Sticky problem solution wins award

Winters Flat Primary students accept the school's Community Leadership School of the Year (primary) award at the ResourceSmart Schools Awards held in Melbourne.

Eve Lamb

Finding a smart solution to a sticky problem has seen Castlemaine’s Winters Flat Primary School win a significant state award.

The little local school has clinched the title of Community Leadership School of the Year (Primary) at the ResourceSmart Schools Awards held in Melbourne on Friday.

The annual awards celebrate the sustainability efforts of students, teachers, parents and volunteers.

Recycling, packaging-free food and composting are all key elements of Winters Flat Primary’s sustainability culture and the perceptive students identified a tiny but powerful enemy in the compost system: fruit stickers.

When the students realised that the fruit stickers weren’t breaking down in the compost, they started an awareness campaign through social media and local media.

The call was clear: collect fruit stickers and save them from going into compost and landfill.

After learning that in Australia no state or federal government had set a timeframe to ban fruit stickers, the students ran a political awareness campaign featuring letters decorated with fruit stickers addressed to politicians and industry groups.

Entries for the ResourceSmart School Awards are judged by an expert panel of sustainability professionals and the panel was inspired by the way Winters Flat engaged with the community to advocate on the important issue.

“Winters Flat students have inspired other schools to follow the path of activism, while encouraging politicians to work on this little but important sticky problem,” the judging panel concluded.

“I am inspired and grateful for the passion and energy of the entire ResourceSmart School community,” Sustainability Victoria’s Director Community Action Katie Pahlow said.

“The entries in this year’s awards showcase how our young people and school communities are already leading the way on sustainability.”

Winners were announced at a prestigious event held at the MCG hosted by Sammy J and attended by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio.

Over the past 14 years, 1400 schools have participated in the program and collectively they have saved more than $41 million on bills, reduced more than 118,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases through energy, water and waste efficiencies, diverted 194,000 cubic metres of waste from landfill, saved 1,884,783 kilolitres of water and planted more than five million trees.