Barrenjoey High School’s ‘Ecojoeys’ are transforming their school for the better

Barrenjoey High School’s ‘Ecojoeys’ are transforming their school for the better

By Lucy Jones  November 15th, 2020

The dedicated group of students is setting the school’s sustainability agenda.


This year has thrown some curveballs our way, but it has also required us to pause, think about what we want our future to look like and reset accordingly. For National Recycling Week this year we are looking ahead to our Future Beyond the Bin, where materials remain in circulation and what was once seen as waste is understood as resource. To that end, we are asking Australians from all walks of life to share their inspiring stories of how they #gobeyondthebin at work, home, school and in the community. 

Barrenjoey’s High School is home to its very own group of environmental behaviour change experts. The school’s ‘Ecojoeys’ help to implement green initiatives, from composting food scraps through the school’s worm farms to giving talks on sustainable consumption habits.  

“Our students need to know about what is happening in our world but more importantly, what we can do to make a difference,” Caryn Harrington, who coordinates this passionate group of students, tells us. “It can be overwhelming, so allowing our students to have a voice, and feel that they can make change, gives everyone a feeling of hope.” 

With help from staff members, the Ecojoey’s have removed single-use plastic from the school canteen, introduced a soft plastics recycling program and implemented paper recycling in classrooms. We caught up with Caryn to talk about these impressive initiatives and the school’s plan to celebrate NRW this year by purchasing a school bench made entirely of soft plastics recycled through the REDcycle program.   

Where Barrenjoey High School’s sustainability journey started: 

“We are located next to North Avalon beach, really one of Sydney’s most ideal locations, and many of our students and teachers love the ocean, whether we swim, surf or view the ocean. Our location is a constant reminder of what we have and what we need to look after.” 

What Barrenjoey High School does to reduce waste: 

“I co-ordinate a very proactive team of students who met every week in 2019 and every fortnight in 2020, to come up with goals and ideas of what we as a school needed to focus on to support sustainability at our school. At the same time, a teacher-based group was also formed to support our school group. We call our student group Ecojoey and after one-and-a-half years, we have focused on many areas which have [lead to] positive changes in our school community. 

One example of this is in our school café – Sandbar Café — refusing the use of single use plastic. We offer milkshakes on our menu but do not offer straws; we offer yoghurt muesli cups, but not in plastic, in recycled glass jars; we offer no water sales in plastic bottles, but have cups available for water in our café; we offer bamboo spoons and we give discounts to those who wish to buy coffee in their own KeepCup.  

We reuse a few items. One example is giving Planet Ark our printer cartridges which are then reused to make materials. We now also have a soft plastics bin which we fill. Our students take this weekly to the REDcycle bin at our local Woolworths and we aim to purchase a school bench which will be made from soft plastics. This is such an awesome insight into the circular economy. We also reuse our ground coffee from our school café which now goes to the community garden to help them with their composting.  

We now have many classrooms where LED lights have been implemented with automatic switches. Barrenjoey now has solar power which was put in place last year thanks to the initiative of our Principal and staff.”  

Barrenjoey High School NRW 2020 2

How Barrenjoey High School goes #beyondthebin: 

“In our classrooms: paper recycling is easy for all teachers and students to use. We now have paper recycling in our school. We purchased a paper recycling bin for every classroom and we no longer throw away our paper into landfill, but our paper goes to a recycling plant.  

In our food technology classrooms: worm farms are located outside the classrooms for easy use with our food waste. We have a year 8 agriculture program which allows students to look at their food waste — [students] grow items which are then made into dishes made in our kitchens. Food waste ends up in our worm farms and we can use the by-product for our gardens, rather than it ending up in our landfill. We are fortunate enough to have a community garden at our school. Awareness of this garden, composting and gardening is a great insight for our students.  

Our school community is aware of our soft plastics bin and this is used not only for students and teachers, but the canteen also uses this bin.  

In a non-COVID world, we have outdoor assembly once a week. During this time, our Ecojoey students talk to the students about ways they can practise sustainability. Simple things like using beeswax wraps instead of glad wrap, considering buying less plastic for their lunches, etcetera. During our [annual] Ecojoey week there is a continued focus on sustainability including recycling.” 

What Barrenjoey High School has planned for NRW this year: 

“More of the same — we will have a focus on National Recycling Week at school with reminders at our assembly and easy ways all students can be involved. I love being led by our students – they have so many wonderful ideas. I may suggest that this week is the week we purchase our school bench made of soft plastics, how exciting would that be!” 

National Recycling Week takes place from November 9-13. For more information and to find out how you can get involved, head here.


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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