Young people doing great things: Liam Edwards and Abi Schouten, Heretaunga College

Liam and Abi, Head Boy and Head Girl at Heretaunga College.

Liam and Abi, Head Boy and Head Girl at Heretaunga College.

In our second of the series of Young people doing great things, we’re looking at how a weekend with some “people power” supporting you can make a real difference.

As Head Students of Heretaunga College in Upper Hutt, 17 year olds Liam Edwards and Abi Schouten have a unique window into how their school is run.

And as they looked around, they noticed that the rubbish at their school wasn’t being recycled. Abi says, “It was disappointing to see because we all know about EnviroSchools, and recycling is a big deal in primary school.”

“It’s really disappointing to see the lack of care for our environment for our world and as a school community,” says Liam.

So the two Head Students investigated, and found out that 66% of all rubbish thrown away at the school could be recycled. However, there was one catch: implementing a school recycling scheme would take money. So the students started applying for grants and signed up to Upper Hutt StartUp Weekend.

As project-holders at Upper Hutt StartUp Weekend, their project was simple: increase recycling at Heretaunga College, and change the rubbish systems at their school so that it could be recycled. A group of around 30 people from the Upper Hutt community (and beyond) came together over the weekend to support this mahi (work), and two other projects. During a number of workshops, the project goals were split into several parts and broken down into steps.

Then, the community went into action - a small amount of seed money was donated for a worm farm and tiger worms by generous local businesses; pallets for compost bins were obtained from someone’s dad’s work and built in one day; recycling posters were created to put around the school; and best of all, the students discovered that recycling might even save the school money in waste management fees!

Liam says, “At first we had a big plan for general recycling and getting really worried about how much that was going to cost.” Abi agreed, “But the most tangible thing we [got out of the weekend] was the worm farm and compost bins - we can do that, and we ARE doing that. It’s really awesome to see the community help - to see that people want to support us.” Both students recognise that it will be much easier to get their school on board with recycling if it’s easy for the school management to maintain as well. They recognise it will be a (long) process, but will be working towards getting their school on board and getting funding and grants to cover some of the costs.

Long-term, the Head Students plan to work with their environmental committee with other prefects which will help make recycling the norm for the school, and create simple resources which will help new students easily understand how to recycle at the school. Abi says, “There are 13 prefects and we’d like to get a wellbeing/enviro prefect. As prefects, we have a lot to do, but if we implement a good structure before we leave at the end of the year, it will continue on without us and be sustainable.” They would even like to extend the scheme to other schools, helping the project expand beyond their own community.

Well done Abi and Liam and we wish you all the best on the next steps!