We know we need to do things differently to reduce our emissions. We know we need to change. But how?

“It’s really difficult to talk to adults and ask them to change,” says Jenni Hagland, leader of Zero Emissions Schools program. “I had this epiphany one day at the bakery. There was an adult in line with his bread bag. I said, ‘Oh, that’s amazing,’ and he said, ‘My kids make me do it, I don’t want to.’

“It made me think: get the kids doing it, then their parents will change. It’s so much easier to get adults to change when their kids are involved.”

Jenni Hagland is new to ZESN but no newcomer to change-making. She has been directly involved in sustainability for more than a decade. In 2006 she began working for the Carbon Disclosure Project, a global NGO based in London, followed up by work for the CDP in Hong Kong. She moved to Sydney in 2016 and started the Mosman Public School Sustainability Club in 2018.

The club started small, fundraising for recycling bins, having ‘nude lunch’ challenges, turning off lights and installing LEDs. Then this April, after a year of planning and fund-raising, the school installed 50kW of solar panels on its roof. The system will provide 25% of the school’s electricity needs, saving $8,000 a year.

Now Jenni has joined Zero Emissions Sydney North to work on sustainability in schools across the region, starting with a new range of resources available from the Zero Emissions website. There are practical, step-by-step guides to forming a school sustainability team, revving up your recycling and active transport, and making sustainability a part of the curriculum. Plus there are inspiring case studies from Mosman Public School and Manly Selective showing how young people are making change happen, and benefitting their schools and communities at the same time.

“People overlook the impact kids have on their parents. You’re changing their behaviour at an early age, making them aware of the problem. These little people are going to turn into adults. I think it’s really important to make that not new or weird. It’s a part of their behaviour, and that will rub off at home, their parents will change, small business will respond to that, community will change.”

If you are inspired by these stories, if you want to help your school save money and carbon emissions, please get in touch.