In 2012 WESSA Eco-Schools celebrated a ‘Diamond Decade’ of inspiring sustainable development in schools with a launch of an exciting new competition offering prizes to the total value of over R120 000. The competition, called the WESSA Eco-Schools Waste to Wealth Competition is sponsored by Waste to Wealth, an NPO dedicated to educating communities about the thinking and action behind turning waste to wealth.

“Waste to Wealth saw the value in partnering with WESSA, with all its experience and community relationships. We wanted to incentivise and empower hard working schools with prize money for tools that would help them achieve more, grow their own food and use waste wisely”, says Waste to Wealth founder, Melanie Jones.

The prize money won by each top performing Eco-Schools in each category is to purchase equipment for their Eco school projects. Prizes to the value of R30 000 will go to the top performing International and Platinum Schools (a school with projects sustained for 5 or more years). Prizes worth R28 000 will be awarded to the best Gold Certificate school (schools with 5 years of sustained effort). The best Green Certificate school wins prizes to the value of R25 000, best Silver Certificate school wins R20 000 and the best Bronze Certificate school wins R10 000. Participating Eco-Schools should register by May 2013 and submit their Eco Schools and competition entries by the end of October 2013. In order to win, schools will be required to display a link between their project and an Eco-Schools theme, proof of learner involvement, community impact and project photos. Recommended prizes are items like garden tools, water tanks, irrigation, computers and training for teachers. Ideal prizes are any item that will add impetus to the Eco-Schools’ projects. We’re especially excited to see poorer schools once held back from participating being supported in their efforts.

Not to be forgotten, the top ten teachers at the Western Cape Eco-Schools will also be nominated by node co-ordinators for a weekend away at Kogelberg Nature reserve in June 2014 and a draw for a 10.1 inch tablet personal computer. Top ten teachers will exhibit leadership, passion, perseverance and contribution to practical environmental solutions.

Waste to Wealth hopes to extend the competition to the rest of South Africa in years to come after an initial test year in the Western Cape.

A brainstorm with Eco-Schools teachers also revealed the need for a task booklet, so Waste to Wealth published ‘Out the Box – ten new ways to think, ten new tasks to do’ to support Eco-Schools through step-by-step diagrams and simple descriptions of tasks like building a  recycling centre, worm farm, trench gardening, hot box cooker and more. The book was distributed to Eco-Schools in the Western Cape area and can be viewed and downloaded freely from the Waste to Wealth website, www.wastetowealth.org.za.

“I am very excited about this partnership between WESSA Eco-Schools and Waste to Wealth.  It is aimed at getting schools to think differently about how things are used and whether the end of the life cycle of a product really is the end.  It will force schools to ask the question, can it be used again or if I dispose of it, have I done it in the most sustainable way.  Waste to Wealth brings that out of the box thinking to the partnership”, commented Helena Atkinson, WESSA Western Cape Acting Regional Manager.

Eco-Schools is an internationally recognised programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), www.eco-schools.org that offers accreditation to schools which commit to sustainable environmental projects. The programme is run in 51 countries including Iran, China and Uganda and has over 30 000 participating schools worldwide. We look forward to seeing this competition draw even more schools towards Eco-Schools status and see WESSA contribute even more to the global Eco-Schools success story.