A model for other New Zealand schools and institutions.
That’s the hope for a project being driven by students in the Sustainability Council and Energy Action Group at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Christchurch, planning to establish a bio-digester on site.
Head of Sustainability, Year 13’s Rosetta Brown, says this will be one of the environmental initiatives discussed with Dr Jane Goodall when she visits the school on Wednesday, as part of the worldwide Roots & Shoots programme, and here with the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand. The University of Canterbury Community Engagement Hub has been instrumental in setting up Dr Goodall’s visit to Rangi Ruru.
“We are so excited to host Dr Goodall,” says Rosetta. “She is legendary in the world of conservation and animal welfare, as well as shining a light on environmental issues.”
The biodigester will convert school green waste to biogas and allow Rangi Ruru to eliminate the need for non-renewable energy.
“This will further reducing our carbon footprint while making significant savings to reinvest into innovative, new sustainability projects” says Rosetta. “We hope this initiative will become a model for other New Zealand schools and institutions in the future.”
Rangi’s teacher in charge of Sustainability, Kate Rivers says the best place to embed a change in sustainability psyche, is close to home which is why environmental awareness and programmes are so intertwined in everyday life at Rangi.
“With New Zealand in a period of accelerating change and momentum with regards to environmental and social responsibility, it is an exceptionally dynamic time”, she says. “Within our wider community, it is very encouraging to see so many determined young people throughout Canterbury and New Zealand, coming together for hui, empowered to have a political voice, to take action, question assumptions and collectively find solutions to current environmental issues.”
At Rangi Ruru, the student-led Purchasing and Procurement Action Group undertakes research and encourages ethical and environmentally friendly choices, to ensure behaviours both at school and home, disrupt the take-make-waste model, creating instead a circular economy.
The Boarders Environment Group creates awareness of on-farm practices to protect waterways, enhance biodiversity and lower environmental impact. The group was delighted to win a national AgRecovery Award in 2017 for their inspiring short film.
Rangi Ruru students focus on projects with longevity. For example, the school has reduced waste to landfill by 58% in the past three years, through education, source separation, creating healthy habits, increasing collections of reusable goods to redistribute, and by working closely with community, social enterprise and business.
Rangi is a Fairtrade and water-only school with a commitment to using compostable products where available. Getting rid of the vending machine and sugary drinks in the dining room reduced waste by over 20%.
The school has been awarded hundreds of native trees for recycling efforts. Students have planted these across Canterbury, in many cases helping prevent erosion and encourage birdlife.
A large number of students from Year 7-13 give time and service.
Recently Rangi Ruru received significant accolades and acknowledgement for student-driven initiatives and the generosity of spirit shown by the school community at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards. Rangi Ruru Girls’ School shared their Hardwired for Social Good category with some big names. Other finalists included Fonterra, Auckland District Health Board – Tāmaki Mental Health & Wellbeing Initiative, Z Energy, Sudima Hotels, Munch Cupboard, My Cup NZ and well-deserving winners, Kilmarnock Enterprises, a Christchurch-based social enterprise.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told an international audience sustainability “needs to be something we embed in our psyches…and it needs to endure beyond us as individuals”. Ms Ardern garnered worldwide attention for her comments on climate change, saying the Government’s policy was “on the right side of history”.
Away from the world stage, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Christchurch has locked in ambitious sustainability policies, embedding new habits and initiatives to reduce impact on the planet.
For the past two years Rangi Ruru Girls’ School has been operating as carbon neutral.