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Standing up for sustainability

This week, Year 8 investigated different approaches to sustainability, looking at waste management, sustainable housing and urban development for Design Thinking.

Schools can be a powerful force in driving change towards sustainability. Like many schools, waste is a concern at Wenona and a problem we all help to create – a waste audit of the Social Science and TAS department alone found that 15 people had produced 5 kilos of waste in just one day! If we all change our approach – staff, students and parents - the whole community will benefit.

As part of their Design Thinking, Year 8 students were asked to consider the following questions: How we can be more sustainable in the waste we generate at Wenona? What can Wenona do? What can students do?

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The students were divided into groups of four, and wearing gloves, an apron and wielding a pair of tongs, they collected bags of rubbish collected in the previous day from various locations across the School. They then came together in the Undercroft with Ms McNally and Ms Jalili.

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After weighting their initial rubbish bag, they emptied the contents onto a plastic sheet, where they began the process of dividing it up into categories such as food and garden waste, compostable paper, batteries, non-recyclable plastics and metals.

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They were overwhelmed by the smell of the rotting fruit, old shoes, plastic folders, drink bottles, coffee cups and broken plastic lunch boxes. India said, “I’ve got a whole new appreciation for people who work at the tip.”

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The students all weighed each category of rubbish they’d collected, with one person from each group taking photos and videoing it. They then worked together to brainstorm different solutions for reducing waste such as getting coffee in reusable cups and using refillable water bottles. Taking lunch in reusable containers and having one day a week as a ‘packaging-free’ lunch day (Wenona held a Waste-Free Wednesday this week). Re-using folders when projects have finished and buying less stuff to reduce the over-manufacting of commonly used goods. In the afternoon, the students all made environmentally friendly beeswax wrapping for their lunchboxes.

All the students agreed that conducting a waste audit was a great way to get them thinking about what they can do to reduce the amount of waste that ends up as landfill from Wenona. They decided that with a little more thought, we can all reduce, reuse and recycle, both at school, at home and elsewhere. In doing so, we can all be instruments of change and take an active role in protecting our environment.

Year 8 students also had the opportunity to hear from Ben Nickell, Assistant Sustainability Manager at Mirvac, and Clarence Slockee, Team Leader of Visitor Services at Barangaroo. They spoke about sustainability issues such as water, waste, climate change, energy use and community wellbeing.

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Working in groups, students brainstormed a strategy to create a sustainable building here at Wenona.

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There were some fantastic ideas for both zero carbon and carbon positive buildings including solar panels, chilled beam technology, compostable toilets, vegetable gardens, passive design – including shutters that tracked the sun – and sustainable construction materials.

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By designing a school building that is energy efficient and low carbon, the students also thought about the positive effect this would have on health and wellbeing, potentially helping to create a calmer and more productive school environment.

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There was plenty of 'out-of-the-box' thinking as students embraced the principles of green school design and they enjoyed collaborating, debating and thinking critically and creatively about how to re-imagine their school space.

The future is in safe hands!