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Published: 2011-04-06 00:00:00

Three Waikato Enviroschools will this week celebrate being part of an elite group recognised nationwide for student-led environmental work.

Goodwood, Te Miro and Hukanui schools are receiving ‘Green Gold’ recognition for incorporating environmental sustainability into all aspects of school and community life.

Hukanui and Te Miro Schools have both maintained this level of commitment to being a sustainable school community over a number of years.

The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Friday hosted by Waikato Regional Council to celebrate the 10th birthday of Enviroschools.

Council chairman Peter Buckley said the awards recognise the high level of commitment made by these schools to not only support sustainability within the school but also extend into the community.

“The Green Gold status is awarded to schools that have done more than just successfully introduce projects to make the environment more vibrant and healthy,” Mr Buckley said.

“To reach this level students must have a strong sense of connection to the environment and be empowered to get involved in decision-making at all levels throughout the school. Sustainability is embedded in how they do things, as well as in what they do,” he said.

At Goodwood, in the Waipa district, the principles of the programme have been interwoven deeply in teaching and learning practice, from worm “juice” being sold at the farmers’ market, growing vegetables to make sushi, and the development of sensory gardens through to car pooling initiatives where students worked alongside local council.

Power savings of 33 per cent occurred at Goodwood within 12 months, despite a growing roll and more classrooms, and the school used approximately one-third less paper than other schools the same size. The worm farm, zero waste and paper and plastic recycling meant that waste at the school dropped from 33.4kg for a 24 hour period in 2007 to 6.7kg in a 24 hour period in 2010.

Students at Te Miro, in the Waipa district, work hard to “recycle, reuse and reduce”. Compost is used in the school’s gardens and the native bush area continues to grow with every new person planting his or her own native tree upon arrival. The kereru and tui now visit the native bush. Students have also planted an orchard. 

At Hamilton’s Hukanui primary school students have been involved in decisions around the construction of an eco-classroom since coming up with the idea in 2004. The eco-classroom is designed to minimise the negative impacts on the environment through the use of innovative building design, practices and materials. The school also has student designed cultural gardens, a restored gully, compost recycling, a worm farm, marketing of worm juice, paper recycling, enviro sculptures and student planned play areas, and an eco nursery. A student council and enviro teacher also work together to address environmental issues in the school.   

Forty-one per cent of the Waikato region’s schools are involved in the Enviroschools programme, reaching thousands of primary, intermediate and secondary students.

Schools apply for awards based on criteria set by the national Enviroschools Foundation, a charitable trust established in 2003 which sprung from a project supported by the Hamilton City Council and the Waikato Regional Council.

The purpose of the Enviroschools awards is to recognise and celebrate school achievements over time, while providing them with the opportunity for future direction.

By the time a school reaches Green Gold status, the Enviroschools programme has become an integral part of the curriculum, and students, staff and community are tackling a broad range of environmental issues.