24/06/2015

Happy 21st to the EnviroMentors!

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Celebrations are in order this year for the EnviroMentors as they hit their 21st year as NSW leading incursion-based environmental education service!

We established the EnviroMentors program in 1994 (then known as Waste Watchers) to bring environmental education to our younger generations. By educating and developing skills early in life, the program works with local councils in NSW to set up good habits to keep us on track to becoming a more sustainable and environmentally friendly communities.

Having spanned two decades, the EnviroMentors have educated students whose own children are now in primary schools receiving their workshops.

As the EnviroMentors come of age, we are taking this opportunity to take a look down the years at how sustainability has developed in Australia.

Back when the program was beginning, it was the ‘Decade of Landcare’, as dubbed by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke, reflecting Australia’s growing urge for us to think ‘green’. Australia’s environmental attitudes have been evolving since this time and although there is still a way to go, we have witnessed a lot of positive changes.

Governments, industry and households spent $6.4 billion in 1992-93 and $6.5 billion in 1993-94 on measures to protect the environment, representing the rising desire for environmental conservation. Likewise, recycling habits improved significantly over the decade, with an increase from 85% of people recycling some waste items in 1992, to 97% in 2000.

The agenda shifted as climate change and global warming became household words in the 2000s. The UN and NASA supported conclusions of rising global temperatures, announcing in 2010 the 10th warmest years on record all having occurred since 1998. Then the ‘Black Christmas’ bushfires of 2001-2002 that devastated parts of NSW proved how susceptible our land is to extreme weather and concern for climate change peaked in 2006 as Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth swept the nation and drove home the message of our perishable environment.

2007 saw Sydney take a lead on public dedication to climate action, as it gave birth to the Earth Hour movement which began as a lights-off event to raise awareness for climate change and has grown into an iconic global phenomenon.

The most important and long-lasting environmental action is that which occurs at the grassroots level – which is why education is such an integral part of preserving our future. Education not only informs our students of the best ways to care for their environment, but motivates people to see their own actions as part of a global movement to keep our planet healthy and sustainable.

As the leading anti-litter organisation in NSW, litter and waste management has always been high on our agenda. It’s the first and most simple step anyone can make; to take their rubbish with them or make sure it ends up in the bin where it belongs, and to recycle what they can to help with resource recovery. Although it’s simple, it’s not to be underestimated: the NSW EPA estimates that even now, 25,000 tonnes of litter are dropped in NSW every year.

Commencing from an aesthetic and community focus, Keep NSW Beautiful in its early years emphasised litter prevention to keep the areas around us looking clean and appealing. It has since grown to touch on the critical and fundamental aspects of waste management and the psychology of littering. Even though we have altered our stance over the years, our essential message remains the same; it’s about forming habits of a lifetime that begin in childhood and provide a base for lifelong environmental stewardship.

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