Universities and schools put focus on sustainability

ISABELLA CHENG

Universities and schools around the country are making a big effort to be environmentally responsible and sustainable.

UQ sustainability coordinator Suzanne Davis

UQ Sustainability coordinator Suzanne Davis says sustainability is important for everyone. Photo: Isabella Cheng

One of the universities placing a strong focus on sustainability is the University of Queensland, which is hosted its sixth annual Sustainability Week from August 20 to 24.

The week featured more than 60 events, with UQ Sustainability, Green Office, Green the Team, UQ Environmental Collective, Australian Youth Climate Coalition UQ and a number of other environmentally conscious groups took part in the week, which featured more than 60 events.

Events included eco pop-up shops, tree planting, terrarium making, stair climbing and cycling challenges, film screenings, a sustainability trivia night and even a Thrift Ball featuring upcycled frocks.

UQ Sustainability coordinator Suzanne Davis said sustainability was important because it affected everyone.

“Sustainability is about the planet and that affects everyone, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a student or not a student,” Ms Davis said.

“And we’re not necessarily targeting people who are interested in sustainability, that’s a bonus, but everyone is on a spectrum.

“The aim is to shift everyone’s perspective a little bit towards the more sustainable end of the spectrum.”

She said sustainability week, in a general sense, was not about events held during a single week of the year, but was about educating people to look at things from a different perspective.

“[UQ’s sustainability] model is engaging the broader community,” Ms Davis said.

She said she felt a sense of gratitude from seeing the impact that Sustainability Week has on visitors, especially if it resulted in a shift in people’s thinking.

Ms Davis said UQ Sustainability partnered with UQ environmental group Green Office to present a film screening of award-winning film, The Clean Bin Project, which is about a couple who compete to produce the least garbage in a society where everything seems disposable.

University of Queensland student Ruby Gannon, who attended the screening of The Clean Bin Project, said the film raised awareness of the waste problem and added momentum to the green movement by showing that individuals are capable of making an impact on the waste problem.

“The film screening and seminars that I attended [during Sustainability Week] sparked some uplifting conversations and valuable connections between likeminded members of the community,” Ms Gannon said.

In the lead up to Sustainability Week, UQ Gatton’s Green the Team program joined with UQ Sustainability to host a month-long “Waste Sprint” competition to encourage students living on campus to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Another popular feature of the event was The Tiny House Open House, hosted by UQ Art Museum and UQ Sustainability, which showcased sustainable living in tiny houses.

Tiny House Open House

The Tiny House Open House represents affordable and sustainable living on a smaller scale. Photo: Isabella Cheng

Ms Davis said the university’s Sustainability Week evolved from World Environment Day, an event on campus, where participants were given sustainable meals and were educated about food consumption and their carbon footprint.

Griffith University is another university that is eager to highlight its ongoing commitment to sustainability.

The university has been running its own sustainability week since 2014. This year’s event takes place from September 3 to 7.

Griffith University sustainability officer Kay Ollette said the university was committed to sustainability.

“Griffith University is committed to contributing to a robust, equitable and environmentally sustainable society,” Ms Ollette said.

“Sustainability Week aims to create opportunities for staff and students and community members to be involved with Griffith’s sustainability commitment,” she said.

Griffith University will offer events across their five campuses, which will include a Sustainability Fair at the Gold Coast campus on September 4 and ‘Library Lighting Talks: Waste Wars’ at the Nathan campus, where academics will battle it out to present the fight between pollution, eWaste, plastic and more.

But interest in sustainability and environmental impact doesn’t start at university level; schools are teaching their students early about the importance of caring for the planet.

Rainworth State School is one of many Brisbane schools making an effort to lessen their environmental footprint.

The school’s annual fete, known as the Rainbow Carnival, is going green this year.

Rainworth State School Deputy Principal Stephen Stocker said the Rainbow Carnival had made efforts to make the event as sustainable as possible this year.

There will also be no plastic bags or disposable plastic water bottles at this year’s Carnival, which takes place on August 26 at Bardon’s Norm Buchan Park, and students and visitors to the event are being asked to bring their own reusable water bottles to fill up at the water station.

BPA-free bottles at the Rainbow Carnival

Year six students at Rainworth State School are going green, selling reusable BPA-free bottles at their annual fete, the Rainbow Carnival. Photo: Kim Douglas

Mr Stocker said the school had gone one step further, with the year six sustainability and environment ambassadors designing a special reusable water bottle that will be available for purchase at the Rainbow Carnival. The bottles cost $5 and are made in Australia.

“These ideas came from the kids,” he said.

“We got sustainability ambassadors in year six who had meetings with the council [and together] they came up with great ideas.”

Patrons are also asked to bring their own reusable bags to take their goods home in, although environmental bags will be on sale for those who forget, and some stalls will offer recycled paper bags and cardboard boxes for those who forget to bring their own bag.

Disposable coffee cups are also out, with visitors being asked to bring reusable cups.

“This year we’re [also] selling keep cups, so there will be no cups and disposable straws,” Mr Stocker said.

The “enviro warriors” area at the Carnival will be running a cash for cans scheme, and selling environmentally friendly products like beeswax lunch wraps, reusable bags and RSS keep cups.

Most of the food and drinks served on the day will be in containers that can go in the compost or recycling bins.

The Carnival will also boast three types of bins; compost, recyclables and general waste bins.

Mr Stocker said he felt a sense of urgency for stalls and the Rainworth State School community to work towards sustainability and said something had to be done.

He said visitors to the Carnival who had questions were invited to speak to the event’s helpful roaming environmental assistants.

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