Sustainability in schools

Schools in the Inner West area have access to a variety of programs and offerings to help them setup and maintain a sustainable school life.

Inner West Sustainable Schools Network (IWSSN)

The IWSSN is a forum for school sustainability leaders to connect, share skills and learning resources, and find opportunities for growing sustainability projects and supporting the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority.

The network meets once a term and is open to principals, teachers, P&Cs, and educators from all schools in the Inner West Council area. Department of Education teachers can also access one hour Professional Learning accreditation for attending a network meeting.

Learn more and find out how to join the network.

    School Sustainability Workshops

    Inner West Council offers free sustainability workshops for schools in the Inner West Council area. From composting to no waste lunches, there are 11 practical workshops on a range of sustainability topics to choose from.
    The first schools who register are eligible for up to two workshops per school during Term 2, 2019. Workshop duration is tailored to suit your school needs for a group size up to 40 students.
    Workshop can be delivered to a class or your school’s Eco Warriors club. Workshops are delivered by environmental educator Teresa Rutherford of Compost Happens.

    Book a workshop now

    To book a workshop, please email or call Compost Happens Environmental Education on 0419 430 762.

    All workshops come with notes for the teacher and Compost Happens are only an email or phone call away to help trouble-shoot any problems that arise.

    Please choose from one of the following topics:
    1. Composting
    2. Worm Farming
    3. No Dig Gardening
    4. Wicking Garden Beds
    5. Reuse, Recycle & Avoid and No Waste Lunches
    6. Far out How to Sprout it’s all about seeds
    7. Microgreens, grow a kitchen garden, this is all about seeds
    8. Non-Toxic Body Care
    9. Investigating Soils
    10. Restore your used Worm farms or Composting Bins
    11. Waste Audit Snapshot: Creating a school environment free of ‘single use plastics’

    1. Composting

    Please ask students to bring some organic matter from home ‘in a paper bag’ to help feed the compost we will make

    • Set up a compost
    • What is compost?
    • Why make compost?
    • Why our food scraps are so valuable?
    • How do our food scraps make compost?
    • What little creatures make their home in compost?
    • What can you do with compost?

    2. Worm Farming

    Teachers please organise a small bowl of fruit scraps as the first meal for your worms

    • Set up a worm farm
    • Why are worms so important to us?
    • See and hold a worm
    • What other little creatures share a worm’s home
    • What do worms eat?
    • How do worms eat?
    • How do worms have babies?
    • How many babies can a worm have?

    3. No Dig Gardening

    Students build their own food garden, if you do not have a garden we can build a kitchen garden in boxes for the students to care for

    • Set up a small No Dig Garden
    • Why grow organic vegetables
    • No Dig Gardens do not require you to have good quality soil
    • No need to maintain it, nature does it for you
    • The easiest way to grow your own herbs and vegetables
    • Puts life into your soil while growing herbs and vegetables
    • Easy to build in the smallest of places
    • Does not require you to be an expert in gardening
    • Why mulch is a blanket?

    4. Wicking Garden Beds

    Gardens made in polystyrene boxes; students can decorate and paint these boxes after planting

    • What is a Wicking Bed?
    • Build a Wicking Garden Bed
    • No wasting water, this box garden uses between 40 and 50% less water than a conventional garden bed
    • How does a wicking bed water from the roots up?
    • Ideal for school gardens; when school holidays come around the herbs and vegetables will survive
    • Can be made to any scale

    5. No Waste Lunches, Why Reuse, Recycle & Avoid Plastic?

    Does your school have a recycling program or do you want to start one, this workshop will help you on your way

    • Students have a recycling race
    • What packaging can we can avoid buying?
    • What about plastic food wrapping?
    • Students are challenged to wrap awkward foods i.e. grapes and wraps which they can then eat
    • Students practice wrapping using paper and string, paper bags, greaseproof paper, backing paper and elastic bands
    • In addition, a copy of the notes to show parents how to supply No Waste Lunches
    • What is an opportunity shop?

