The Zayed Sustainability Prize is the UAE’s pioneering global award in sustainability recognising the achievements of those who are driving impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions across five distinct categories: Health, Food, Energy, Water and Global High Schools.

A number of Australian and New Zealand schools have become Oceania finalists and winners in the Global High Schools category over recent years. The Zayed Sustainability Prize is now open for its 2020 Awards and seeks pioneering projects from our corner of the globe.

This is a case study of Lowanna College in Victoria.

Lowanna College, Australia

Zayed Future Energy Prize Finalist 2018
Zayed Sustainability Prize Finalist 2019

Lowanna College in Victoria was a Zayed Sustainability Prize finalist in both 2018 and 2019. As the largest secondary school in the Latrobe Valley, the student population comes from families primarily working in coal-fired power stations or agriculture. The recent closure of one of three large power stations nearby, with the loss of 800 jobs, places Lowanna College at the heart of the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of power.

Lowanna’s proposal for the Zayed Sustainability Prize was a broad student leadership program for sustainability through fun and engaging projects such as a biodigester model, pellet mill, solar array, mushroom house, work farm shelter and a bicycle-powered smoothie maker.

Being a dual runner up for the ZSP has helped Lowanna College increase their focus on sustainability learning at the school. Some of the projects already underway include an indigenous food garden, a butterfly garden with butterfly attracting plants and rocks for mating habitat, an outdoor classroom, an aquaponics pond, a working small scale model of a flat bed aquaponics system and a vertical wall aquaponics system. A school compositing system collects compost from staff rooms.

Students have been actively engaged in the sustainability program, making wooden wicking gardens and barrel wicking gardens, auditing fauna and flora in the school grounds, making Boobook owl boxes and installing them in adjacent bushland, and tree planting both within the school (native and fruit trees) and in the boarder community (native trees).

Every week a Green Tradie program involves students working with three volunteers on the school vegetable garden. Students collect seeds, grow plants, collect vegetables and fruit and then prepare and cook them for a meal. School hens are cared for by School community volunteers and the students are allowed to collect the eggs and use them for cooking.

During their research for the ZSP the school realised they could install solar panels at no up front cost and pay them off out of the savings. This has potentially huge implications for the school. Lowanna’s annual electricity cost is between $100,000 - $130,000. A solar array, to cover their annual electricity needs, would cost approximately $450,000 meaning the panel would be paid off in under five years. The panels are guaranteed for 25 years and are fully recyclable. This means that over the life of the panels the school will save 2 million dollars in electricity costs! The school is currently looking into this option.

The promotion the school received in the lead up to the ZSP announcement drew the attention of Rotary Australia who are now running a 21st Century Leadership program in conjunction with a sustainability awareness program at Lowanna College in term 2 and 3, 2019. Students will be taught leadership skills and explore the most current sustainability technologies and ideas.

“These two opportunities have arisen due to our Zayed application and while we didn’t win the Zayed Sustainability Prize the process of applying for the prize has enabled our projects to proceed. The experience of networking with teachers from other schools and looking at their different sustainability programs has been truly inspiring,” said Judith Steward, Lowanna College Science Teacher.

Learn more

Read more about the Zayed Sustainability Prize. Applications for the 2020 Prize close 30 May 2019.