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How schools are embracing sustainability for a greener tomorrow


Set to inherit the planet, young people have taken centre stage in the sustainability movement. These leaders of the future are raising awareness, running educational programs and adopting environmentally friendly lifestyle practices. Gen Z are talking about climate change more, reading about it more and are more involved with events and volunteering than other generations before them.

Inspired by their students as well as their own sense of social responsibility, many schools are getting onboard with sustainability initiatives. Large scale infrastructure projects, reducing waste and energy usage, and injecting sustainability into their curriculum are some of the steps that schools are taking to increase awareness and do their part for the environment.

Providing students with opportunities to learn how sustainability principles can be applied to a range of situations is helping them prepare for the future. Two schools leading the way when it comes to sustainability are Melbourne’s Camberwell Grammar School and Redlands School in Sydney.

Camberwell Grammar School’s path to Net Zero by 2030


Camberwell Grammar School’s solar panels

When Camberwell Grammar made the decision to have solar panels installed, it went large. In 2019 an 888 kW solar panel system, the biggest in an Australian school at the time, was installed, reducing the School’s carbon footprint by 1,200 tonnes per year and reliance on grid power by nearly half. Since then, Camberwell has gone a step further and procured all its remaining energy requirements from solar and wind renewable sources, making it one of the first schools in Victoria to do so.

This is all part of the School’s Net Zero by 2030 initiative - their goal is to reach Net Zero by 2030 and from there to become carbon positive. Net Zero by 2030 brings all of their water, energy, biodiversity, transport, resource recovery and procurement programs together into a formal commitment from the School and builds on one of their six strategic pillars - Sustainable and Secure Operations.

Having buy-in from the top down is central to these efforts. The support of the School Council and the Executive empowers the wider school community, turning projects into shared goals and engaging people across all levels. To keep track of progress, the School has developed a timeline to 2030 having commissioned a baseline report including current consumption levels. To ensure they are on track, the timeline is underpinned by annual reporting against targets for each category.

Student leaders

The Environmental Prefect acts as a leader in the sustainability space, encouraging fellow students to participate and learn. Hosting the Towards2050 program is one of the main responsibilities of this office, and a key tool for engaging the student body in sustainability. The Towards2050 group meets weekly to discuss sustainability issues within and beyond the school and upcoming plans and projects. The Towards2050 group was a driving force behind the installation of the school’s solar panel system and is now assisting in the design of the school’s new waste streams. The group is always looking for ways to lower resource usage and increase biodiversity and resource recovery by raising awareness through assemblies, whole-school activities and inter school partnerships.

Redlands School: Creating a sustainable culture

Creating a sustainable culture at Redlands is embedded in the School’s strategic plan. Enriching the student learning experience, making some big operational changes and rethinking their master plan are all part of Redlands strategic commitment to sustainability.

Teaching and learning opportunities


Redlands students at their rooftop garden

To engage students in sustainability, the School is providing their students with as many learning opportunities as they can. When they were looking at their master plan, Redlands recognised an opportunity to teach students about sustainable design. The School set out a project for students to design a sustainable classroom, and held a workshop with an industry professional. The results were more than anyone expected “It didn’t just show an understanding of sustainable design, but a passion for sustainability. The classrooms the students designed were incredible.” says Redlands Sustainability Coordinator Kimberlee Chipper.

Looking to the future, the School’s sustainability team has some exciting proposals that they are hoping to commence. At their High Country Campus in the Snowy Mountains, Redlands recently purchased a large neighbouring block of land. After purchasing, the School completed a biodiversity audit and found they could qualify for the NSW Biodiversity Offset Scheme and partake in a biodiversity stewardship. Redlands is keen to involve students in the process as much as possible, providing a first hand look at the impact of biodiversity loss and how it can be counteracted.

Environment Captains

Each year student Environment Captains are chosen to act as leaders in the sustainability space and encourage other students to get involved. When Redlands hosted the Zero Emissions Sydney North meeting with local schools, the Environment Captains presented the School’s sustainability initiatives to the attendees, and held a tour of their rooftop gardens. For World Ocean Day, Redlands organised an event at the School raising awareness for healthy oceans with guest speakers and students and staff from schools around NSW and ACT.


The Redlands Environment Captain’s World Ocean Day event

Sustainability as part of their strategic plan

To better understand their carbon footprint, Redlands completes annual greenhouse gas assessments. These assessments determine the annual release of carbon emissions associated with the School, including an in-depth breakdown of the Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. This has led the School to seek their own Net Zero pathway, and to learn more about the specifics of what is involved, how it can be achieved and developing a specific timeline for when they can reach Net Zero emissions.

Operational goals achieved at the School include installation of a 61 kW solar panel system (a further 286 kW system has been proposed), installation of LED lights across the school, and eliminating single use plastics from the canteen.

60 energy monitoring sensors have also been installed across the School increasing visibility of their energy usage, and at the same time providing a valuable learning resource. With data being accessible to teachers at all times, the sensors are frequently used to provide learning opportunities and examples in the classroom.

Leading change and motivating other schools

The efforts referenced in this article are just a few examples of the many initiatives these schools are undertaking. For both schools, reducing emissions is just part of the plan. They want to inspire and educate their students, and motivate other schools and organisations to do the same.

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