    6. Far out How to Sprout it’s All about Seeds

    A busy hands-on workshop; Learn to sprout seeds in your kitchen, plant seeds to grow into seedlings, how to plant established seedlings

    • What is in a seed?
    • How to sprout seeds; a living food
    • Taste sprouted seeds
    • Planting seeds
    • Planting seedlings

    7. Microgreens, grow a kitchen garden, this is all about seeds

    A busy hands-on workshop; Learn to grow microgreens in your kitchen, plant seeds to grow into seedlings, how to plant established seedlings

    • What are microgreens?
    • What is in a seed?
    • How to grow microgreens; a living food
    • Tasting microgreens
    • Planting seeds
    • Planting seedlings

    8. Non-Toxic Body Care

    Informative and fun, students take home products they have made, recipe sheet supplied *please ask student to bring recycled containers to use

    • Who’s got smelly sneakers?
    • Make a smelly sneaker potion to take home
    • What are we putting on out skin?
    • What is in those personal care products?
    • What chemicals are used around us?
    • How do body care products affect our health?
    • What are bacteria?
    • Make and take home non toxic body care ‘potions’ and cleaning creams to help clean the house

    9. Investigating Soils

    Students develop an understanding how precious soil is as a resource in our world

    • Growing our food, healthy soil is essential in order to grow the quantities of food that we require
    • Soil is part of our living system
    • How does healthy soil convert green house gases to fresh air
    • How can school and home organic waste be converted into precious compost
    • Why are worms important to the soil system?
    • Why it is important to improve and protect the soil
    • Soil testing- this is a fun activity, students learn how to find the pH of the soil
    • The teacher is given a copy of ‘The Soils Play’, a fun way for students to learn what the soil is made up of

    10. Restore your used Worm farms or Composting Bins

    Do you have a worm farm or a compost bin that needs restoring? Students will rebuild a worm farm or compost bin.

    Worm Farming
    • Why are worms so important to us?
    • Restore the worms’ home
    • See and hold a worm
    • What other little creatures share a worm’s home
    • What do worms eat?
    • How do worms eat?
    • How do worms have babies?
    • How many babies can be in one worm capsule?
    • What is compost?
    • Restore your compost bin
    • Why make compost?
    • Why our food scraps are so valuable?
    • How do our food scraps make compost?
    • What little creatures make their home in compost?
    • What can you do with compost?

    If your school has participated in a composting or worm farming school previously, please try and use the existing compost bin/worm farm. Keeping your compost/worm farm going throughout the year gives us confidence to know that what you learn at the workshop is put into action. It also helps save resources.

    11. Waste Audit Snapshot: How do you create a school environment that does not use ‘single use plastics’? Start with a waste audit.

    Discuss the issues of single use plastic, chip packets, straws etc. How can students find their own solutions?

    • We take a sample of random bins from the playground to audit.
    • This workshop allows students to see and sort the rubbish they have all created in their school bins.
    • Students will audit a selection of bins, categorising and weighing the waste to determine an estimated daily / weekly / annual waste report.
    • How many times is packaging used?
    • How much pollution is created in the making and disposal of this packaging?
    • At what cost is this $’s and to their environment?
    • Students find their own solutions to packaging alternatives that they can initiate to suit their own needs.
    • How proactive can they be?

    Note: The Waste Audit workshop will take approximately 2.5 hours to complete. We supply gloves, tongs, sort sheets, pens and clipboards, portable scales, and buckets.

    Environment Grants

    Council’s Environment Grants support groups that benefit the environment and community through projects focused on:

    • Environmental improvement
    • Sustainability education
    • Awareness-raising and the promotion of sustainable living as a way of life.

    School Parents and Citizens' Associations (P&Cs) are eligible to apply for projects that are demonstrably accessible and beneficial to the broader Inner West community (i.e. beyond the school community).

    Environment Grants of up to $7,500 are available annually, with small grants of up to $500 available quarterly.

    Find out more information and read the grant guidelines

    Recycling at schools

    Council is responsible for residential waste and recycling collections which are funded from the domestic waste charge in annual Council rates. Council cannot provide services to non-residential properties such as schools unless it was on a user pays basis. Inner West Council does not currently offer recycling for schools.

