After a five year journey Albert Park Preschool in Melbourne realised their dream to become carbon neutral. Last week they were announced as Australia’s first certified carbon neutral early childhood service.
Our philosophy celebrates a commitment to the wellbeing of our world and each other as part of a promise to Bunjil – creator deity of the Boonwurrung – to care for the bubups (children) and country,’ said Preschool Director Jenny Whelan. ‘It also reflects the belief that we are all interconnected with nature and our youngest citizens can, and do, play a key role in shaping a happy, healthy, sustainable future for our community.
To achieve carbon neutrality the kindergarten partnered with the Sustainability Department at City Of Port Phillip to measure their C02 emissions and identify and implement opportunities to reduce emissions. The Council also helped the Preschool apply to the Department of Energy and Environment for carbon neutral certification.
The journey included making structural changes such as: switching away from electricity sourced from fossil fuels, such as gas and coal; installing solar panels; solar batteries; a solar heat pump hot water system and energy efficient LED lighting.
It also required behaviour changes by staff, families and children.
‘Children are at the centre of our learning and behaviour change,’ said Ms Whelan. ‘They actively participate in reading electricity meters, distributing organic waste to the four worm farms on site, and caring for the community garden.’
The result of all the measures is that the preschool has reduced their gas use to zero, cut electricity consumption by 59%, water by 71% and waste by over 50%.
Federal Member for Macnamara, Josh Burns formally announced the preschool’s carbon neutral certification at a ceremony on Saturday:
“Albert Park Preschool is a source of pride for our local community for so many reasons, and now it has also become Australia’s first carbon neutral kindergarten. Congratulations to everyone who has been part of this remarkable achievement – turning a high quality early education centre into one that is also a guiding light for environmental protection.”
Albert Park Preschool has recently received recognition both within and outside the early childhood sector.
In May this year ACECQA awarded an Excellent rating to the preschool. It was recognised as a finalist in the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards for its environmental sustainability advocacy within the local community.
The City of Port Phillip and Albert Park Preschool recently won the 2019 Australian Cities Power Partnership Awards for Community Engagement.
“To take time to view our big, beautiful, blue planet from the perspective of a child is to truly appreciate the wonder of life from the smallest of living creatures to the largest gifts of nature,’ says Ms Whelan. ‘We feel it is our duty to support the children’s love of nature by reducing our carbon footprint.”
We might be little, but we dream big, and together we can continue to make a difference.
About the author
Carolin Wenzel writes about early childhood policy and is fascinated by the contribution quality early learning makes in improving children’s lives, supporting families and increasing social well being. Most recently she was the Campaigns and Media Manager with Early Childhood Australia, managing the Early Learning Everyone Benefits campaign.