World Environment Day: 10 ways the Diocese came together to #BeatAirPollution

'Environment Matters' Blog | World Environment Day: 10 ways the Diocese came together to #BeatAirPollution

Posted 19 June 2019 by Catholic Education in 'Environment Matters' Blog

CEDoW students in the Diocese of Wollongong have joined millions of people around the world to celebrate World Environment Day. Schools embraced the 2019 theme of ‘Beat Air Pollution’ to draw attention to this pressing environmental concern and how we can all do our part to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Since it began in 1974, the United Nations day has encouraged worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment, growing to become a global platform for public outreach. Above all, it's the ‘people's day’ to do something to take care of the Earth.

Our students have engaged in a range of activities to educate themselves and others about the different types of air pollution that exist and how they affect our health and environment; and all the many ways we can act to protect the earth.

Here are 10 ways to celebrate World Environment Day, as actioned by our wonderful students and staff across the diocese:

1Attend a Climate Change conference with Al Gore!

On World Environment Day, our Wollongong Environment Network Coordinator and CEDoW Special Projects Officer, Beth Riolo, was in amongst three days of climate change training and immersion with Al Gore and 700 other ‘Earth activists’. She wrote to us from Brisbane...

“Give us three days. We’ll give you the tools to change the world.”

At Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Brisbane, I’ve had the privilege of being with passionate individuals ready to make a difference in our planet’s future by spending three days working with former Vice President Al Gore and world-renowned scientists and communicators, learning about the climate crisis and how, together we can solve it.

The days have been an opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and networks to shape public opinion, influence policy and inspire communities to act at this critical time.

This training has been offered across 152 countries, empowering over 19,000 'Climate Reality Leaders' to spread hope and confront denial everywhere – from street corners to the White House – growing a global movement of millions fighting for climate solutions at every level.

— Beth Riolo, WEN Coordinator

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14Hold a #BeatAirPollution bake off – St Joseph’s Albion Park

World Environment Day at St Joseph’s Albion Park invited the school community to all consider how they could make changes in their everyday lives to reduce air pollution and better protect the environment. This was celebrated creatively in two ways at the school: a Joey's Bake Off and a Waste Free Lunch Box Competition.

Congratulations to student, Bree Hobbs, for winning the Waste Free Lunch Box Competition. A further congratulations to the following students for placing in the Joey’s Bake Off:

  • First Place - Taneaa, Year 11
  • Second Place - Joshua, Year 10
  • Third Place - Nicole, Year 8

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Bake Off winner, Taneaa, made a cake that was not only delicious, but crafted with impressive symbolism of air pollution on top, using food colouring and fondant to commemorate the 2019 theme.

The Year 11 student said she chose the design of her cake [pictured above] – factories and cityscape polluting harmful gases into the air – based on the popular imagery of air pollution amongst her peers.

I shaped the overall fondant to be like a brick wall to try and give it a sense of a city wall; and the silver spray painting was like ‘graffiti’ on a wall. Between this and the city and factory imagery painted onto the top of the cake, it was a sweet creation to represent of some of the much less sweet things producing pollution around us,” she said.

“To me, World Environment Day reminds us that the environment we live in doesn’t have an unlimited amount of supplies, flora and fauna. The land we live on, the food we eat, the native animals and plantation... we are taking it for granted and abusing the world we live in. I don’t want to live in a dying world” — Taneaa, Year 11 student, St Joseph’s Albion Park

A special mention also to teachers, Mrs King and Mr Fenech, for placing first and second respectively in the teacher section of the Bake Off. War on Waste Club Coordinator, Natalie Behl, thanked all the cake judges, makers and sellers, and all staff who helped make the day the success it was.

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15Attend an Environmental Expo – St John’s Nowra

A group of students from the St John's Nowra environmental action group attended the Shoalhaven Environmental Expo at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre for World Environment Day. They listened to a presentation from the ABC’s War on Waste AU host, Craig Reucassel, about the extent of waste in the environment, and viewed a range of outstanding exhibitions exploring the impacts of many environmental issues.

