As part of the our ongoing commitment to sustainability, we have installed a 50,000 litre and a 125,000 litre water tank to harvest rainwater, which are both plumbed into the toilet blocks for flushing. We have has also constructed a wetland area on school grounds to capture the excess storm-water that can't be harvested by the tanks. This excess water is treated as it travels through the wetland plants and is then channeled into a 50,000-litre underground storage tank that in turn is connected to a sub-surface irrigation system that irrigates one of our playing fields further reducing our use of potable water. In a typical rainfall year, the wetland area processes around 6 megalitres of water. We utilize the wetland as an outdoor classroom and it also greatly improves our site's biodiversity providing valuable habitat for flora and fauna that is becoming more diverse each day.
We have planted out a single area of approximately 2500m2 of the college grounds as an Urban Forest. This is a full habitat restoration to the vegetation present prior to European settlement. This too is utilized as an outdoor classroom, increases our biodiversity and reduces our carbon footprint by sequestering carbon. It is well on the way to achieving our vision of not being able to see a building in Bentleigh.
We use South East Water's HydroShare program as well as the SWEP program to monitor our water use with data loggers attached to water meters to record usage and help identify leaks within the system. Together with tanks for toilet flushing, these initiatives have reduced our total water usage by 91%. These savings, in conjunction with our water education programs, saw us gain gold accreditation for the Victorian Government's "Water - Learn it! Live it!" program - the first secondary school in Victoria to achieve this recognition
We have installed a 5.25kW photovoltaic solar system to meet some of our energy requirements, reduce our greenhouse emissions and reduce the college ecological footprint. Electricity generated is first used by the college, and as we are grid connected, surplus electricity generated is sold back to the electricity company. To date (9th September 2013) we have generated 43,394 kWh (the energy to operate a TV for 294,9638 hours) and avoided 55,536 kg of greenhouse gas emissions (the pollution an average passenger car emits over 4,470 days). Convert this to years and you can see the substantial benefit to the college, our students and the community.
An exciting development in our renewable energy program was the installation of a state-of-the-art wind turbine to the roof of the Learning Centre. This is a new breed of turbine is very suited to urban environments and it does away with a drive shaft and gearbox. It does this by locating the magnets in the blade tips, which move through a cowling that houses the windings, effectively making the whole thing a very quiet generator. Former student Nigel Holmes made this turbine possible through the very generous donation of $11,000.00, half the cost.
We use harvested water to maintain our large harvest garden constructed from our recycled toner cartridges. We have recently installed an Aquaponics system in our Harvest Garden precinct that incorporates growing fish as part of an intensive food-growing program.
Our Meditation and Indigenous Cultural Centre (M&ICC) is now completed and fully operational. This is a 100% sustainable and recyclable building located in the heart of our Moorooboon Wetland. The list of benefactors donating time, service, labour and materials at cost that enabled its construction is impressive. This building is a unique facility in Australia and a true community facility. Interest throughout its construction has been high and we had ABC Radio broadcast the 774 breakfast program from the school just after we won the International Green Award. It is the foundation stone in our Mindfulness Meditation program and is available as a unique teaching space for other domain areas. The M&ICC is also available to the many community groups who have supported its development.
Last year the college was recognized in 3 ResourceSmart awards for Water, Biodiversity and ResourceSmart Teacher of the Year. Our Head of Sustainable Practice received the 2012 United Nations of Australia Individual Award for Outstanding Service to the Environment. In November 2012 at the International Green Awards held in London Bentleigh Secondary College was named the "Most Sustainable Education Institution" globally. Our efforts to reach our goals of becoming a more sustainable school have been recognized by many awards (see below).
We have a dedicated team of student sustainability leaders "The Green Machine" who lead many of our programs and take responsibility for taking the sustainability message to the wider community.
Chief Seattle of the Suqwamish tribe said, "All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth". We owe it to the children that we currently teach, and to their children yet to come, to leave a better world for them and future generations. At Bentleigh Secondary College we take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to develop and implement initiatives that deliver in Sustainable Practices. Watch this space!
Head of Sustainable Practices
School recognition includes:
- 2010 National Savewater! Australian Achiever Individual Award
- 2011 Queens Birthday Honours List - Public Service Medal
- 2011 Prime Minister's Environmentalist of the Year
- 2012 United Nations of Australia World Environment Day Individual Award for Outstanding Service to the Environment
- 2012 Finalist Lindsay Thompson Fellowship, DEECD Educational Excellence Awards
- 2012 Finalist bankmecu Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year Award, DEECD Educational Excellence Awards
- 2012 ResourceSmart Teacher of the Year
- 2012 Winston Churchill Fellowship