Monday, 24 September, 2018 - 00:00
Sustainable school camps

A five day camp plan

School camps provides an ideal ‘outdoor classroom’ setting for students to learn more about reducing their carbon footprint.

Today’s teachers are front line warriors in the fight to save the environment. It is from them that many students first learn about global warming, endangered species and how the relentless global push for increased production impacts on urban and natural environments around the world.

School camps provides a wonderful ‘outdoor classroom’ setting to put into practice many of the localised environmental issues that students have learnt in the classroom, in a fun and interactive way. The following five-day plan introduces the basic concepts of carbon footprint reduction and helps students learn about the measures they can take at camp, and at home, to ‘do their bit’ for the environment!

Day 1 Lighting & electricity

Conduct a lighting and electricity audit around camp. Look at the lighting and electricity options that have been chosen for the buildings and outhouses on the camp site, and how they could be improved in the future. For example, does the camp kitchen and accommodation block generate power from sustainable energy sources such as solar panels? Have energy efficient light bulbs or LED lighting been used throughout the camp? Are timer switches in use to reduce energy usage? Does the camp leave outdoor lights on all night or are motion sensors in use? Is the air-conditioner on…and does it need to be?

Today’s challenge - Use as little electricity as possible today. That means leaving the light switches off where practicable and unplugging electrical items that are not in use. You’ll be surprised as how often you turn a light on out of habit – rather than necessity.

Day 2 Water

Today is the day to discuss the importance of sensible water use. Australia is just one of the many countries around the world that suffers from drought. Today’s lesson in reducing your carbon footprint is how saving water can help protect our natural habitats. Discuss the range of ways students on camp can reduce their water intake. For example, are there dripping taps around camp that can be fixed with a new washer? Are students prepared to have short showers? Have water saving shower heads and dual flush toilets been installed in the amenities block?

Today’s challenge - Most Top 40 songs go for around three minutes – the perfect length of time for a shower. Encourage students to sing their favourite song under the shower today, and to turn off the water by the time they get to the last line!

Day 3 Food

What you eat affects your carbon footprint – particularly for the vast majority of us who are meat eaters. Did you know that animal products make up 34% of our carbon footprint in terms of land required to sustain lifestyle, while vegetable foods only make up 8 per cent?

Add the resources needed to produce our food and transport it from paddock to plate - and the energy needed to process and cook it - and you add to your carbon footprint again!

But of course we all need to eat, so today’s lesson is how we can eat healthily and ethically – and keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. Discuss with students the various methods of producing our daily foods. Is it necessary to transport gourmet foods via air travel, or should we just eat locally produced foods in an effort to cut down ‘food miles’ and support local growers? What are the benefits and disadvantages of heated glasshouses over open paddock production?

Discuss with students how the camp could reduce its food-related carbon footprint in the future. Discuss what produce is available locally, and how it could be incorporated on future camp menus. Could a kitchen garden solve some of the issues with getting fresh produce to camp?

Today’s challenge - Go vegetarian for a day!

Day 4 Precycling

Precycling is proactive recycling….in other words, thinking through purchases before you make them. Precycling not only reduces the build up of waste, but reduces landfill too. Today’s challenge is to look at how we can all reduce waste by thinking about how products are packaged. Ask yourself: ‘Is this product packaged ethically?’ ‘What will happen to it once I’ve used it – will it go into landfill, or can it be recycled or re-used? Knowing the answer to these questions before buying a product is a small step students can take on a day-to-day basis to reduce our carbon footprint.

Today’s exercise - Go to the camp kitchen and look at all the foodstuffs that have been purchased for camp. Discuss the packaging that has been used to package the meat, fruit, vegetables, cereals and drinks for your camp. How could the packaging have been improved? Ie. Is the meat packaged on countless foam trays or packed in bulk in a single plastic bag? Have fruit and vegetables been bought in bulk in cardboard trays or boxes, or are they individually wrapped and packaged in foam and plastic? Were cereals bought in bulk? Have concentrates (ie. Cordials or dishwashing liquid) been purchased? (Always a good idea as they last longer, which means less landfill).

Day 5 Take a nature walk…and chat about what you’ve learnt

Students may be surprised to learn that there was once a point in history when the only way to get from A to B was to walk! No cars, no bikes, no skateboards and definitely no planes or trains. Today’s ‘green’ exercise is to take a long nature walk with your students, and to chat about what you’ve learnt about reducing your carbon footprint in recent days. You can also take this opportunity to chat about the flora and fauna that surrounds camp, and how it is faring. What sort of soil surrounds camp? Is it suitable for growing fruits and vegetables? Is the natural water supply bountiful, or is the area arid?

Keep talking!  Talking is probably the most important carbon reduction initiative you can make. If everyone shares their ideas and concepts, and others take them on board, students, teachers and caregivers alike can make a real difference to our planet and its resources.