20 April 2010
Green theme apt for growing state
It seems apt that in the Department of Education and Training's Year of Environmental Sustainability, wider attention should turn to population growth.
South East Queensland is the fastest growing metropolitan region in Australia. From 2006 to 2031, its population is expected to grow from 2.8 million to 4.4 million people.
Recent academic reports and public forums have examined this trend, forecast its implications and debated solutions. A cap on population has been suggested, attracting applause and derision from various quarters.
Regardless of what is or is not to be done about population growth, one thing remains clear: it has never been more important that we all redouble our efforts to learn to live sustainably.
By focusing attention on this issue during the Year of Environmental Sustainability, Queensland schools are educating the next generation in ways to protect our precious resources and deal with waste in responsible and sustainable ways.
It was gratifying in Term 1 to see outstanding responses to two of the year's national sustainability events and one of Queensland's own. Clean Up Australia offered its congratulations on a 22 per cent increase in participation from Queensland schools on Clean Up for Schools Day, with some 340 taking part.
Over 150 teachers participated in the Environmental Education Expo held at Everton Park State High School, which is nearly a four-fold increase on last year's attendance.
And more than 200 state schools registered their participation in Earth Hour and achieved an approximate 12 per cent reduction in energy consumption on average.
To put this in perspective, if these savings were maintained by the participating schools over 12 months it would be enough to power another 26 schools, or close to 500 homes.
Well done everyone, and particular congratulations to Jindalee State School and Kimberley Park State School which achieved the best recorded reductions of over 40 per cent.
Accurate measurement was possible at these and other schools which have benefited from the installation of smart meters through the $60 million Solar and Energy Efficiency program. At the completion of this program, all state schools will be fitted with smart meters.
Another milestone in this energy efficiency program has been reached at the start of Term 2 with the state's 750th solar panel installed at Yeronga State High School. The use of solar power and energy-efficient lighting will see our schools save more than 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
Waste minimisation is the particular focus for Term 2, with April, May and June devoted to themes of "paper consumption", "composting waste" and "reduce, re-use, recycle".
During Term 2 we will see the launch of the Queensland Sustainable Schools website. Bulimba State School principal Michael Zeuschner begins his official tenure as Year of Environmental Sustainability Principal Champion. He will soon start visiting regions to "spread the word" about becoming a sustainable school. I look forward to Michael championing his ideas around the state.