BlogMonday 19 Oct 2015

Three ways to champion sustainability

Whether you are a mammoth or a mouse the size of your footprint counts when it comes to the mark you leave on the environment. As caretakers for future generations, it’s up to each of us to find a balance between using and replenishing earth’s resources.

One way to measure our progress towards achieving the right balance is by calculating ‘ecological footprints’ for individuals, organisations and global communities.

For example, Australia’s eco-footprint, as it stands at the moment, means that if the rest of the world lived the way we do, we’d need 3.6 earths to sustain our current population. 

Organisations, like North Coast TAFE have an important role in contributing to a sustainable future by shrinking their eco-footprint and encouraging others to do the same.

The difference between ‘knowing’ and making a difference is ‘doing’.

Here are just three ways North Coast TAFE has been putting its words into actions for more than 15 years:

1. Supporting an organisational culture that values sustainability

Sustainability first appeared in North Coast TAFE’s strategic planning back in 1999. While our tack has changed over time, the plan has always focussed on:

  • people (collaboration, culture, behaviour) and
  • acknowledgement of place (infrastructure, technology and geography).

In the early 2000’s our Environment Plan ‘greened’ our campuses and curriculum. Ahead of its time, the plan cemented environmental management as a core value of the organisation.

In the late 00’s this evolved into an integrated approach to ecological sustainability, which was delivered through policy, curriculum, rewards and incentives, communication and promotion. Teams from across North Coast TAFE came together under these banners to practise, collaborate and educate for sustainability.  

Some might say that we’ve missed the mark by focusing on only ecological sustainability and ignoring the social and economic pillars of the triple bottom line.

We disagree! Our core business of (vocational) education is 100% about creating better social systems and driving the economy. It’s just that our commitment to being environmentally responsible as well called for some dedicated effort!

Coffs Harbour Education campus solar panels

2. Investing in energy saving and waste management

So is our eco-footprint shrinking?  Well yes, and while there’s always more to do, we can celebrate some wins. 

We’ve managed to reduce our energy use by 19% from 2006 – that saves us around $400,000 every year.

And thanks to technology – especially our extensive use of videoconferencing, we travel around 400,000km less every year than we did in 2005.

Waste reduction and recycling is encouraged at every North Coast TAFE campus.  For example, to reduce the amount of paper used, we’ve introduced a ‘papercut’ system on our printers and photocopiers that is designed to make people think twice before they print.

Solid wins? Yes. But our greatest possible impact is not through our own eco-footprint.

3. Educating others about sustainability

Every year North Coast helps thousands of people from all walks of life - students, businesses and community members – who study, partner or work with us understand and manage their impact on the environment. 

Sustainability is a formal part of many qualifications at North Coast TAFE.

It is embedded in our teaching and learning by many informed and passionate teachers (and support staff) who aim to create learning environments that are real-life examples of sustainability in practice.    

North Coast TAFE is a silver member of the NSW Government’s Sustainability Advantage Program.

In recognition our efforts for sustainability we were presented with a national award for ‘Skills for Sustainability, Educational Institution’ at the Australian Training Awards in 2012.

Sustainability is a journey, not a destination… 

We’re making a contribution, but we know there are always more people to engage, new technologies to invest in and better practices to strive for.

We’re up for the challenge and working on shrinking our eco-footprint.

Check out yours at this EPA website.   

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