By CELA on 22 Feb, 2024

Environment and sustainability education have long been a priority at The Point Preschool. The children learn respect for the environment, are encouraged to be active participants in sustainability and are empowered to make a positive difference through social change. 

“We believe it is very important to be role models to our children, families and community and do as much as possible to care for Dharawal Country and our planet,” explains Catherine Lee, The Point Preschool Director and Early Childhood Teacher. 

When one of The Point Preschool families went carbon negative at home, this sparked a conversation that ultimately led to the preschool following the same path. 

Carbon negative vs carbon neutral 

You’re likely more familiar with the term carbon neutral than you are with the term carbon negative. Carbon neutral is the do-no-harm approach taken by many organisations of all sizes to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions. In this approach, any emissions are balanced through offsetting efforts, such as planting trees or funding renewable energy projects. 

Carbon negative takes this concept to the next level, going beyond net zero to actually remove additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere beyond one's own emissions. 

The impetus for change 

One of the roles on The Point Preschool management committee is that of Sustainability Officer, a role that President Brody Kenrick says has resulted in many great ideas. In fact, the decision to go carbon negative came from the committee’s current sustainability officer.  

“He is very passionate about his own family’s carbon negativity,” Brody explains. “What their family achieved sparked many conversations about their approach and their reasons. That led to the straight-forward decision to investigate what might be possible to do at The Point Preschool to also become carbon negative.” 

The journey to carbon negative aligned with the sustainability values of the preschool. 

“Reducing our absolute carbon emissions and displacing other emissions is the most material thing we can do currently with the ever-increasing impacts of man-made climate change,” adds Brody. 

From idea to action 

From those early discussions, the Sustainability Officer had a proposal to the committee within a few short months. The proposal involved solar and battery upgrades to replace the solar panels that had been installed some 13 years earlier. 

The new solar and battery systems would work automatically to minimise the amount of energy the preschool would need to use from the electrical grid. If required, the system would use energy from the grid when it’s at its cheapest, usually during the day. And then push excess clean, solar-generated energy back into the grid at a time that would maximise the amount they’re paid for this energy. This is also generally at a time when the grid is using more fossil fuels, i.e. dirtier energy. 

While taking steps to reduce emissions had been on the agenda in previous years, Brody admits that not knowing where to start is what held them back. Thanks to the insight and experience of the sustainability officer, it became a more straightforward process. 

“We were fortunate to have funds set aside, which were allocated for this work,” he adds. “The payback on the system is also well within the warranty period and financially the project justified itself.” 

Less than six weeks after signing off the proposal, the new system was installed. In a wonderful story of community connection, the system was installed by Tim who attended the preschool himself many years ago. 

Tim, who installed the system, formerly attended The Point Preschool

A brighter future 

The Point Preschool has eliminated their emissions. They’re breathing their clean energy back into the grid for others to use. And they’re enjoying the financial benefits that flow from independence from the electrical grid. 

But they’re not stopping there. The project has already prompted conversations with the children and an IEU Environmental Grant will help to grow that. 

“The IEU grant will enable us to install an additional meter that will collect information about our power usage,” explains Catherine. “This information will be interactive and be accessible to the children through a screen display.” 

Children, staff, families and the community can learn about how the system shares clean energy to the grid. Or they can investigate what is happening in the system at any time to discover what might be causing power consumption.  

“We will also be inviting our families and the community to some information sharing events,” says Catherine of their future plans. “We’ll explain our system and to encourage their investigation of how they can make their homes and businesses carbon negative – climate positive.” 

Role modelling sustainability has always been in the forefront of educator decisions to source natural resources. During nature play sessions, the use found objects for craft, including Christmas stars made from sticks. 

Further information

Find out more about The Point Preschool via their Facebook page

Find out about the IEU/Teachers Mutual Bank Environment Grant Program


About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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