Ingenuity pays off in ‘wastenothing’ Knysna schools competition

The long-anticipated prize giving of BioWise’s WasteNothing Knysna Schools’ Competition took place on Wednesday the 10th of October at the Knysna Mall.

The Primary School winners receiving their certificates from Sue Swain from BioWise – seen here are fltr Sue Swain, Michael Kleynhans from Hornlee Primary, Harriet Heynes from Sedgefield Primêr, Christopher Bezuidenhoudt, Manager Communications at the Knysna Municipality and Nondumiso Mgwenya from SANParks People and Conservation Department

Ashford Christian School walked away with R30 000 cash as the winning High School. The top position in the Primary Schools category was shared by Sedgefield Primêr and Hornlee Primary, winning R15 000 each.

Sue Swain from BioWise said 10 of the participating 12 schools submitted entries. “Schools had to undertake activities that promote earth-savvy living, which included being water-wise, waste-wise, space-wise and energy wise. The deadline for competition entries was the 21st of September and the quality of the entries was of such a high standard that it took more than a week of deliberation by programme partners – SANParks, Knysna Municipality and Edge of Africa – to determine the winners.”

She said that Ashford School stood out not just for their entries in all categories, but also because they introduced the children to a research-based methodology. “The children created different size wind turbines of recycled plastic bottles and tested them in different locations. They made solar panels, rainwater gauges, bottle brick structures, and vertical gardens. They redirected and slowed rainwater to “plant” the rain and used rainwater to flush their toilets. The school really showed a good understanding of what was required to lead an earth-savvy life – a well deserved first prize!”

Swain said the two Primary school winners were equally impressive. “These two schools focused on water- and waste-wise initiatives. Sedgefield Primêr stood out for the way they incorporated the WasteNothing message in everything they do – they had a music concert with instruments made of recycled materials and their Arbor Day celebrations also focused on earth-savvy living. If you want to learn how to use rainwater more than just for the garden, Hornlee Primary is the perfect example. They have plumbed the water from their rainwater tanks into the bathrooms for flushing toilets. They have also created 974 water bricks and have used these for flower bed edging, garden chairs, etc.”

Other schools received recognition for specific projects that they introduced. Fraaisig Primary built a waste room made of bottle bricks. Knysna High School did excellent research on water harvesting and the viability thereof. Knysna Sekondêr extended their concern for the environment by building a kennel for stray dogs with their bottle bricks. Knysna Montessori was lauded for their excellent water-wise aquaculture project, and the welding of metal artworks from metal impacted by the fire. Oakhill school did not only produce a record amount of bottle bricks, the structures they built, are used daily by the children, and Riverwood received recognition for their wonderfully waste-wise paperless communication approach they have developed.

Executive Mayor Cllr Mark Willemse attended the event and said that the entries showed passion, interest, and innovation. “These learners are the decision makers of the future and while they need to be able to count, we should also teach them what really counts. As an organisation we realise that we have to change the way we operate. We have to change our thinking about waste, and find opportunities in the waste cycle to reduce, re-use, repair and repurpose what we can. Water harvesting is essential and not just a nice-to-have. It is vital that our Waste and Environmental Departments get involved in this process and come up with solutions. One example is the Waste Audit that was performed recently by our Waste Department that will inform future waste management plans.

This programme has laid the groundwork for a mindset change and I want to congratulate Sue and her team for a fantastic programme and hope that the initiatives will continue, and not just stop here.”

Swain said an exciting development from the competition is that it created the platform for a youth forum that could facilitate the sharing of skills and knowledge. “The different schools have strengths in different aspects and that is an opportunity for them to learn from each other.”

She said what stood out from the comments from the teachers was that the children were pushed to perform outside their comfort zones. “The competition made them realize they could do more than they thought. It also gave the opportunity for children who are sometimes in the background to shine.”

The competition partners were SANParks, Knysna Municipality, Edge of Africa and the National Lotteries Commission. “A major strength of this programme was the partnered approach where BioWise, SANParks, Knysna Municipality & Edge of Africa worked together to set criteria for local schools in the greater Knysna to assist them to work wisely with water, waste, energy, and space. The competition was the first time that all the respective partners communicated a common vision consistent in all messages, with great success. We are extremely grateful for the support of the National Lotteries Commission – without that, we would not have been able to run the competition.”

Spokesperson for SANParks, Nandi Mgwadlamba, said their support of the project is to encourage a holistic approach for schools to manage their impact on the environment in schools. “Everything in nature is interconnected, and we are connected to nature, and nature knows no waste.”

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