Students and Sustainability

Terrie-Ann and I visited a Community Forum at the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability in Waverton. This event was hosted by High School students from Sydney and Ozgreen, an organisation which educates people about their impact on their environment, in order to showcase environmentally sustainable initiatives that they had designed over the course of a two-day youth sustainability congress one week before.

Presenting students were all extremely intelligent, motivated and enthusiastic teenagers who had developed these wonderful ideas. Many had attended the climate protest at Martin Place the Friday before, so they were pretty serious!

The initiatives were very different. So much so there was even a song created, which included a saxophone player, guitarist, and also Sydney’s answer to Eminem (he’s a rapper for those of you that don't know, innit).

First up was a group that presented bringing back Carbon Pricing. I can currently imagine the majority of Australians reading this to be shaking their heads with an eyebrow raise of “don’t you even think about it”. It was based on the initiative from 2011-2014, so as you can imagine it didn’t really go as planned with its short stint. However, these young students were passionate and thoughtful during their presentation, and I actually think the large majority of the room were on board.

The same group offered an insight into a world with Electric Buses. This idea genuinely seemed to be quite realistic. I mean, we have electric cars, why not have an electric bus? The only issue was how the electricity was produced. It was suggested coal would be the initial producer, purely to quickly start the idea, and the fact that even coal for electricity would create less emissions than vehicles ran by fuel. The students said that in the long-term, these buses could run by energy created by solar farms (it’s not like we don’t get enough sun!).

A couple of the groups suggested waste management audits for schools. One of the groups had actually carried out this already, which is pretty impressive considering it was done by the STUDENTS, and not any of the teachers or council. Feedback was given to the school on how they can adjust their waste disposal and collection, in order to be more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly at the same time (that’s a win-win if you ask me).

Youths love festivals, right? A bit of music, some food, maybe some games here and there. Well what about a sustainable festival? Just another idea from this creative bunch in order to educate and promote the idea of reducing our environmental footprint.

One student had a fantastic idea of a program to teach in school, mainly to the younger years. This would involve everything from issues to solutions, and what we can do as individuals to do our bit for the environment. Kids are very good at absorbing information. Their brains are like sponges. If you made it fun and exciting, then there’s every chance the large majority of these kids would continue to be interested, and even try and teach their family a thing or two about recycling or sustainability.

What about a biodiversity app? You could literally go anywhere, take a picture of a plant or animal and share it online, with a date, location and time. This would actually be a great way of making research far more accessible to everyone. One group created this superb idea. I’m sure there are other biodiversity apps on the market, but one which is very basic and user friendly for people of all ages would really hit the ground running. It would certainly get the YOUNGER generation involved with looking for different organisms and asking questions about the environment.

But wait a minute? What if it’s not actually the YOUNGER generation that we need to target? To me it seems like they’re pretty switched on. They’re using their voice and creativity to act on a subject which is currently being brushed under the carpet by some nations, even though it’s supposed to be crisis. Maybe it’s the OLDER members of our society which we need to sway in order to become more sustainable for the future. After all, they put us in this climate mess in the first place (cue the 80 year old climate sceptics and Donald Trump).

Oliver Emanuel

Youth Project Officer

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