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ACTS is a non-profit member based organisation representing higher and further education institutions within Australia and New Zealand. We aim to inspire, promote and support change towards best practice sustainability within the operations, curriculum and research of the tertiary education sector.

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Sharing Success: 2011 Winners

The Green Gown Awards Australasia now in their 3rd year, is firmly becoming the most prestigious recognition of sustainability best practice within the tertiary education sector, following in its UK founders footsteps.

In addition to the recognition of excellence for those successful institutions, the other main aim of the Awards is to share the best practice stories with the sector. With the creation of an international resources sharing facility with our sister organisations disseminating best practice has never been more important or easier. The integrity of the Awards is maintained by the high quality of applications, the rigorous assessment of applications by independent judges and the support of our sponsors and the wider sector. In order to maintain and enhance that quality we want to share with you the journey of our winning and highly commended institutions.  In this way Australasian and international institutions can capitalise on that success and learn the dos and don’ts from others.

It is also a key responsibility of ACTS that we encourage the Green Gown Awards Australasia to go from strength to strength, by disseminating best practice and helping colleagues to achieve more from the Green Gown Awards in future, as well as increase the benefits of ACTS membership.

In 2011 we had over 35 applications for 6 categories and 12 institutions were recognised for their excellent initiatives. In order for us to learn from the successes of these winners, we have a series of best practice videos we’d like to share with you. Please view links below.

We’d also like to introduce the Awards to you in person, to give you a little bit of background about why they are important and what we feel makes them special. Please view the introduction video below from Sue Hopkins – Manager of the Green Gown Awards Australasia.

2011 Winners!

Continuous Improvement – Institutional Change

Winner: La Trobe University

Since establishing its Sustainability Task Force in 2009 La Trobe University has appointed a Pro Vice Chancellor (Sustainability) and developed sound governance and management processes. Significant progress has been made towards the goal of integrating sustainability across operations, curriculum and research in a whole of institution approach and embed sustainability into the culture of the University. Since the production of Responsible Futures, La Trobe’s first sustainability report, stakeholders are more aware of Sustainability issues, engaging with social media, and more involved in striving to achieve the targets set. Significant environmental and social benefits were achieved in 2010 and the Sustainability targets and actions set in the report have been incorporated into University planning and performance management of the Vice Chancellor’s direct reports to drive behaviour change and performance improvements. The addition of a Research Fellow in Education for Sustainability Development is a direct result of the project.

Highly Commended: TAFE NSW Northern Sydney Institute

Focused on its own operations to meet ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems standards in 2003, NSI now provides advice and training to other TAFEs and universities to meet the challenges of today’s burgeoning green economy. Each year, over 3000 students are trained in the specific fields of land, environmental and coastal management, and this is growing in response to the increasing demand for green‐skilled workers.

NSI are introducing new environmentally based courses and modules across all industrysectors, such as renewable energy; grid connected PV systems; insulation training; energy, water and waste minimisation; green plumbing; automotive gas refitting; and ecologically sustainable building design and construction. They are also changing the way many traditional trades are taught. Building, electrical, plumbing, architecture and landscaping students learn about sustainability by designing and building sustainable structures, which in turn are used by students learning about sustainability. Also hospitality students are working towards the closed‐loop ‘farm to table to farm’ approach and Green Table certification using the latest in waste, water and energy minimisation equipment and techniques.

Continuous Improvment – Specific Area

Winner: University of Canterbury

In 1996 the Okeover Stream was a muddy, weed‐infested drain with lawn on the banks down to the edges. Since then significant restoration has taken place, in collaboration with the regional and city councils, including planting, creation of rock eddies and pools. Over 15 years of extensive research on the stream’s health has been carried out by University of Canterbury staff and students, and it is now used as a teaching space for the wider community.

Recently the community in the whole catchment (800 households), in collaboration with the regional council, is involved in a community‐led stream care project. This has raised awareness of the University of Canterbury’s commitment to ecological restoration, and created a much more pleasant space to work and study, and is assisting in the development of transdisciplinary sustainability research. The university has won awards for this project locally which in turn has given the institution encouragement to continue further developments. It has created a model of community driven stream care for other Christchurch streams.

