ResourceSmart Awards

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7 December 2016

Each year, the ResourceSmart Awards are presented, celebrating the achievements of sustainability programs in schools across the state. On 11 November, the finalists all had their sustainability stories showcased at IMAX Theatre at the Melbourne Museum.


There were a number of Catholic schools that were finalists and several that also won the award in their category.

Here's how one school, St Joseph’s School in Elsternwick, implemented their sustainability program.

By Claire Ryle – Sustainability Leader  Student from St Joseph's School, Elsternwick, celebrate their ResourceSmart Awards win.

I began at St Joseph’s in 2013 as a graduate teacher, and in 2014 was given the new role of sustainability leader. This was a new venture for St Joseph’s as we did not have an environmental education plan in place. We signed up to the ResourceSmart program in 2014 and very quickly the culture of our community began to change. Sustainability and caring for the environment were the hot topics.

Principal Simon Collis showed enormous faith in and support to the program, allowing me a full day's release each week to work on our goals and programs. I  conducted professional learning around using our resources and current thinking within sustainability education.

The program 

At the beginning of the program, we conducted a student-led energy audit with Planet Savers to determine behaviours and infrastructural changes that were needed. We presented this data to students, school board and teaching staff.Student from St Joseph's School, Elsternwick, celebrate their ResourceSmart Awards win.

One of our initiatives in response to this audit was the Energy Dollars program. We created the program to reward positive change within the school and to create a community that is motivated through positive reinforcement. We also wanted the incentive to be linked to the environment and educating students further about sustainability. 

After brainstorming positive and negative energy behaviours, we came up with lists that were displayed in classrooms. Students received $5 reward for displaying positive energy behaviour. Each class would then spend the month trying to earn dollars. The school leaders conducted regular inspections and would report on two things that the class had done really well and one area that they could improve.

When our energy bill arrived we would divide the bill among the classes and each class would pay their share. Outside each classroom we created posters displaying updates of the running total each class had earned.

Students participated in an Energy-themed day with educational activities. We made a large sign for our entry window that said Come inside, a great change awaits. The day really had the impact that we were hoping for and students were engaged and excited. We also introduced our school mascot, Captain Green. Some of the infrastructural changes included re-lamping all of our old T8 lighting with more LED lighting. We also installed tinting into our north and west facing classrooms that were hit with direct sunlight.

The results 

We have seen a reduction in energy consumption at St Joseph’s:

  • A decrease from 311.21kg of greenhouse gasses per student in the 2015 school year to 192.9kg in 2016.
  • A reduction in our electricity consumption from 206 kWh to 142 kWh per student.
  • and our gas from 313.79 Mj per student to 150.96 in 2016.
  • The building size of the school doubled and we also saw a student enrolment increase of 8.3%. We expected to see a significant peak in  consumption and implemented changes to see that the impact both environmentally and financially could be minimised.

 Reductions in Energy Consumption graph

At the moment we are focused on reducing the amount of waste that we are sending to landfill each month. Each month we communicate our current goals, successes and what is going on through our newsletter and staff correspondence. 

Our student leadership team has had a profound impact on our community this year. The students are energetic and passionate and undertake their roles with a great sense of pride and responsibility.

This year our student leadership has:

  • raised $26 000 for the installation of new water tanks through the Well Waters Program with the Port Phillip Ecoc​​​​entre 
  • run the Energy Dollars Program – reducing our consumption significantly
  • introduced the Chicken Hatching program and Chicken Curriculum at St Joseph’s 
  • presented at the Steps to Sustainability conference
  • mentored local schools about current sustainability goals and programs 
  • worked with students to set goals in each of the ResourceSmart areas and plan ways to achieve their goal
  • planned and run environment day where students learnt all about our precious resource of water
  • and, last but not least, won the Primary Energy School of the Year award!

The award was a great recognition for everything the school has been working towards in the area of sustainability, and has been a great achievement that the entire community is very proud of. St Joseph’s are beginning the Waste module of the ResourceSmart program in 2017 and have their sights set on making big changes and improvements in this area.