“Reucassel outlined that soft plastics were the largest contributors to the issues caused by plastic in general, as they may be cast aside carelessly, carried by the wind or rain, or even disposed of incorrectly. Soft plastics are those which can be scrunched into a ball with little effort, as opposed to plastics found in milk bottles or plastic forks. I believe we can greatly reduce our school’s contribution to soft plastic waste by cutting its use where possible. We will also look into ways to properly separate soft plastic waste generated at school so it can be recycled,” student, Jordan said.

Fellow student, Lauren, said one of the most present themes throughout the expo was the important impact we can each have with making small, yet meaningful adjustments to our day-to-day behaviour and the way we live. "There are many little things we can do in our lives that add up to make a large difference. Some examples include remembering to bring a reusable water bottle with you, or bringing your lunch in reusable containers. It can seem overwhelming to try and make all of these changes at once, so just try to focus on one change at a time. If everyone began doing this, our waste levels would reduce dramatically."

“The expo was an amazing way to spend a day in a community of people who are all doing what they can to help our planet. It inspired a feeling that together, we can make a difference; together we can create a sustainable future. It might take a while and we may only be able to take one small step at a time, but if we take that small step together, it becomes much larger” – Lauren, student, St John’s Nowra 

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11Participate in fun environmental activities – St Pius X Unanderra & St Anthony’s Picton

There was lots of activity at St Pius X Unanderra to celebrate all things environmental. The infant students took part in constructing two worm farms for the school. In amongst squeals and laughs, they enjoyed holding and observing the “wriggly and squirmy” earthworms, before putting them into the farms. The students learned that even though worms are small, they do a lot to protect our natural environment, helping our plants grow and converting our food scraps into compost.

The primary classes made beeswax wraps from 100% cotton material. St Pius teacher, Leah Galea, said the beeswax was sourced from a local beekeeper and was grated like cheese. “Our parent volunteers bought in their ironing boards and irons to melt the wax under baking paper. We decided to make these sandwich wraps rather than use plastic for our lunches, to reduce our carbon footprint.”

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Meanwhile, at St Anthony's Picton, classes also engaged in environmental activities throughout the day – one class spent time weeding the school’s vegetable garden and putting the scraps into their worm farm, while other students sorted out the recycling to ensure the right items were being put into the right bins.

The school community also gathered to mark the day with a special environment-themed celebration, including liturgical dancers moving to the song, ‘So I Will’ and the choir singing ‘I am the Earth’ and other similar songs.

"Air pollution is bad because it hurts the animals, trees and the whole world. World Environment Day showed me that it is important for us to help pick up rubbish to make the world better” — Eliza, Year 2 student, St Anthony's Picton

"I really enjoyed watching the videos that taught us about how the world has air pollution. It made me sad to see children suffering in different countries, but I found out about things we can do to reduce air pollution," Year 6 student, Charli said.

All the students had a great time in their workshops and learned a lot about how we can all contribute to helping our environment.

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5Hold a World Environment Day-themed liturgy – St Columbkille’s Corrimal, St Michael’s Mittagong and St John’s Dapto

The community of St Columbkille’s Corrimal celebrated World Environment Day by coming together for a whole-school liturgy. Mrs Herring and the Year 6 Enviro Ninja team prepared a thought-provoking liturgy: from the beautiful prayer space, to the facts shared on why we all need to think about air pollution and take steps towards improving the air around us, to the themed songs – all while listening to the gentle pitter-patter of rain falling outside on the school’s dry grounds.

“The prayer space looked amazing. It was so pretty. Macie, Lacey, Layne, Charlotte and Emy did an incredible job on the liturgy, and we all enjoyed helping out,” Year 6 student, Natasha said.

"Our liturgy was an interesting and enjoyable way to start the day and celebrate World Environment Day" — Taje, Year 5 student, St Columbkille's Corrimal  

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Students at St John’s Dapto held a similar liturgy to mark the occasion. Year 4 led the celebrations, which focused on this year’s air pollution theme.

Classes at St Michael’s Mittagong also gathered for a liturgy, where children learned facts about air pollution and joined together in prayer to call on all people of the world to be more mindful of our planet. Each class was also presented with a basket of pebbles to take back to their classroom, where each child and staff member wrote their name on a pebble and placed it in the school’s prayer garden outside – a permanent reminder of the individual prayers shared during the day.