Highly Commended: Victoria University

As an educational institution and major water user in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria University has developed a number of initiatives to significantly and continually reduce water consumption across campuses and student accommodation.

For 5 years Victoria University has been delivering water savings across multiple university campuses. Programs to deliver this reduction include sub metering of buildings, equipment to better understand water consumption trends across the organisation, upgrading of infrastructure to more water efficient equipment, and engagement activities to engender support and educate staff, students and the community with the aim to deliver further water reductions at the University. For a four year period from 2006, approximately 76,300 kilolitres of water savings have been achieved. In addition the staff and students showerhead exchange program has delivered a further 2000 kilolitres of water savings per year to the wider community. So a limit of one song per shower please!

Learning & Teaching

Winner: RMIT University

Over the last three years RMIT University textile design academics have creatively explored and re‐examined textile design practice through the ‘Curriculum Change to Embed Sustainability’ project. The project provides an innovative curriculum change model.

The program has shown leadership by providing graduates with the knowledge, skills and capabilities necessary to practice in a sustainable way as well as to be relevant, employable and visionary, with the capacity to influence change and be the future leaders of the fashion and textile industry within Australia and internationally.

The project places the Bachelor of Arts (Textile Design) curriculum as a leader in its field and sets a practice benchmark for the textile industry generally showing that sustainability can be applied as a standard in all aspects of design. In doing so, it also provides an exemplar for how others can use or adapt the model to enhance the sustainability learning in their own disciplines. The achievements of the institution have been acknowledged and rewarded with the 2011 Premiers Sustainability Award for Tertiary Education.

Highly Commended: Australian National University

For more than a decade, The Australian National University (ANU) has actively used its campuses and surrounding communities as interactive classrooms where students research and learn about sustainability in practice. Sustainability projects have encompassed all disciplines and every level of the university curriculum and have focused on diverse environmental issues. The university has benefited by gaining student insights into genuine sustainability questions, while students have gained skills, knowledge and practical experience in tackling real world challenges.

Coursework collaborations help students to reflect on the ecological impact of the university and their contribution to it while demonstrating that their actions can make a difference. Armed with the skills and knowledge to address real world issues, students are more likely to be confident in their abilities to create a better future. In this manner, campus sustainability projects benefit not only the individual students, but the university and wider community as a whole.

Highly Commended: Swinburne University of Technology

The Vocational Graduate Certificate in Education and Training for Sustainability (VGC ETfS) is the first nationally accredited VET course in education for sustainability in Australia and is designed for educators from all sectors – particularly the tertiary sector ‐ to professionally ‘upskill’ in learner‐based change for sustainability. The VGC ETfS draws on many ways of knowing ‐ systems and critical thinking, values and worldviews, psychology, behaviour change, communication and collaborative skills, progressive educational pedagogies, action research ‐ to educate for a sustainable future.

The VGC ETfS is designed so that it can be shaped and contextualised to a wide range of educational contexts across Australia. The course projects and assessment tasks are all integrated into the teaching and curriculum contexts of the participant and are designed to initiate change at both the individual and institution levels, as well as build a community of practice within all the participants and their networks. The VGC ETfS is currently being taught in NSW, QLD, and VIC through VET and Community College based cohorts and new cohorts in Higher Education and the secondary sectors are being planned.

Student Initatives & Campaigns

Winners: The University of Adelaide

Watch the case study video!
Orientation Week (O’Week) celebrations at the University of Adelaide attract over 15,000 students each year. In 2011 the Office of Sustainability teamed up with the Environmental Collective of Students, Adelaide Metro and the Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure to deliver the Sustainable Transport Pledge to encourage students to travel to campus by bike, public transport or by walking. Research indicates that embedding sustainable behaviors is more successful when combined with a life changing event. This initiative asked new university students to pledge to travel to campus in a sustainable manner with a public declaration and rewarded them with a small prize. The pledge photos were promptly uploaded onto the sustainability Facebook page for students to tag themselves. Almost 700 pledges were taken by student volunteers. The social media element of this project helped cement individual pledges through a public display of commitment. The four day event was run by students for students, with support from the Office of Sustainability.

