Sustainability … Young People Driving Change – Jennifer Oaten

"In nature, there is no such thing as waste. In nature, nothing is wasted; everything is recycled."

My father has always done his bit for our earth. He is not a consumer but rather a recycler. He reuses or repurposes everything. Bread bags become bags for fresh vegies; food scraps go to the chickens who lay eggs. He gives the eggs to neighbours in exchange for avocados. He has a great compost heap, and greywater goes to the fruit trees. He recycles margarine containers for freezing the stewed fruit. But what is our legacy? What are we doing to help planet earth, reduce waste and live sustainably?

“Sustainability is how we live so that others can live.”

Ensuring sustainability is complex. This doesn’t mean that we sit back and wait for change; we need to start creating the change. Care for our planet should be spearheaded and driven first and foremost by our federal and state governments. This is critical! Policies must be developed and implemented. The time is now, and the clock is ticking.

I believe our young people can and will be the drivers of this change. We need to harness their passion for sustainability; this was evident in our students’ voices when developing our strategic plan. Our role is to ensure they learn and understand the vital role they can play in sustaining our planet.

Our College is part of an ecosystem that provides an opportunity for students to explore, investigate, understand, and communicate about the environment and, most importantly, take action. Sustainability is part of our Social Innovation pillar in our strategic plan. 

Our College is adopting a whole-school approach to sustainability because we want sustainability to be at the heart of school culture, the curriculum, the way resources are managed, and through developing connections and partnerships with the community. The College, through our students, has the potential to be a powerful force in driving change toward sustainability

Pope Francis, through his words, actions and writing of Laudato Si, encourages all people to be stewards and do their part to care for our earth.

The Santa Maria College Eco-sisters is an incredibly committed team of young women who give service to their community through their dedication to the environment and sustainability. Our ‘Organic Revolution’, launched this week, is a student-led initiative. The students have taken responsibility for this initiative and have been the driving force in the launch, along with the support and guidance from staff member Joanne Priest. The voice of our youth and their proposals will guide Santa Maria and the care of our planet into the future. We should never underestimate the capacity of our students.

The College will be rolling out further initiatives this year to ensure that the reduction of waste and recycling continues to be a priority. These include recycling paper and plastics. This will ensure we can reach our target of an 80% reduction in waste going to landfills by the end of 2022.

Two of our students attended the Caritas Youth Earth Care Summit. As a result, a proposal was presented to me that focuses on four areas of sustainability at the College, Space Activation, Waste, College Usage and Student Behaviours. An incredible paper!

We will be focussing on a number of other initiatives presented in this proposal and other exciting initiatives as we continue our focus on sustainability both in and out of the classroom.

Schools need to harness this energy and provide opportunities for leadership in this vital area. Educators need to ensure we instil in young people the words of Gandhi.

“We must be the change we wish to see.”

If we do not take responsibility for sustainability, we are not fulfilling our Mission of Educating young Mercy women who act with courage and compassion to enrich our world.

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