How can an organisation move from awareness raising, in the form of natural history poster production, to the development of systems that change organisations? Through close integration of research and practice, the Gould League has achieved this transformation. It began with extensive research into best practice environmental education, going beyond the traditional boundaries of environmental education to areas that included the psychology of culture change, business management, systems thinking, governance, drug education, marketing and organisational psychology. This broad approach to research has led to the development of highly effective sustainability education programs, such as Waste Wise Schools and Sustainable Schools.
The Waste Wise Schools Program, funded by EcoRecycle Victoria and managed in consultation with the Gould League, is an action-based waste education program. Originating in Victoria in 1998, it has been adopted by over a third of Victorian schools and has led to widespread outcomes, including waste reductions of up to 95%. There is strong evidence from surveys that this program is sustainable in schools over time and research confirms that the program is contributing to changes in the waste-wise thinking and behaviour of the families of the children at these schools.
A model for culture change in schools, based on the experiences of the Waste Wise Schools Program, has also been developed. This model, a valuable tool in the continual improvement of Waste Wise Schools, has applications to sustainability education in general.