you can show your achievements, the more people will want to be part of it. And celebrating is also good for the soul.
CERES Education would like to thank Kirsty for sharing her story.
Read more about CERES Education here – http://dev.sustainability.ceres.org.au/welcome/