Climate Impact Update Term 4 2022
Posted on December 21, 2022
Nicola Anderson presented an update on the formation of the School’s Climate Impact Policy at the End of Year Gathering on Wednesday 7 December 2022. Read her presentation below.
The Friends’ School acknowledges the climate emergency we are facing as a global community and recognizes that this emergency is a result of human activities. We accept the ways in which the climate emergency and loss of biodiversity undermines everything, from agricultural viability and public health, to social stability, human development, and international peace.
We also acknowledge that the global communities least responsible for the climate emergency are bearing the brunt of the impact.
We are aware of the pressing issue of climate inaction and the resulting impact this is having on the students in our care.
Guided by the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Earthcare, in addition to our Purpose and Concerns statement, we are led to respond to this situation by adopting a Climate Impact Policy. This policy will articulate the School’s ethos and intent with regards to the climate emergency and provide practical ways forward for the Friends’ School into the future.
We accept that concern for the environment needs to underpin our decisions and actions both individually and at every level of organisation of the school: from the Board of Governors, management, staff, students, through to the wider school community.
Whilst systemic change is vital, individual and community action can act as a beacon in these challenging times, giving inspiration and hope to the students in our care and offering an opportunity to use our school as a teaching tool for developing the knowledge, skills and values needed to create a sustainable, climate-friendly society.
As a school we declare three resolutions:
- To make decisions that will reduce the carbon and ecological footprint of our school with
the aim of achieving carbon neutrality.
- To incorporate climate education in all sections of the school to ensure students are
able to think clearly, act with integrity and hold a global perspective.
- And…to support the students in our care if they wish to participate in appropriate, safe and
constructive climate advocacy, aligned with Quaker values
What I have just read is our school’s climate impact policy. This document was written last year by a small group of teaching and non-teaching staff, current and past students, parents and a board member (Mary Beadle), and I had the honour to be the conveenor of this working group. The formation of the working group and the resulting policy was due to the board and leadership of our school recognising our students’ passion for climate action and wanting to let our lives, and the life of our school, speak.
Tonight, I have been asked to share with you the progress we are making in the implementation of this policy.
The first resolution called for us to reduce our carbon and ecological footprint in order to move towards carbon neutrality. However, determining the source and extent of our greenhouse gas emissions is not a straightforward task. When we think of greenhouse gas emissions, most of us immediately think of fossil fuel use and energy generation. But that is only one source of emissions, and for us, being based in Tasmania, it is not one of our major sources. In fact, in the last financial year, 85% of the power used in Tasmania was generated here in the state from renewable sources such as hydro, solar and wind. So if it is not from the energy we use, where do our school’s emissions come from? This is the first question we need to ask and we will be able to answer it once we have completed a greenhouse gas emissions audit (which is otherwise known as a carbon audit or carbon footprint).
Conducting a comprehensive carbon audit is not something that can be done easily or without outside support. Throughout this year, I have consulted a number of companies that could supply us with the expertise required to determine our greenhouse gas emissions. We eventually decided to work with an Australian company – Carbon Neutral – which is an organisation that is closely aligned with our school ethos and was felt to be the best fit for us. We are now part way through auditing our carbon footprint – this involves the collation of huge amounts of data and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team in our accounts department for their work on this. They have had to pull together data on our liquid fuel usage, electricity consumption, waste generation, refrigerant use, paper use, food and catering, as well as details on other areas such as cleaning, IT, investments and insurance, and other resource use. This is an enormous task and we would not know our impact without collecting this data – so thank you.
One other step in this process is to review the transport of staff and students to school. As such, all families and staff have recently received a survey designed to collect data on how far we travel to school each day and what modes of transport we use. If you have not already done so, can I please ask that you complete this survey in the next week? Carbon Neutral will then collate this information alongside all our other emission sources to determine our carbon footprint for the last year.
So what do we do once we have this information? Once we receive the results of this audit from Carbon Neutral, we will be able to share this information with the board, school leadership, students and our wider school community. As a science teacher, I do love data..and I know the value of robust data…however, the data is only as good as the actions that it informs. It is these next steps that will reflect our commitment to reducing our impact on the planet. We get to decide what our focus is going to be in terms of reducing our emissions. Now, we don’t need to reach net zero immediately, this will be a process that we work on for a number of years. The audit will help us to review our emissions and look for priority areas to focus on. There is also scope to get students involved in this process by finding out where they would like to see us focus our efforts. We will not get to carbon neutral overnight – it will take time and effort, and at every stage, we will share with our community what we are working on.
Now I did say that we won’t get to carbon neutral overnight – but, believe it or not, this does actually happen. An organisation can audit its carbon footprint then purchase carbon offsets for the same amount of emissions they are producing and then claim carbon neutrality….all without doing anything to actually reduce their emissions. This could be argued to be greenwashing and it is not the approach we have chosen. Offsets are something that we may consider in the future, but only once we have reduced our carbon footprint as much as possible. This must be our focus – changing our behaviours to reduce our emissions rather than trying to buy our way out of the problem.
The final, and possibly most important aspect of our work around climate action and reducing our impact is embedding climate and environmental action into all levels of our curriculum. First and foremost, we are a school, so our focus should always be on education. How are we teaching our students to act in the face of climate change? How are we giving them the skills they need so they can join us in the fight to solve this crisis? How are we leading by example and showing them that optimism and action go hand in hand? How do we demonstrate that inaction leads to despair but that real, meaningful action leads to hope?
We do this by making it part of what we do every day, both in and out of the classroom. Do you want to run a tutor activity at Clemes – then let’s clean up plastic from our beaches and remove the invasive Northern Pacific Seastar. Do you need to run a transdisciplinary IB science project – make the theme regeneration. Do you want to get the younger students outside more – then let’s take them to the veggie gardens and show them the amazing world of worms and compost. Do you want to offer some co-curricular activities – then advertise Landcare or the Climate Action Group. Do we want to give the power back to the students – then let’s set up an eco-schools committee with students from all campuses and see what they come up with. All of these things have happened this year and I can’t wait to see what next year brings.
And finally, when the students come to us and ask for support to make change – we need to listen and then do whatever we can to ensure they have that support. It is their generation that is going to create a climate positive society – and it is our job as a school to equip them with the skills to achieve this.
For more information, please contact Nicola Anderson – Environmental Science Teacher, Head of Science Faculty and Climate Impact Policy Working Group Convenor.