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One Hundred Tonne Plan: Enacting the Sustainability Cross Curriculum Priority

Dr Elaine Lewis, Cross Curriculum Coach, Coolbinia Primary School, 2013 WAIER Early Career Research Award Winner

Sustainability is one of three cross curriculum priorities in the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2013a). This priority facilitates the development of knowledge, skills, values and world views essential for students to act in ways that lead to more sustainable patterns of living. “The Sustainability priority is futures-oriented, focusing on protecting environments and creating a more ecologically and socially just world through informed action” (ACARA (2013a, p. 1). The overarching organising ideas for the Sustainability priority are: systems, world views and futures (ACARA, 2013a). These ideas are embedded into a Green House Gas (GHG) emissions (ABS, 2013) reduction initiative at an independent public school in the Perth metropolitan area of Western Australia. This initiative, known as the Ten Tonne Plan, was trialled in 2011.

Ten Tonne Plan

The Ten Tonne Plan aimed to bring together the whole school community, utilising a whole systems thinking approach, to reduce GHG emissions by ten tonnes in one year. The Plan linked directly with various components of the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative – Western Australian (AuSSI-WA) framework, specifically the ecological footprint and social handprint (DoE, 2013). The ecological footprint is a measure of the impact humans have on the Earth’s ecosystems. The ‘toes’ of ecological footprint address sustainability issues related to waste, biodiversity, air quality, energy and water, involving a range of education for sustainability programs including Waste Wise, Nearer to Nature, TravelSmart, EnergySmart and Waterwise. The social handprint is a measure of action that is directed to decrease the ecological footprint and make the world more sustainable through behaviours that enhance student wellbeing, economics and the built environment, community partnerships, cultural and social diversity, and indigenous cultures. School sustainability actions that related to the social handprint included, for example, solar lanterns for Solar Sister, KidsMatter, Harmony Day and National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Week. These diverse elements were uniquely interconnected in the Ten Tonne Plan and linked together to achieve the ten tonne target.


A case study on the impact of the Ten Tonne Plan was conducted in 2012. Research, undertaken by a team from Murdoch University (Dr C. Mansfield, Dr C. Baudains and Dr E. Lewis), investigated stakeholder perceptions following participation in the trial. The total participant population was 75, consisting of: students (N=42; 5-12 years old; ~ 12% of student population); staff (N=11; ~ 50% of staff); parents (N=19; ~17% of families); and partners (N=3). Results showed the school achieved its goal through the implementation of a variety of educational, environmental and social actions undertaken by the whole school community (Maia Maia, 2013). Findings identified strengths and weaknesses of the initiative. The Ten Tonne Plan provided a model that was applicable in a variety of school settings and suitable for up-scaling.

Embedding Sustainability

The Ten Tonne Plan was a practical and engaging example of the integration of Sustainability across the curriculum. The planning and implementation of the Ten Tonne Plan demonstrated how the sustainability cross-curriculum priority could be embedded in the Australian Curriculum (AC). It also highlighted the inter-relationships between the AuSSI-WA ecological footprint and social handprint. For example, the Ten Tonne Plan related directly to AC Science (ACARA, 2013b): Biodiversity: Years K-7; Water: Year 2; Purchasing and Waste: Year 4; Air and Transport: Year 5; Energy: Year 6 (http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Science/Curriculum/F-10). This is illustrative of the potential depth for embedding the Sustainability priority.

One Hundred Tonne Plan

Following the success of the Ten Tonne Plan, the case study school achieved a Fifty Tonne Plan during 2012/2013. A One Hundred Tonne Plan is currently in operation. The school is on track to achieve a reduction of GHG emissions by one hundred tonnes in one year by working in partnership with the local community and other schools.

In brief, the effective Ten Tonne Plan model provided a structured means to achieve a wholistic approach to Sustainability in schools. This model may be adapted to suit other contexts, for instance, twenty, fifty or two hundred tonne plans could be implemented based on each school’s unique context, including curriculum, enthusiasm and resources. Other primary and secondary schools in Western Australia are currently implementing their own Plans, providing further evidence of the initiative’s success.

Further Information

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2013). Chapter 5 Greenhouse gas emissions. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/4655.0.55.002~2013~Main+Features~Chapter+5+Greenhouse+Gas+Emissions?OpenDocument

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2013a). Cross-curriculum priorities: Sustainability. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/CrossCurriculumPriorities/Sustainability

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2013b). Science. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Science/Curriculum/F-10

Department of Education (DoE). (2013). Sustainable schools. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://det.wa.edu.au/curriculumsupport/sustainableschools/detcms/portal/

Littledyke, M., Taylor, N., & Eames, C. (2009). Education for sustainability in the primary curriculum: A guide for teachers. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan.

Maia Maia. (2013). Coolbinia primary solar sister school. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://www.maiamaia.org/test/67-coolbinia-cool-school.html

The author may be contacted at: Elaine.Lewis@education.wa.edu.au

October 2013