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6Take a pollution pledge – Stella Maris Shellharbour

Stella Maris Shellharbour students from Year 6 spent the day with Anthony from Plastic Pollution Solutions, learning about mindful waste practices. The incursion began with an interactive trivia session which provided the staff and students an introduction to plastic pollution, followed by a Q&A session, which included information about how to be mindful of waste and preserve our environment.

The students then participated in a waste audit of the local area, collecting a sample of litter, laying it onto a tarp and then counting and sorting the waste. They helped Anthony enter the data into the Australian Marine Debris database, before coming together to discuss the findings and reflect on what they’d learned.

The day – sponsored by a CEDoW Environmental Education Grant – was thoroughly enjoyed by the students, who found it a very informative and positive experience. Have a watch of the below video to see the students taking the pollution pledge with Anthony.


7Plants for everyone! – Mary ImmaculatE Eagle Vale

Mary Immaculate Eagle Vale celebrated World Environment Day with each grade receiving their own new plant to look after. Following a school liturgy focused on this year’s theme of air pollution, the students connected our air quality with the plants in our environment.

The children were pleased to receive their new greenery, to be planted in the school’s Dreaming Garden. Each grade will be responsible for planting, watering and looking after their plant – giving students the responsibility and ownership of caring for a living thing in their environment.

Mary Immaculate WEN Coordinator, Kylie Boss, said the school is hoping their Dreaming Garden will thrive and produce fruit to further engage the students in their local environment. “Watch this space, as the plants make it into the ground and start growing!” she said.

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8Walk, ride or carpool to school to reduce air pollution – St Columbkille’s Corrimal

The Enviro Ninja team of students at St Columbkille’s Corrimal spent the lead up to World Environment Day encouraging all members of the school community to ‘Beat Air Pollution’ by choosing a more environmentally-friendly way of travelling to and from school.

On the day, many students, parents and staff opted to walk or ride, catch public transport or car pool to school – even braving the wet and windy conditions! A special congratulations to the effort from one of the school’s SSOs, who caught a train from her home in Helensburgh, then walked for 15 minutes up the hill to the school in her gumboots!!

Middle Leader, Mrs Tyrrell, said the Enviro Ninjas were buzzing with excitement and optimism from the amazing swell of support from the school community. “It was great to see and hear many students and their families choosing alternative ways to travel to school as a way to help beat air pollution,” she said.

“We are so proud of our community who, despite the wet and wild weather, donned their wet weather gear, left their cars at home and braved the southerly winds to walk to school, or organised carpools to transport students to school together – all in a bid to do their bit to reduce air pollution,” Paula Russo, WEN Coordinator, St Columbkille’s Corrimal

“Thank you to these many dedicated people in our school community who are living out Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si' to ‘care for our common home’,” Ms Russo said.

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9Wear face masks to highlight the #BeatAirPollution theme – Holy Cross Helensburgh

Holy Cross Helensburgh students used the day as an opportunity to build awareness around improving the air quality in cities and regions across the world. They were among hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the World Environment Day #MaskChallenge and pledged to change their lifestyles for a cleaner tomorrow.

Prayer leaders from Years 3 and 4 wore face masks to highlight the need for everyone to combat air pollution. Each class also received a pouch of seeds to plant in the school’s garden or take home to plant in their own. Teachers and students discussed in class what they would do to “help our Creator God, who breathes life and love into all of creation, keep our world’s environment a healthy and life-giving place for all”.

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10Make a video – St Francis of Assisi Warrawong

World Environment Day was timely for St Francis of Assisi Warrawong, who recently celebrated the success of their sustainable garden project, made possible by a CEDoW Environmental Education Grant.

With the help of the Wollongong Botanic Garden, they’ve transformed a previously unused space at the school into a flourishing fruit, vegetable and herb garden, and implemented sustainability practices at the school that lay an exciting foundation for more environmental action to come.

Mrs Briscoe, Mr deVet, Mrs Adams and the Year 6 leaders put together an informative video presentation about the school’s garden – have a look below.

DID YOU KNOW: More than nine out of 10 (92%) of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits, according to research from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Air pollution comes from five main human sources – agriculture, transport, households, industry and waste. These sources produce substances including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ground-level ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and lead – all of which are harmful to human health. Understanding the different types of pollution and how it affects our health and environment will help us take steps towards improving the air around us.

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