Penguin friendly events

Penguins inspire schools to reduce litter at their ‘penguin-friendly’ events.

Project information

  • Name: Penguin Friendly Events
  • Lead: City of Port Phillip
  • Location: St Kilda Primary School and Albert Park Primary School in South-East Melbourne (Port Phillip Bay Catchment)
  • Partners: City of Port Phillip, Port Phillip EcoCentre, Albert Park Primary School, St Kilda Primary School
  • Themes: marine wildlife; marine debris; working with schools; reuse

We don’t know if penguins like to party. But we do know they don’t like the litter from our parties.

When students, teachers and parents from St Kilda and Albert Park primary schools found out litter was harming the St Kilda colony of Little Penguins, they resolved to do something about it.

And so the ‘How to run a penguin friendly (zero waste) school fete or event guide’ was born – a five-step guide to running zero waste events at schools.

“Schools organise many events to build community and raise funds,” said Karen Jones, Education Manager at Port Phillip EcoCentre. “The waste and litter generated at these events has to be managed at considerable cost – both time and money – to the school. We also pay an environmental cost as a community when litter is blown or washed into stormwater drains, where it flows into creeks, rivers and eventually Port Phillip Bay.

“We worked with schools to come up with projects before, during and after events to reduce waste and litter and protect the penguins.”

Kids taking ownership

“The children were at the forefront of the project,” said Karen. After learning about the importance of the Little Penguins and the impact of litter, the kids brainstormed ideas to reduce waste at events and took on leadership roles to bring their ideas to fruition.

“The Little Penguins really inspired the schools to get involved. Having a tangible connection to the local environment was really important.”

Right: Penguins featured on the signage at both schools

Audits provide the clues

The waste audit and watching people’s behaviour at events helped the schools identify a range of easy actions to reduce litter and bin contamination.

Small stingray and shark promote litter messages and audit bins at the fete

“Putting all the food and drink stalls together in one location with well positioned bins and signage is an easy way to reduce litter and bin contamination,” said Karen. “Adding signs to each stall telling people what goes in each bin can also reduce contamination.

“You can get food and drink vendors to sign agreements stating products to use and avoid,” added Karen. “For example, no plastic straws and bring ice in eskies instead of plastic bags. You can have them agree to take waste away with them. For example, the bar can take back empty bottles and cans for recycling.”

War on waste washing up kit

A waste audit at the Albert Park Primary School fete in the first term of 2017 led to the development of the ‘War on Waste Washing Up Kit’ to replace single-use plates, cups and cutlery.

Combined with bin caps (recycling and landfill) and bin signage, a pilot of the kit at the St Kilda fete later that year prevented 2,800 single-use items being used, halving the volumes from their previous fete.

I have volunteered on many of the school stalls today and being part of the washing-up stall is the best by far. Everyone is so friendly, supportive and I am not having to sell anything – unlike on the other stalls.

– Parent volunteer, St Kilda Primary School fete

A five-step approach

These ideas and more are covered in the event guide available from The five-step guide can be applied to any public event, not just those run by schools. It covers:

  1. Waste and litter generated at an event and how to prevent it
  2. Managing the event’s waste and litter
  3. War on Waste Washing up Kit
  4. Starting small and setting realistic expectations
  5. Involving students, parents and teachers

Collective knowledge for the win

Each of the project partners brought different knowledge and expertise to the table. “This helped us to round out the project and take it further than we would have if we worked in isolation,” explained Karen.

“The council knew about school and event waste management and collection. We know about student leadership and environmental behaviour change. And the two schools knew about all things school – how everything works, student leadership programs, incorporating the curriculum, running school events and getting students and parents involved.

“The school events were in different terms, so it was challenging to get both schools attending project coordination meetings and the online education sessions we had planned to run. We ended up running sessions face-to-face instead of online.

“You could avoid this by working with one school at a time but the sharing and learning between the two schools was a real strength of the project.”


“The delay in funding meant we didn’t have enough time to run student education and leadership sessions before the Albert Park fete. The students, teachers and EcoCentre staff did a great job adapting and some of the student sessions were delivered after the event to take their learnings from the 2017 fete and prepare the school for their 2018 fete.”

Next steps

“We built great momentum with this project. Lots of schools have asked about running penguin friendly events and developing their own War on Waste Washing Up Kits.

“We will look for opportunities to share our findings and the how-to guide by presenting at teacher conferences, networking events and student-led workshops.”

More information

Contact Karen Jones, Education Manager at Port Phillip EcoCentre on (03) 9535 3102 or email Alternatively, visit