Case Study

Tenison Woods College
- Mt Gambier

Early Years,Primary Years,Secondary Level


Student Population: 1400

Staff: 220

Includes an Early Learning Centre, Junior, Middle, Senior schools plus hospitality and sports specialties.

Resourcing: The role of Sustainability Coordinator for 0.2FTE leads College- wide sustainability initiatives.


Tenison Woods College has a strong connection to ecology, named after Father Julian Tenison Woods, a respected geologist, botanist, explorer, and educator.


This background, coupled with the Pope’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, led to the creation of a part time (0.2 FTE) sustainability coordinator role at the College, responsible for driving sustainability initiatives at the site and in the greater college community. Partnerships with local businesses and global connections have delivered a range of learning experiences for students and recognition of the site and its sustainability coordinator. smart-leaders-celebrated

The College’s sustainability pillars are woven into policies, ensuring an ongoing commitment to deliver both environmental and STEAM learning, employment pathways, health and wellbeing and social connectivity outcomes. Initiatives engage multiple disciplines, ensuring larger impacts and benefits whilst ensuring holistic, relevant, and contextual learning for both staff and students.

Tenison Woods College aims to become a zero-waste school by 2025 and produce all its energy needs on site by 2030. While these goals are ambitious, the College has been working towards sustainability since 2014. Sustainability commitments centre around energy, transport, food systems and stewardship for creation.

Key Site Initiatives

Nude food: in early 2014 when the ELC was opened, the preparation of nutritious Nude Food for children was a focus. Following this initiative, Nude Food practices were implemented in the Reception classes (2019), then gradually to all Primary years (by 2021).

Waste audit: in 2017 the College engaged KESAB to conduct a bin materials audit to ascertain the waste quantities and key focus areas.

Sustainability projects: Students are encouraged to consider social, economic and/or wellbeing elements with projects linked across topics including Design & Technology, Arts, Business & Economics, Enterprise, and STEM learning.

Site recycled plastics are used to ‘upcycle’ school items


Innovative resource use: the College has a space dedicated to educating students about circular economy. The ‘Project Recology Centre’ shed houses global initiative ‘Precious Plastics’ equipment, some of which has been custom-made via local business partnerships. This allows students to design, and custom make new enterprise products from waste materials, showcasing a closed loop system. Existing site items such as furniture is also repaired/upcycled with student involvement. This project has promoted materials to be viewed as resources, not as waste, which is an important sustainability perspective.

Focussing on the resource recovery of landfill-bound plastic, this unique centre places students in the driver seat about reimagining what waste plastic can become. To date, approximately 5 tonnes of plastic has been diverted from landfill and processed into valuable items by students.

Canteen involvement: the on-site canteen is engaged in avoiding and reducing waste as well as collecting items for reuse and recycling. Compostable single-use items are utilised, and packaging is reduced where possible.

Composting: a large commercial scale composter was utilised for student enterprise where site materials were processed, and the resulting compost sold. The original machine encountered problems and is awaiting repair/replacement, which is likely to be a new digester. This should process all site organic material for site benefit.

Student enterprise recycles resources on-site into valuable materials for sale, teaching valuable skills while nurturing creativity and circular thinking


Waste avoidance: toilets at the school have air dryers to avoid single-use paper towel waste. Nude Food lunchboxes avoid/reduce packaging waste.

Source separation: both internal and external bin stations have multiple waste streams to encourage waste separation at source.

Strategic bin placement: bin stations are strategically placed near generation areas and along egress points to encourage utilisation which reduces litter and the number of bins required.

Engagement: students are engaged in planning and actioning initiatives which have cross-curriculum touch points and learning outcomes.

Disengaged students are encouraged to undertake active projects that allow for different ways of learning that often suit diverse learning styles and needs. Community members and businesses are also involved in initiatives, providing great relationships for resource, skill, and knowledge sharing. This is via multiple touch points including College assemblies, material collections, equipment creation and maintenance, goods enterprise, and broader education.

Embedding: sustainability is part of the central pillars of the College and therefore supports embedding elements into the curriculum. Initiatives are diverse and draw on topics such as Business & Economics, Art, Engineering, Science, Maths, Music, and Business.

Long-term holistic goals: the College aims to ensure sustainable actions in multiple areas, not just waste. The College has an ongoing solar project, where students are involved in installing solar panels on the College site each semester, under the guidance of qualified solar technicians. Over 280 panels have been installed to date.

Education Support Officers: special projects that link with sustainability are facilitated by ESOs to help improve wellbeing and connectivity of students and the greater community. Quantification of these outcomes justifies the importance of initiatives and provides tangible evidence to support actions.

Future aims: opening a community central space is planned, to streamline and formalise the ‘Project Recology Centre.’ Students can also be up skilled to become presenters/advocates of initiatives to other schools, offering TED talk- style case studies to share learnings and encourage new initiatives.

Internal bartering systems for created products is also an avenue to explore, as is enterprise within and outside of the local community.


"A holistic view of sustainability on-site has offered multiple learning opportunities for students, staff and community alike."