How Green is our Tuckshop

We truly believe everyone wants to be kinder to the environment, but just how many of us regularly stick with our good intentions?

It’s not because we don’t care, it’s mostly because we are busy. Many of us are working full time, bringing up children, caring for older parents and trying to find a sliver of time for ourselves.

And, if you are a student, you are also busy with school work, sport, other extra-curricular activities, chores and friends.

So, what do we reach for when we need to eat on the run? Convenience food. It’s not necessarily unhealthy food, but it’s packed in single use containers. We grab and go. It’s convenient.

The problem is, single use packaging is creating massive recycling and landfill challenges for the entire world. We are literally drowning in it.

We are also drowning in the terminology. Recyclable. Biodegradable. Compostable. What do they mean. Are they all the same? Are they all good for the environment?

Recyclable – sounds awesome. Who doesn’t feel smug when you put something in the recycling bin? But do you know exactly what can be recycled? And if you get it wrong what impact can that have? We’ll explore recycling in more depth in a future article.

Biodegradable – means the item can break down, but there’s a catch – it can take years. Wood is biodegradable, but it takes a very long time for wood to break down.

Compostable – like biodegradable it means the item can break down, but here’s the gold, it takes 12 weeks or less!  And the nutrient rich compost it creates can be used to help plants thrive.

At Hillbrook we are always looking at ways we can leave a smaller footprint on the environment – solar panels, worm farms, recycling, native bee hives and now – fully compostable packaging for all items we prepare in our Tuckshop.

At the start of this school year we made the decision to package food in plant based disposable containers, bags, cups, lids and cutlery. From Monday all wrapped baked goods, cooked and cold foods will be in Vegware.

This move will significantly reduce the landfill waste from the school. All food scraps and compostable packaging will now be disposed into special bins which will be collected and taken to an industrial composting site by BioPak. We are also looking at the possibility of having the composted product returned to the school for use in our gardens.

Previously, food scraps and much of the packaging went into landfill. This is a big tick for the environment and for sustainability at Hillbrook.

The packaging we are using is all made from plants – industrial, non-food-grade corn and the cutlery from bamboo. The entire corn plant is harvested and every part of it is used. It is also grown using sustainable farming practices without excessive pesticides and water use. You can read more about it here.

All of the packaging is clearly marked with a green leaf symbol, and our staff and students are being educated every day with our environmental club monitoring the bins and the Tuckshop area.

We are still separating recyclable items, we are also recycling soft plastics and of course we are collecting food scraps for our worms. Our new compost bins are adding another important layer to the sustainable practices our staff and students are currently following.

One of the things we love so much about our new packaging is that it starts off life as a plant and 12 weeks later ends up back in the ground helping to grow more plants. That is truly sustainable and makes everyone at Hillbrook happy.