After four years building its vision to become sustainable, Cashmere High School stood out among nearly 1500 entries from 97 countries to win the United Arab Emirates Government-funded Zayed Future Energy Prize.
Students Nola Smart, 17, and Lily Williams, 15, and teacher Leith Cooper travelled to Abu Dhabi to collect the award last week.
Principal Mark Wilson said the win came after one of its student-led interest groups, the Sustainability Council, started the ecoDriver project in 2012.
The school had since cut its electricity usage by a third, including saving $30,000 a year by installing LED lightbulbs, and running a “Switch off” campaign.
“Our kids really took it up.”
Along with its energy saving accomplishments, Cashmere High’s innovative plans to produce its own energy caught the attention of judges for the international award.
Wilson said the oil-generating Middle Eastern country was trying to find other ways to encourage sustainability.
The money would fund its plans to install solar panels to reduce carbon emission by 5 tonnes per annum, and generate long-term savings of $30,000 over five years.
A New Zealand-designed wind turbine would become a “highly visible focal point”, attracting visitors to the school and generating significant education and publicity.
Piezoelectric floor tiles – which students walk and jump on to generate electricity to charge their mobile devices – would become a “fun and dynamic” way to educate about generating sustainable energy.
“It will be fairly revolutionary in what we’re going to be doing,” Wilson said.
“Ultimately the benefactor of this initiative will be the taxpayer. In a sense the school’s not going to be financially benefiting from this.”
Young people were observant too, and the school had to lead by example, he said.
“You can actually show the kids that not only are we trying to teach the good values and concepts around good sustainability, but we’re putting it into practice as well.
“This award will enable our school to invest in a new energy future that is sustainable and inspires teenagers in New Zealand to take action.
Reported by: JODY O’CALLAGHAN
January 24 2016.