Since 2009, St Therese Catholic Primary School in Torquay, has put sustainability at the forefront of its school curriculum and established itself as a leading ResourceSmart school.
This 5Star-certified school has a range of sustainability initiatives including recycling systems, worm farms, solar panels, water efficient taps, waterless urinals, dual flush toilets and energy efficient buildings. The use of vegetable produce from the school’s vibrant gardens keeps sustainability at front of mind and encourages composting.
Gerard McCarthy, Sustainability Coordinator at St Therese Catholic Primary School, explains the link between the ResourceSmart Schools program and the school’s sustainability practices.
“The ResourceSmart Schools program is fantastic in assisting you to drive your sustainability initiatives,” he says. “It really does help you and give you great ideas in learning and teaching, workplace and operational aspects of your school and helps develop and foster community engagement. The camaraderie and professional links you make with other schools and organisations by being part of the program is invaluable.”
“On many occasions, I have seen the great joy students get out of making a real difference to our environment; things such as cleaning beaches of plastic and cigarette butts, revegetating coastal heathland or growing vegetables.”
During its time as part of the ResourceSmart Schools program, the school has saved over $192,000 and 246,265 kWh of electricity – equal to an incredible 483 fridges running for a year. In addition, they have saved 8,133,760 litres of water, which is the equivalent of 12 swimming pools.
Through clever recycling programs, the school has reduced its waste by over up 3100 m3 – or the equivalent of 127 garbage trucks full of rubbish. The school has also challenged school families to make informed purchasing choices at the supermarket, such as avoiding food in small plastic containers.
St Therese Catholic Primary School considers ResourceSmart Schools an integral part of its curriculum. For example, the grade five and six learning community has collated data from their biodiversity audit. The students have conducted assessments and mapped out improvement areas of the school to target in the understory. Results of this have been very encouraging with organic litter providing safe havens for many insects and increasing birdlife in the school.
St Therese interact with the local community through their Battery Recycling Program, the first of its kind in Torquay. Since the program began in 2013, St Therese has recycled over 142 kilograms worth of batteries that would otherwise go to landfill, endangering the immediate environment.
The ResourceSmart Schools program has seen staff and students at St Therese develop a sustainable garden in conjunction with Victoria University. This project began with a series of discussions between staff and students, leading to developing plans on spaces students live in and how to activate change. Students weeded play areas; petitioned and received a composting bin from the Surf Coast Shire Council; and kept all of school informed regarding the project. This project encouraged the whole school to start thinking about next steps.
St Therese Catholic Primary School three sustainability tips for schools
- Your school leaders must be fully committed to the program. Providing a leadership position or time allocation to staff to help facilitate the program in your school will help you get the most out of it.
- Involve parents, students and staff in everything you do. All of these stakeholders have an interest in helping our environment and will give you a wealth of ideas to implement.
- Keep detailed records of what you have achieved and share this with your school community. At St Therese Catholic Primary School, data collection proves that the school is saving money, reducing its footprint, winning grants and has a solid reputation in our local community as a leader in sustainability. This is something that they are proud of, which proves being involved in ResourceSmart Schools really works.