Highly Commended: Curtin University

Watch the case study video!
From an empty sandy space, and with only a volunteer staff member for support, a 600m2 community vegie garden has been thriving since 2007 at the largest on‐campus student residence within Curtin University. The garden is supported by hundreds of student volunteers, who have planted citrus, fig, stone fruit, olive, and almond trees; grape vines; as well as many Asian herbs and vegetables; reflecting the diversity of the students’ country of origin.

Students have also seen keen interest and support from many departments within the university and visits by the general public. World Environment Day was celebrated on campus, with staff and students interacting for a healthy BBQ that showcased the garden’s produce. The main outcomes and benefits of the garden are the social interaction and friendship that this project is creating among international students who sometimes find it difficult to adapt to a new country’s customs and way of life. Gardening and cooking are two great ways to actively engage with each other.

TAFE & Smaller Institutions

Winner: TAFE NSW New England Institute

Northern Inland Sustainable Business Network (NISBN) is an exciting initiative aimed at providing practical and local assistance to business as they embark on the sustainability challenge. Developed by New England Institute of TAFE, and 4 other supporting organisations, NISBN covers 13 Local Government areas, and in the last year the benefits due to the development of NISBN, include but are not limited to:

  • Filming and dissipation of a free Sustainable Business DVD to 1000 businesses
  • Government advisor, Ross Garnaut talking to NISBN businesses/NEI TAFE re: Carbon
  • 5x Sustainable master classes held for businesses
  • Sustainable manufacturing, carbon accounting, energy auditing and business sustainability accredited training identified/now being delivered to NISBN business.
  • Better industry and stakeholder engagement between NEI TAFE and business
  • Initiatives targeting carbon footprints, energy/resource efficiency, alternative energy and industry development/ workforce up‐skilling
  • Better and improved co‐operation between Government agencies to provide support to NE/NW region’s business
Highly Commended: TAFE SA Regional Institute

Watch the case study video!
In 2010, TAFE SA Regional launched its GreenPrint for Workplace Education for Environmental Sustainability. The GreenPrint addresses both educational and corporate actions, and is based on the belief that our sustainability journey starts with changing the culture of our Institute and building educational credibility by ‘walking the talk’.

Through Sustainability Champions; lecturer professional development opportunities; facilities staff training; executive encouragement; communications strategy and student engagement they have achieved a great deal in 12 months. The institution has set up a Solar and Domestic Wind Turbine Training Centre in South Australia’s South East and now have sustainability skills being delivered in business administration; finance; children’s services; hair and beauty; commercial cookery; manufacturing and engineering; seafood; and primary industry programs. They have also won funding for energy and waste audits and greenhouse gas research. The achievements of the last year are testament to the vision embodied in the GreenPrint, and its effective execution and uptake.

ACTS Award of Excellence

Winner: Charles Sturt University

Charles Sturt University (CSU) is committed to sustainability and is actively working to both reduce the impact of its operations and to act as a leader to engage staff, students and the wider community to reduce their own environmental footprints. CSU has established formal targets as part of its strategic plans covering GHG emissions, energy and water use, waste production, biodiversity, and engagement of students, staff and its neighbouring communities in relation to improving the sustainability of our actions.

In 2010 CSU achieved the following against its targets:

  • 47% reduction in water use (compared to 2006 baseline data)
  • 34% improvement in fuel efficiency of University vehicle fleet since 2006
  • Investment of $740,000 in energy and water saving initiatives
  • Establishment of a $3 million internal loan to provide funding for energy and water saving initiatives
  • Continuation of the highly successful CSU Sustainability Grant Process offering $100,000 for staff and student‐initiated sustainability projects
  • Establishment of a calendar of events involving engaging ways that staff and students get involved in sustainability
  • Commitment of 3 major capital projects to a Green Star ‐ Education Design v1 rating, targeting a 5 star Green Star rating
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