The journey to carbon neutral – a new model for sustainable schools

Media release

South Fremantle Senior High School has become the first officially certified Carbon Neutral School in Australia.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Professor Newman.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Professor Newman.

The school had been working towards this goal since 2007 when Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute’s Director Professor Peter Newman, and father of a student at the time, proposed the idea.

The Principal and several key community members readily embraced the idea and soon after created a Carbon Neutral Working Group, which has met fortnightly since its inception and has been paramount to the project’s success.

A Carbon Neutral Project Officer was employed to drive the carbon reduction initiatives including energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy measures, all of which led the school to reduce emissions by approximately 15% from 2007 levels.

In 2008, the school switched their electricity to GreenPower – 100% renewable energy – eliminating the emissions arising from traditional coal-fired power generation. This dramatically reduced their overall emissions together. This was supplemented with the planting of 30,000 trees in the wheat belt by students.

In 2011, the school decided to seek official Carbon Neutral Certification.

Professor Peter Newman, who remains a key player within the committee, engaged CUSP PhD candidates and founders of SimplyCarbon, Vanessa Rauland and Samantha Hall, to assist with the certification process based on their knowledge of carbon accounting and GHG reporting.

A comprehensive carbon audit was undertaken and certified carbon offsets were purchased to eliminate the remaining emissions.

In May 2012, the school successfully gained the official Carbon Neutral Certification through Low Carbon Australia, based on the Federal Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard, making it the first school and not-for-profit organisation in Australia to be certified.

The achievement was celebrated with the Prime Minister on Tuesday 4 September, 2012. At the event, the Prime Minister warmly expressed her appreciation that a community-based initiative had now demonstrated how to both save greenhouse gas emissions and save money.

South Fremantle Senior High School’s achievement goes far beyond simply reducing emissions. They have pursued a whole-of-school approach and embedded the carbon neutral initiatives into the curriculum and everyday operations of the school, ensuring all staff and students are aware of the importance of the project, which is not just about emissions but reducing resource consumption and improving overall sustainability.

A short film about the approach taken by the school was made by CUSP PhD student Linda Blagg.

For more information visit http://simplycarbon.org/case-study/ or link to the film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNM7mNTCxao

Contact:
Professor Peter Newman, John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Sustainability

Tel: (08) 9266 9032, Mobile: 0407 935 133 Email: p.newman@curtin.edu.au

Kate Selth, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: (08) 9266 3353, Email: kate.selth@curtin.edu.au