Giving Back

We were surprised and saddened to learn last week that the Wanganui Regional Council officials declined to fund the Sustainable Schools Programme for a second year through the Sustainable Whanganui Trust. We were especially surprised given the universal excellent feedback we have received from teachers. Some examples:

We expressed our need to have sustainability issues linked to science curriculum requirements in the run-up to the Science Fair which has been a bugbear for some. Nelson made the link in a clever way linking ideas with a narrative style. Many staff spoke to me about how useful the session was and ALL asked for follow-up.

-Keith Beautrais, Head of Science and Environment, Wanganui Intermediate School.

Was invaluable to have so many ideas that are quick to set up, cost efficient and aimed at the students level.

– Teacher, Wanganui Intermediate School.

Nelson was really involved and passionate in his discussion with the kids – in turn this has helped them to get into their research.

– Teacher, Wanganui Intermediate School.

As a first year teacher I found the presentation provided me with a lot of ideas to hap me to guide my class in their projects. Enviro was not an area that I felt confident to suggest to my students as a topic for science fair until I heard Nelson’s talk.

– Teacher, Wanganui Intermediate School.

This excellent feedback is joined by similar compliments on other educational projects we’ve done outside of schools. This one comes after a powerpoint presentation on “The Principles of Eco-Thrifty Renovation” presented to the Pukenamu PROBUS Club. (PROBUS stands for professionals and business people. Mostly retired.)

Many club members have said to our committee how much they enjoyed the talk and generally they were amazed at what you have been doing and what you have achieved. Your power bill shows just how much we could all save for ourselves and for this earth if our building practices and living styles were focused on the principles you espouse.

– Colin Clancy, President, Pukenamu PROBUS Club

A colleague in the field of environmental education just told me that she presented the idea of the Eco-Thrifty Renovation to a group of 300 at a professional development programme in Winnepeg, Canada. And I just received confirmation that I will be presenting the ETR at the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education conference in January. Here is the abstract as submitted.


A Whole Community Approach to EfS


Introduction: The ECO School is a tiny organisation presently operating in Wanganui. It’s current focus is a project called The Eco-Thrifty Renovation, which takes a multi-modal, multi-generational approach to EfS, and has achieved outstanding success in just its first 9 months.

Content: The Eco-Thrifty Renovation is a 12-month project to turn an abandoned house on a weed-infested section into a sustainable urban homestead while sticking to a tight budget and abiding by the New Zealand Building Code. Meanwhile the project is being used as the context through which to bring EfS to learners in our community from Year 1 all the way through senior citizens. The educational effort emphasises: saving energy through passive solar design and energy efficiency; growing food organically at home; and saving money through the first two emphases. Thus far, the ECO School has partnered with Sustainable Whanganui to bring the lessons of this project to Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms, all intermediate years, and senior secondary students, all within the framework of The New Zealand Curriculum. Additionally, the ECO School runs weekend workshops for adult learners and has presented to the Senior Lions and PROBUS clubs.

Perspectives: This educational effort takes a permaculture perspective that highlights multi-functionality. In other words, this one project provides both formal and informal education, reaches multiple generations of learners, and addresses both ecological literacy and economic literacy.

Summary: The Eco-Thrifty Renovation offers a unique permaculture approach to providing EfS to an entire community of learners. Feedback in just the first 9 months has been excellent.

We have even been getting positive feedback from the red shavers lately.



And even the pekins are contributing…




… to the extent they can.



But we’re still waiting on some donors.




So this is the first appeal that we’ll send out to potential donors (this means you) for a raft of potential projects to come. If you have enjoyed this blog, if you have learned something from this blog, if you have laughed at this blog, then maybe you can give something back to our education work. We are currently looking for funding for the following programmes:


Solar Sausage Sizzle. For classrooms in Wanganui schools.


Keen Green Teens. Leadership training retreat for high school students in our region.


Kai and Comfort for Kids. An educational programme for parents and guardians on low incomes that shows inexpensive ways to grow food and make houses warmer.


If you are interested in learning more details about any of these programmes, please contact us through the ECO School email.









Peace, Estwing



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