Australian schools could be doing a way better job of saving energy

The vast majority of people (94%) want their schools to be tracking energy, water and waste consumption, but less than a third of schools actually track energy (28%) or have an action plan or tools in place to reduce consumption (27%).

Those are the pretty dismal results of a recent survey funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living, which examined the attitudes and experiences of 120 people from around Australia, all with a connection to schools.

The research was led by Dr Vanessa Rauland, a Research Fellow at Curtin University and Managing Director of ClimateClever (an online tool to help schools monitor and reduce their carbon footprints). Vanessa pointed out that there is currently no national approach for measuring or improving the sustainability of school buildings.

“School buildings and their precincts provide a low-cost, high-impact opportunity to save energy, water and money, plus reduce waste and carbon emissions, whilst providing students with great STEM learning opportunities.” she said.

The survey also showed that while energy is the biggest part of a school’s carbon footprint, most school sustainability programs focus on waste (77%) and water (49%), while only 39% of programs targetted energy.

Sustainability programs at schools can have a positive influence beyond the school grounds, the researchers found – with more than half of the respondents saying their child had influenced decisions at home based on what they’d learnt through their school’s sustainability program.

“Overall there is a need for a cost-effective, nationally coordinated effort to empower schools to pursue carbon and cost reduction individually, rather than rely on government. This approach can not only save money, it can provide significant learning opportunities for students around resource efficiency and low carbon living, which can also influence their families and the wider community,” Vanessa said.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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