Two decades of dedicated effort have resulted in one primary school being crowned as the first certified Carbon Zero School in Wairarapa, having passed an audit by environmental social enterprise Ekos.
With 375 children and 40 staff, Douglas Park School [DPS] has been on the “EnviroSchool path” since 2004, developing systems such as composting, recycling, and installing solar panels.
In 2008, DPS became the first ‘Genesis School-gen’ school in Wairarapa, supplying and installing 12 solar panels. In 2019, the school upgraded those panels and installed a battery to go with them.
The following year, DPS’s board installed a further 50 solar panels and was granted a sustainability fund by the Ministry of Education [MOE] that went towards kitting out the entire school with LED lights.
“We encourage ‘nude food’ [no wrappers coming to school], children take home their own food rubbish, and we have worm farms as well. Each child, when they start at DPS, is given a beeswax wrap – made by the Enviro Team of children – to encourage the ‘nude food’ idea,” DPS principal Gareth Sinton said.
DPS has also been re-certified as a Green Gold EnviroSchool – it was initially the first in the region to gain this recognition and has held onto the title after each three-year review.
“The school has a belief around service, the idea of giving back to others. Us becoming certified CarbonZero is just another way that we can give back,” Sinton said.
According to MOE, the Carbon Neutral Government Programme aims to accelerate emissions reduction in the public sector – including state schools and kura.
This includes organisations, schools and kura to measure and report their emissions annually, set emissions reduction targets, introduce emissions reduction plans, and offset any remaining Greenhouse Gas emissions from 2025.
Sinton said the school’s Enviro Team – led by DPS teacher Hannah Choat – were responsible for completing the internal audit for Ekos, which certified the school’s achievement.
“The children had to track down invoices to see how much fuel we had purchased for things like lawn mowing, they had to contact the district council to determine how much wastewater we produce, they used our power bills to determine how much power we had consumed and how much we had generated via the solar panels,” Choat said.
“They also collected all the waste [rubbish] from classes for a period of time to determine an average amount of waste we send to the transfer station.”