St Columba’s – a shining 5 star example of sustainability

In October 2018, St Columba’s was reviewed by a representative from Sustainability Victoria and awarded its fifth star for Sustainability Certification. This means that our school is now a 5 Star ResourceSmart School and has met all the requirements of the ‘Leadership’ Star Level.

Philip Dalidakis MP noted in his letter: “Becoming a 5 Star school recognises your commitment to creating and embedding sustainable practices, infrastructure, integrated learning and taking action on climate change. This recognition is significant as ResourceSmart Schools Certification represents a Victorian standard that your school has successfully met.”

Integral to this achievement was the 3/4 Eco Warriors lead by Chantel Munoz, our parent Green Team and the Port Phillip Eco Centre. Chantel also received support from CERES funded by Catholic Education Melbourne.

The work of our Green Team, Eco Warriors and Port Phillip Eco Centre is an example of our strong commitment as a school community to building partnerships that are based on mutual trust, respect, and shared responsibility for the education of the children at our school.

Did you know…
A review of our sustainability achievements was conducted at the end of the 17/18 financial year and confirmed that St Columba’s has:

  • Increased our school’s habitat quality index score by 15 points – from 53 in 2013 to 68 in 2017. This was improved by planting indigenous species of plants and increasing the habitat area for local and indigenous wildlife.
  • Cut our electricity usage by 50% since commencing our ResourceSmart Schools program. In June 2012 we were using 663kWh per student per year. By December 2017, we were using 333kWh per student per year.Continued to remain under the Victorian Government target for gas usage per student per year.
  • Reduced our CO2 emissions for electricity – together with gas, emitting a total of 0.28 tonnes per student in 2017. In line with Victorian targets, St Columba’s will be net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Reduced landfill waste from 0.52m3 per student per year in 2013 to just 0.21m3 (2-3 buckets) per year by reducing waste, recycling more and turning food scraps into fertiliser. The closed loop composter is managed by Anna Malone of the parent Green Team with all fertiliser packaged and sold by the Green Team as “Saintly Soil” to raise funds for sustainability initiatives.
  • Sustained and continued to grow an environmentally conscious culture at St Columba’s and its surrounding community – attracting monetary grants (approx. $90,000), being awarded a 5 Star Resource Smart School, and saving over $12,000 in electricity, gas and water bills since 2012.

Recent sustainability highlight activities include:

  • A visit from Peter Mee, Research Scientist at Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. Peter came to speak to the 3/4s about mosquito research being conducted currently across Victoria, as part of our Operation STEAM Clean the Bay initiative – generously funded with the support of the Victorian Government.
  • Participation in the sustainable Schools Festival, with St Columba’s winning the 2018 Baykeeper Award.
  • Community planting sessions at Point Ormond, with media coverage of event secured in local Leader Newspaper and 1,000 plants donated from City Wide.
  • The inaugural Eel-wood Festiv-eel – welcoming the short-finned eels as they migrated from the Coral Sea into the local freshwater canal – and screened the informative Baykeepers documentary for children and families, with a Q&A session with Baykeeper Neil.
  • The landscape design and construction of a rain garden (completed) and bird garden (in progress) at the front of the school with involvement from ¾ Eco Warriors.
  • The launch of fundraiser “Saintly Soil” – a garden fertiliser lovingly made by St Columba’s Primary School’s organic closed loop composter using our school food waste.

Focus for 2019:

Having been awarded a 5 Star school, the focus for 2019 will be on showcasing how we have embedded sustainability across the school and community.

Entering its third year of Victorian Government grant funding (commencing July 2019), the Operation STEAM Clean the Bay (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts, Maths) program will continue, including working with the Port Phillip Eco Centre, learning and sharing Indigenous historical and scientific knowledge of our bayside ecosystems, and conducting community engagement activities that increase awareness of the Bay’s environmental health and value.

Once operational, St Columba’s Kitchen Garden will also be integrated into the sustainability program.