A friend just told me about Green School’s TED Talk
The thematic class in the morning is my favourite and this month we are doing ‘Settlers’. We break into teams and each team pretends to be it’s own country. We are learning about history, migration, politics, trade, community and team-work. Each team makes their own shelters near where the school pigs are and we trade useful items, skills and food with the other countries. It’s fun and muddy!
I run with my friends down to our classroom and we kick our shoes off before going up the stairs to our classroom. I think it’s special to have a classroom that looks like a giant bamboo treehouse.
Riding on the BioBus with my friends is fun. I heard it runs with french fried oil.
For breakfast, I like a smoothie and toast with jam. We buy the jam from school, it’s rosella flavour and its sweet and tangy – yum.
I wake up just after the sun comes up and put on my favourite shorts and t-shirt. They’re old and comfortable, which is good, because we are going to get muddy today!
The Bio Bus story represents the nexus of solution based learning, community engagement, and enterprise. Bio Bus is a social enterprise, initiated by Green School students, that strives to provide sustainable transport services to Green School students and community members. The project sponsors setup a cooking oil collection system in the local community. Once cooking oil is collected, it is sent to a processing facility to create the biofuel that is then used by the Bio Bus vehicles to transport students and community members.
The Bio Bus project has resulted in multiple learning opportunities and practical sustainability solutions. The decrease in passenger car trips resulted in carbon emissions reductions, as well as the ecological benefits of recycling cooking oil and using the biofuel as a fuel alternative. As well, a byproduct of the cooking oil recycling process is glycerine which can be further processed into sustainable soap products.
The use of bio soap reduces the use of monoculture palm oil based products that have chemical additives which pollute fresh water sources, not to mention the massive ecological impact of palm oil plantation related deforestation. This is one of many inspiring Green School projects.
A simple definition of aquaponics is that it is the integration of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one closed system.
The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. The third component of the system is the microbes (nitrifying bacteria) and composting red worms that thrive in the growing media. They do the job of converting the ammonia from the fish waste first into nitrites, then into nitrates and the solids into vermicompost that that are food for the plants.
Green School uses composting as one of its solid waste management strategies. We have a dedicated Compost Station on campus where biomass, kitchen waste and cow manure is collected and composed to create an organic material that is used as nutrient rich fertilizer for the permaculture gardens dispersed throughout the school grounds that supply our kitchen.
The Compost Station is a excellent place to learn from and connect with natural processes. To see the layers of a composting pile is to watch life itself in motion. The alternating green nitrogen and brown carbon layers are composed of every variety of waste; wood chips, brown leaves, green leaves, grass, food scraps, and manure.
As the valuable organic material starts to decompose a dark, rich, productive soil amendment that gardeners call Black Gold begins to evolve. If you push your hand into the pile you can feel the heat the process generates.
The Green School solid waste management system is one of the greatest examples of our systems thinking culture. Our waste is part of a closed system and understanding how to cycle it back through the environment and into our soil and food creates an authentic sense of connection to all the moving parts in our natural world. We are striving to create a closed loop system from the food forest and the gardens, to the kitchen, out to the composting pile and the grey water management system, back to our lunch plates and finally back to the composting toilet for yet another cycle.
We have four primary solid waste streams that we need to manage at Green School:
This is consistent with the principles of a circular economy where there is no such thing as waste and a movement away from the destructive practices of the “Take, Make, Waste” system of industrial production and consumption that plagues contemporary society.
At Green School we are constantly seeking solutions to meet our needs that minimize embodied energy. The energy embodied in process water contributes to climate change. Our solution to this challenge was to install a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtration system to meet our drinking water consumption needs. The source of our facility potable water is a 60 meter deep well. Although the well water is drinkable, we decided to install a Reverse Osmosis Biofiltration System to ensure the purity and safety of the drinking water for our community.
The microhydro vortex embodies the learning by doing philosophy. In 2005, Green School launched this exciting renewable energy project with a vision and aspiration to be a carbon positive school in a carbon positive community. Through this project we have learned invaluable lessons in microhydro energy development, community engagement, and ecosystem services benefits. It is estimated that when the Vortex is commissioned sometime in 2016, that it will supply approximately 6 kW of renewable energy to the overall Green School energy portfolio, getting us that much closer to our goal of being a carbon positive school within a carbon positive community.
Solar energy is an important and material component of Green School’s renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction strategy. In 2011, Akuo Energy generously donated a solar PV and microgrid energy management system to Green School. The solar PV energy system is composed of 118 solar PV panels, a 72 kWh capacity lead acid battery bank, and inverters. Current PV panel optimum capacity contributes 21 kWh to Green School’s renewable energy portfolio. Under the current renewable energy strategy, we plan to expand the the solar PV share of the energy portfolio mix to meet Green School’s energy needs and get us closer to our goal of being a carbon positive member of a carbon positive community.
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