TEENAGE students are giving up their favourite electronic devices for an entire term in an effort to save energy and raise money for their school.
However, if the Melbourne Girls' College students decide that they just can't live without their iPhones or hair straighteners, they are allowed to use them — provided they hop onto special bikes to pedal back the same amount of energy.
The school's sustainability coordinator and man behind the $25,000 fundraising initiative, Andrew Vance, has always had a passion for environmentalism but says teaching wasn't his original career choice.
"I didn't go into uni planning to become a teacher, I wanted to become a zoologist and work in ecology, but things change," he says. "I worked for a while as an ecologist at Parks Victoria and ended up getting an education interpretation role at the Melbourne Aquarium and really liked that for a couple of years, so I went back to study teaching and ended up at Melbourne Girls'."
In 2009, Vance attended an Earth Hour concert and met a group of people who had the idea to power a concert using pedal power. Interestingly, he had been working on a solar pedal power project but didn't have the expertise to perfect the pedal generation.
"I was excited and got chatting with these guys and over the next few years we applied for grants together and we eventually got one which enabled us to develop a system that we could install at the school permanently," he says.
This allowed him to introduce a world-first zero carbon movie night, where students pedalled the power used to run the projector and sound system. "You have to store up a bit of energy so we set up the bikes that morning and got the students in shifts to just continually pedal all day. Then when the kids finished for the day, we opened up the gates for the public and [they] came in and pedalled in shifts," he shares.
"... we pedalled an extra 1000 watt hours into the grid, so we were in credit by the end of the night, which was great."
Vance's sustainability efforts have been recognised with a nomination for a Pride of Australia medal in the environment category.No stranger to accolades, Vance was also named 2011 Victorian Environmental Educator of the Year, though the Victorian Association for Environmental Education, and a City of Yarra Local Hero in 2012.