How Kiama High School saves $800 a month fighting a war on waste

THUMBS UP: Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove congratulates Kiama High School twins Mathew Lawson and Roy Lawson. Picture: Sylvia Liber
THUMBS UP: Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove congratulates Kiama High School twins Mathew Lawson and Roy Lawson. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The Governor General Peter Cosgrove is among the many people who have been impressed with the waste reducing efforts at Kiama High School.

Year 7 students were primarily responsible for leading the school’s efforts to reduce waste by introducing BioPak compostable packaging as a more sustainable option for single-use disposables in the school canteen.

Kiama High School’s initiative featured in an episode of the War on Waste series screened on ABC.

On Monday the school estimated it saved up to $800 per month by improving its approach to sustainability.

This announcement came on the same day the NSW Government launched its new Environmental Design in Schools guide.

Education Minister Rob Stokes released the new guide at the inaugural School Infrastructure NSW Sustainability Forum, which brought together the infrastructure, design and education sectors to discuss the importance of sustainability within schools.

“Small changes to a school’s design and operations to make it more environmentally friendly can also drive down maintenance costs, so there’s a benefit to the bottom line too,” Mr Stokes said.

The NSW Government Architect and School Infrastructure NSW partnered to develop the guide, which provides principals and school communities with a holistic understanding of environmental design.

The ‘Waste Warriors’ group of students at Kiama HS have already been using many of the new guide’s initiatives.

The 47 students conducted a waste audit prior to any changes and again three months after the changes had been implemented.

“The initiatives proved a huge success including a 50 per cent reduction in waste being generated and going to landfill, a saving of $400-$800 per month in waste management fees and fundraising through Return and Earn,” principal Catherine Glover said.

“KHS has been inundated with positive feedback from the community and has provided information to 12 other schools to support them in their own War on Waste.”

Other steps the school took to improve sustainability included changing its waste management provider, acquiring a e-waste recycling bin and promoting Trash-Free Thursdays to reduce single-use packaging.

NSW Acting Government Architect Olivia Hyde said the new guide would continue to underpin existing efforts to encourage good environmental design in new, existing and upgraded schools.

“Simple strategies such as opening windows on both sides of a classroom can improve comfort levels, by encouraging air flow and pushing hotter air outside. Outside we can provide trees to reduce playground temperature and also offer more shaded areas for student play and learning,” Ms Hyde said.

Some 40,000 solar panels have been installed on the roofs of 1432 NSW public schools, including at Dapto HS.

They generate enough electricity each year to power 2000 homes.

Over the past five years, energy efficiency projects in NSW public schools have reduced carbon emissions by over 13,700 tonnes which is the equivalent of taking 5500 cars off the road.

During the same period more than 50,000 LED lights have been installed in NSW public schools to reduce energy use and improve the indoor environment.