    Public schools have access to the NSW Government Waste Management contract.

    Non-Government schools have to organise a private contractor.

    Western Sydney Climate Justice Summit

    Join 150-200 high school students from across Western Sydney at a two-day Western Sydney Climate Justice. Students will learn about climate science, climate impacts and how they can lead the transition to renewable energy in their school and community.

    High school students in years 7-12 are invited, with places available for 10-15 students from each school to attend. Morning tea and lunch provided.

    Petersham Town Hall, Thursday 25 July and Friday 26 July 2019.

    Register by 8 July

    The Western Sydney Climate Justice Summit is presented by The Australian Youth Climate Coalition in partnership with Inner West Council.

    GreenWay Primary Schools Sustainability Program

    There are 22 primary schools and six secondary schools and colleges located along the GreenWay corridor and catchment. As a local model of urban sustainability, the GreenWay is an excellent learning resource and outdoor classroom for students of all ages.

    The GreenWay Primary Schools Sustainability Program offers Inner West primary school students the opportunity to explore their local urban environment and learn about sustainability in a fun and interactive way through a series of in-class and outdoors activities. The Program offers a choice of five GreenWay Local History and Environment Walks and provides Stage 2 teachers with a workbook of 15 cross-curriculum activities. Find out more about the program.

    Sustainable Schools NSW

    Sustainable Schools NSW is a curriculum focused resource hub for environmental education. Sustainable schools aims to connect environmental educators with relevant resources, interactive lessons and a like-minded community. Sustainable Schools supports the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority for the NSW Syllabus and Australian curriculum is managed by the Australian Association of Environmental Education NSW.

    For more information, please visit the Sustainable Schools NSW website.

    Native tree giveaway

    Council supports local schools to participate in National Schools Tree Day, Australia's biggest tree planting and nature-care event on Friday 26 July 2019.

    Email the Urban Forest team at with your planting project .

    Native plants

    Council’s Community Nurseries at Marrickville and Rozelle Bay can provide native plants to schools. Council’s Urban Ecology team can assist your school with species selection based on site conditions and available stock.

    Email or phone the nurseries supervisor on 0412 435 948 with your planting project.

    Free mulch

    Free mulch is sometimes available from Council’s Marrickville Community Nursery at Addison Road Centre.

    Call ahead on 0412 435 948

    Stencil Your School

    Inner West Council's Stencil Your Street program connects urban residents with their waterways – the Cooks River in the south and Parramatta River to the north. Everything we do in our streets has an impact on our waterways. By stencilling drains, everyone will know that whatever goes down the drain ends up in our rivers. The drains are just for rain!For more information, email

    Environmental and zoo education centres

    Environmental and zoo education centres are NSW public schools that support schools by providing:

    • resources to help integrate environmental education
    • professional learning opportunities for teachers
    • assistance in implementing more sustainable practices
    • opportunities for student learning and environmental leadership
    • excursion programs for visiting school groups, linked to NSW syllabuses
    • incursion programs for schools, linked to syllabuses and classroom learning

    Environmental and zoo education centres are located across NSW. Find a centre near your school.

    Composting/worm farm systems

    Compost bins and worm farms are available for purchase from local hardware and nursery stores and from online suppliers. There are also a number of low cost larger scale compost bin designs (usually made with recycled materials) available on the internet that may suit your school. Council subsidies for composting products from Compost Revolution are available to residents only. Schools are able to order directly from Compost Revolution online.

    Return and Earn

    Return and Earn is a NSW State Government scheme. Anyone who returns an eligible drink container to an approved return point will receive a 10 cent refund. You can find out ways your school can participate in Return and Earn here. If you have any questions or queries related to your school’s involvement in Return and Earn, please contact

    Waste Education and Audits

    Schools can check with their existing waste provider to see what education support they can offer.

    Involve the whole school in a waste audit to discover where your waste comes from and how much waste your school is generating.

    Download the Guide to conducting a school waste audit.

    Other Resources

    These are just a few helpful websites and documents:

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    Page last updated: 24 May 2019