Sustainable initiatives developed by students

Rector of Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview, Fr Tom Renshaw SJ discusses some of the environmental and sustainability initiatives developed by students at the college.


In March, I attended the second meeting of the College’s new Caring for our Common Home Committee. This committee is chaired by Ms Kate Dryden, an Environmental Infrastructure Advisor and Lawyer and a current parent at the College. Other committee members include representatives from different areas of College life, along with two student representatives.

Ms Sharon McLean, the College’s Caring for our Common Home Co-ordinator, works closely with Kate to ensure the Committee is focused on deepening a whole school approach to this important global priority of the Jesuits. Every year, the College, along with every Jesuit ministry in the country, is required to advise the Provincial as to how we are seeking to engage with this global priority.

The College has an annual action plan for this important global Jesuit priority. We seek to engage students, staff, College leadership, the College board, our families and the Old Ignatians’ Union. The plan is inspired by our vision to be people for and with others as well as being people who are for and with all of creation. We acknowledge the Cammeriagal people who are the traditional custodians of this land and how they lived in harmony with this environment for thousands of years before us. We seek to learn from their example so that we, too, can provide ongoing stewardship to our beautiful property.

As part of our action plan, there are opportunities for reflection on our relationship with creation, for both staff and students. This involves examens having an ecological focus and, in Term 2, the focus for the student Mass will be the environment.

There are many wonderful student initiatives underway, leading to a transformation of both heart and mind. We have adapted the Return and Earn scheme to be a “Return and Give” campaign. Students and staff deposit their cans, bottles, and milk cartons in designated bins with white lids. Drawing upon the hospitality embodied in the symbols of the wolves on the crest of the Loyola family, the white lids have a green wolf on them, encouraging the students to “feed the wolf” and, in so doing, contributing to our immersion partners. Last year over 23,000 items were collected, thus raising over $2,330 for our immersion partners. This was achieved through the thoughtful disposal of our recyclables. This year our target is for the donation of 40,000 items in these bins. As one of their Ignatian Service activities, our Year 8 boarders sort and count the items each week. Parents are welcome to also contribute to this initiative by using this barcode at your local Return and Earn stations.

Designated “feed the wolf” recycle bins located around the college. Photo by Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview.

Earlier in March, as part of Clean up Australia Day, boarders from years 7-9 moved around our grounds picking up any rubbish, sorting it and identifying any items that could be recycled. The boys worked throughout the afternoon, collecting eighteen bags of rubbish. The activity provided insights for the students on the importance of using appropriate bins and thinking about how to reduce our waste.

We also have the Green Wolves student clubs – a senior and junior group. They meet each week and discuss ideas as to how we can better engage students in caring for the built and natural environment of our College and to hear from guest speakers about environmental matters and sustainability initiatives. Several weeks ago, at our last assembly we had two powerful addresses from Will, our Captain of Boarders, about the impact of the flooding on his grandmother’s property on the Darling River near Bourke and from Misman and the impact of climate change, especially rising sea levels, on his home, Moa Island in the Torres Strait.

Other current initiatives include a significant reduction in laminating of posters at the College, reducing single use plastic and paper waste through staff bringing their own plates for lunch each day, a Landcare program where we are removing introduced weeds on the property, coffee pod recycling, recycling of bottle tops and batteries, transforming tree and plant waste into woodchips or green waste, the quarterly collection of e-waste, as well as the outstanding ecogarden at our Regis Campus.

We are also in the process of developing an environment dashboard so that our staff and students will be able to see how our changed behaviours are making a positive contribution to caring for our common home, including reducing the amount of paper we use and the waste we generate, as well as our energy and water consumption.

In the coming months, we are planning on developing a longer-term strategic environmental plan for the College. May our hearts be ready to receive the salvific love of our God as we deepen our appreciation of the beauty of creation and our Creator God.

By Fr Tom Renshaw SJ, Rector of Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview.

This article was originally published in Edition 08/2023 of the ‘Viewpoint’ newsletter for Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview.

Feature photo by Joel Henry on Unsplash.