Tangaroa: Rhythmic, tidal surging, calm.
Our sustainability initiatives have been all about reducing waste. As a student-led group we weren’t happy with how our school was dividing and dealing with our landfill waste. As we all know, not separating waste properly can have massive consequences on the environment. According to the Ministry for the Environment, we send 2.5 million tonnes of waste to landfills each year, which wreaks havoc on our environment through releasing harmful chemicals into our environment, including the release of methane which greatly accounts to climate change. Any landfill waste produced here on Waiheke also has the additional environmental impact of having to be transported to the local tip via a school vehicle and then moved over to the mainland on a barge, greatly increasing our carbon emissions.
Through research and waste audits, we discovered that roughly 57% of waste from our kura was compostable, and 17.5% was recyclable, meaning that we had an opportunity to reduce our landfill rates by roughly 75%. After discovering, this as a group we made the decision that to tackle the issue. We wanted to establish an effective long-lasting waste management system at our school.
Considering that over half of our school’s waste was generated from compostable scraps, we decided to build an on-site compost system to process the waste. This would create compost to go into the school garden, around the grounds and out into the community. This system would also be used to educate the wider school both by habit and by hands-on workshops for the Science, Viticulture and Food Technology classes.
Our goal is to create a system where students of a small community can take knowledge about composting and sustainability back to their whānau and can carry this with them for years afterwards, creating ‘aware and sustainable’ alumni. – Ella
Our high school is the only one on the motu and is a centrally located school in the midst of the community. The compost system now allows us to take in waste products such as carbon bases from the community, e.g., coffee bean husks, grass, sticks, paper, cardboard etc. As a school we also shred cardboard on site to be used as a carbon base. This compost system provides the opportunity to educate a large percentage of the community and we will eventually be able to take in food waste from the community and then give back to them with our rich compost and produce from our healthy and bountiful gardens.
Throughout the inquiry process, we looked at a number of models for how this could be done to best suit our school including sustaining the process and knowledge after the current group graduates and more ākonga join the group. We also researched existing compost systems at the local Resource Trust, our local marae (Piritahi Marae), and Papatoetoe Food Hub. Following this, we consulted local experts in the field (Kayleigh Appleton, Michael Tavares), and it was decided that two standard community composter boxes from the Carbon Cycle Company would be a good option for our school. This was decided because the systems were durable, convenient, and straightforward to use as well as having the support and knowledge of the company behind us if required.
Overall, this system will contribute to creating more sustainable habits by students having to sort their waste at school and lead to long-term habits that can be carried on through the rest of our lives. It is a great opportunity to educate students to be sustainably conscious of the waste they produce, and it would send a good message to the community about what Waiheke High School can do about the waste on Waiheke Island, as well as adding to the school’s sustainability profile. Most importantly, an effective landfill waste management system at our school will preserve our natural environment.
The project, in its entirety, has been ongoing since 2019, however, due to Covid, this initiative took longer than we first expected to get off the ground. Thanks to the Earthwise action fund we were finally able to purchase and install our first AMAZING compost box!!!
We have begun with the first monitored separation station and are in need of more compost boxes to continue our project. In order to have a functioning compost system we need a minimum of two boxes to turn over and rotate the compost, and our aim is to have 4 by the end of 2023. Since working with the Carbon Cycle Company and meeting their team we have begun to plan the future prospect of Waiheke High School becoming a compost hub of sorts, where our student-led initiative could lead to being a significant on-site compost system for the whole of Waiheke Island. We would hope this would contain around 12 boxes and take in waste from both our school and the wider community. This potential compost system aligns with the Waiheke Local Boards Climate Action Plan that aims for 100% of food scraps to be diverted from landfill by 2025. Our project largely contributes to the island’s current focus on climate action, especially considering our school is the only high school on island and has a central role in the community.