South Fremantle Senior High School

Carbon Neutral

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi

In 2007, we were concerned about the volume of greenhouse gases emitted each year and decided as a community we needed to act. Since its inception our Carbon Neutral Project (CNP) has captured the imagination of a community passionate about the environment and transformed our school into a lively neighbourhood hub. South Fremantle SHS is now a leader in sustainability and environmental education.

We became the first Carbon Neutral High School in Australia by doing three things:

  1. reducing our fossil fuel use,
  2. implementing renewable energy projects and
  3. capturing carbon emissions through tree planting.

How does a school go Carbon Neutral? Here is a video kindly produced by SPICE on how we did it.  The 1, 2, 3 of going carbon neutral

We continue to do this through a ‘whole-school’ approach and with the help of community partnerships we are proud to have cut our carbon emissions by over 15% in the first three years of the CNP.

Student Garden

Students work in the Kali garden growing vegetables that are used in cooking classes

Our success, acknowledged by awards, accreditations and our influence with policy makers, is very rewarding but the most positive impact is to observe how this initiative has engaged our students.

Students experience the CNP at South Fremantle SHS in all learning areas. It is embedded deeply in the school curriculum, for example in sustainability themes in Science, Marine and Ocean, and Earth and Environment studies. It is embedded in qualifications such as our students’ achievements and hands on experience in conservation through endorsed community programs such as the Rio Tinto Earth Assist Program. It is equally embedded in community service; since 2008 our students have propagated and planted over 29,000 trees in the school grounds, in the Wheatbelt and in bush-fire affected Toodyay via our ‘Seed to Tree’ project.

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

By involving students in this holistic manner they become active in caring for our planet’s future, applying their learning in meaningful ways inside the school and outside in the community. South Fremantle SHS is one of only two schools in WA nominated to participate in STELR, a national initiative that encourages students’ participation in Maths and Sciences with a particular focus on renewable energy. Twenty one of our students attended the 2013 Australian Youth Climate Coalition Event – ‘Start the Switch’ workshops, mentoring and training in sustainability leadership.

Our CNP Community Partnerships

Professor Peter Newman (CUSP) and Prime Minister Julia Gillard present student Holly Balinski with an award for her involvement in the CNP

Professor Peter Newman (CUSP) and Prime Minister Julia Gillard present student Holly Balinski with an award for her involvement in the CNP

The CNP, and its continuing development, is sustainable only with the support of several partnerships. Our students benefit greatly from close contact with these partners, particularly the practical, organisational and critical thinking skills that they are exposed to.

We are indebted to our founding partners Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP), the Bendigo Community Bank and to the City of Fremantle local councillors and community members that have remained with us since the inception of this initiative.

We have a number of key project partners including Murdoch University and the WA Department of Education that returns 100% of the school’s utilities savings, funding the salary of our Carbon Neutral Project Officer. Our association with SunGrid and Solar Unlimited resulted in 30 households purchasing solar panels and an $15,500 solar panel system donated to the school unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2008. The philanthropic organisation HotRock partnered with the school in 2008 and donated $50,000 to develop our ‘Earth Gardens’ and ‘Seed to Tree’ facilities.

With labour provided by volunteer partners including Fremen Shed, Soroptomists, HotRock and ‘Perma-culture volunteers’ from the community, students designed and constructed and maintain the “Green Room”, a substantial facility to house our plants and propagate our seedlings.

Accreditation and Awards

Prime Minister Julisa Gillard with 2012 Head Boy Adam Bass and Head Girl Ashleigh Taylor

Prime Minister Julia Gillard with 2012 Head Boy Adam Bass and Head Girl Ashleigh Taylor

Two PhD students from the Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Unit have provided hundreds of hours of expertise and labour to help progress the carbon neutral accreditation. In May 2012 Low Carbon Australia verified that South Fremantle SHS was the first officially accredited Carbon Neutral School in the country.

South Fremantle SHS received a Sustainability Leadership Award in the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards 2012.  We are also proud to be the winner of the National Australia Bank (NAB)  Impact Award 2012, a winner in the Environmental Education and Communication category and overall winner of the Western Australian Environment Awards 2012.

South Fremantle SHS as a Community Leader

Our CNP and commitment to sustainable management of our school facilities has influenced the WA Department of Education to review practices and procedures with regard to energy use in schools. They have invited us to undertake a trial research project in our classrooms of LED lighting, its effect on energy savings and impact on student learning in the classroom.

South Fremantle SHS has provided the expertise of our CNP Officer and some funding to provide support to local Fremantle primary schools to work towards the creation of a carbon neutral cluster. All of our partner primary schools have now commenced energy audits and accessed technical advice and support.

Our work to develop a school-wide pedagogy reflecting the school vision statement “Navigating Sustainable Futures” reflects our commitment to an environmentally and socially sustainable society. Staff, students and parents have embraced this direction. Every Sunday morning our P&C hosts the Growers Green Farmers Markets on the expansive front lawns of the school, attended by hundreds of supportive locals.

Click here to have a look at the film on our Carbon Neutral story made by local film maker, Linda Blagg

12 minute version:

20 minute version: