Sustainability in our Loreto Schools
It is wonderful to see how our Loreto Schools have embraced the invitation from Sr Noelle Corscadden, IBVM Generalate Institute Leader, “to undertake an environmental project, something significant that will witness to our care of creation” (Letter to all IBVM provinces, 2 October 2020). This invitation was issued as part of the Loreto Sisters Bicentenary Ecological Project. Living in a chaotic, disrupted world, where humankind has failed to harmoniously co-exist with the environment, has forced us all to reevaluate our choices. Loreto schools are committed to ensuring that our future leaders understand their responsibility to be agents of change and champion a sustainable tomorrow. United in spirit, thought, and action, they endeavour to promote the values, skills, and behaviours needed to live as global citizens in harmony with all of creation. Here, our schools share some of their initiatives:
Student leaders have inspired the school community toward practical, realistic and meaningful environmental sustainability goals. Their mission to find ways to reduce, regenerate, reuse and recycle on every corner of the campus is indicative of their deep commitment to the cause. Students have adopted several environmentally friendly practices, including the use of recycling bins, increasing accessibility of second-hand uniforms and textbooks, migration to paperless workflows and more.
The school has also embraced sustainability initiatives focused on efficient energy consumption by using LED lighting and installing solar panels and rainwater tanks.
Loreto Kirribilli’s curriculum presents different sustainability projects; for example, Year 5 students recently collaborated with Origin Energy to construct solar power lights. These foci provide students with opportunities to understand the possibilities and positive impact of sustainable initiatives.
Students have participated in remarkable ecology projects to create a more environmentally-friendly campus, including the ‘Bottle for Beach’ project. The project aims to reduce the school’s ecological footprint and supports the work of the Australian Marine Conservation Society by collecting and recycling drink containers and bottles. Year 10 students Lara and Isabella, who participated in the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Youth Environmental Leadership Network, developed a plan of action and motivated their peers to join in, collecting 700 containers in one term! They hosted several competitions and community-building activities to spike interest and commitment to reducing the college’s ecological footprint.
Normanhurst’s “Bush Tucker Garden” project signifies the profound commitment of students and staff to living in harmony with nature and symbolises their connection to the Indigenous community. It raises awareness of traditional Indigenous food practices and culture and presents an opportunity for students and staff to research, plan and develop a traditional bush food and medicine garden. Indigenous students are empowered to lead and work with younger students to cultivate the garden and impart knowledge about traditional diets and culture. They aspire to develop a specialised cookbook and integrate the produce from the garden into the boarding house menu soon.
In a bid to be more environmentally conscious and encourage fellow students to dispose of their waste correctly, students from an inspired art class designed and painted native animals and environmental messages on the school waste bins in bright, bold colours. These bins have been placed throughout the school campus at convenient locations to remind students that not disposing of their rubbish properly can negatively impact the native animals and flora. A simple reminder highlights that, “With over 1,000 students on campus, if each student correctly disposes of one item a day, then within a week, we would have prevented 5,000 items of rubbish from finding their way into the natural environment.”
Members of Toorak’s Student Representative Council are designated ‘Eco Warriors’ who assume the responsibilities of monitoring the school’s Environment Portfolio. They are entrusted with conducting an audit of rubbish and recycling across the school and further developing viable projects. With the assistance and collaboration of the student body, they also work with the local council to achieve Victorian Goverment ResourceSmart School accreditation.
“In 2022, the Loreto Year of Freedom, our goal is for our students to be ‘free to grow as leaders in harmony with the Earth and all of creation.”
At Loreto Marryatville, clear and ambitious goals towards becoming a pioneering innovator of sustainability in schools have been established. The overall target is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, reflecting the urgent need for developed countries to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the net-zero emissions by 2030 goal, the school will focus on three key areas: (i) energy generation and consumption (including 60% of energy needs generated on-site by 2025 and solely LED lighting across the college), (ii) waste and plastic reduction (with the goal of a plastic-free campus and a 50% reduction in waste by the end of 2023), and (iii) local environment improvement (planting 200 trees in 2021-2022 as part of the Teresa Ball bicentenary ecological project).
In recent years Loreto College Ballarat has installed 100kw of solar panels on its historic roof to improve its environmental footprint. Sustainability initiatives form a core part of the school’s vision, evident through the development of its recently-acquired St Therese Church of the Little Flower into the school VCE Vocational Specialisation space. The space will include a solar battery with a visual interface for education, which will enable students to monitor and actively learn about environmental practices and sustainability. The school avoided gas fossil fuels when sourcing the energy for the space and chose electricity as the primary source to ensure the transitional benefits of wind and solar-powered energy.
Students and staff are committed to sustainability and are actively involved in implementing and promoting environmentally-friendly initiatives such as Waste-free Wednesdays, 10c refunds and solar cars.
On Waste-free Wednesdays, bins are removed to discourage the use of plastic in lunch boxes. This creates awareness of the harmful effects of plastic and motivates students to make a difference. 10c refund bins around the school encourage students to place their plastic drink bottles from school lunch orders inside. These bottles then go to the 10c refund centre, and the money returns to Loreto. Solar cars at the school encourage students to learn how to operate solar panels and visualise a solar-powered future.
The dedication and commitment of Loreto schools to being environmentally-responsible is commendable. Students have truly embraced this year’s Loreto theme of Freedom to grow as leaders and be agents of change, leading their school communities towards a harmonious existence with nature.
Feature Image: John XXIII School Waste Bins