FRANKSTON High School’s geography department is putting its lessons into practice, by attempting to go carbon-neutral.
Environmental awareness comes naturally to geography teachers, but AEU member Brendan McKinnon says the team is determined to use that awareness not only in what they teach but in how they run the department.
As a first step, they have taken a look at where they source their stationery and supplies and started using products with a better eco-reputation, made from recycled materials or with some other environmental benefit.
New purchases include a staple-less stapler, helping reduce the 72 tonnes of metal from staples that go into landfill in Australia every year; refillable whiteboard markers which last 45 times longer than ordinary brands and will also reduce landfill; and pencils and pens made from recycled paper and plastic.
“These products not only help to reduce the faculty’s impact on the environment, but help to demonstrate to students how easy it is to do something that can minimise harmful environmental effects,” Brendan says.
The department also tries to buy fair trade products where possible.
Many of these products have proved slightly more expensive, but Brendan says that the thought that the purchases were supporting a brighter future for students and showing them how to make wiser decisions about the environment more than outweighed the concerns about cost.
“Further down the track, we are hoping to redeem costs through getting students to make recycled paper from newspaper and by reducing waste in the classroom through recycling,” Brendan adds. Savings can also be made by remembering to switch off equipment when it’s not in use.
The team have taken as their inspiration environmental scientist David Suzuki’s quote: ”Our choices at all levels — individual, community, corporate and government — affect nature. And they affect us.”
The department hopes to spread the message throughout the school, encouraging students to make their own paper from old newspapers, sourcing carbon-neutral or environmentally sustainable photocopy paper and even bringing nude lunches — meals without any packaging.
Brendan says being an eco-friendly department can be as simple as showing someone how to double-side a photocopy.
“As long as the effort is being made, then we figure you’re on the right track.”