School operations

Environmental Sustainability in Schools


This policy outlines requirements, advice and supports for schools in relation to environmental sustainability and climate change. This policy contains 2 mandatory requirements outlined below. The remaining activities are suggestions for best practice.


This policy is designed to help schools that wish to take action on climate change by reducing the environmental impact of their operations and providing resources and guidance for teaching environmental sustainability, and engaging school communities.

The Guidance tab provides information for schools to plan, implement and monitor actions across the following 6 priority areas as part of a whole school approach to environmental sustainability:

  1. school leadership
  2. facilities and operations
  3. teaching and learning
  4. community partnerships
  5. Koorie perspectives
  6. student-led action.

The guidance tab also includes a range of case studies that illustrate how this policy may be implemented in practice.

The Resources tab includes a range of resources, grants and initiatives from Sustainability Victoria and other government and community organisations to support schools. Schools may also use the Environmental Sustainability Plan template (DOCX)External Link for support to implement a whole school approach (but it is not mandated).

This policy may be implemented on its own or concurrently with Sustainability Victoria’s ResourceSmart Schools programExternal Link .

Schools are not obligated to follow the 6 priority areas (and associated case studies and resources). They are also not required to have an Environmental Sustainability Plan or complete the Environmental Sustainability Plan template.

Mandatory requirements

This policy has 2 elements which schools must follow.

Schools must comply with legal requirements in relation to the Single-Use Plastics Ban policy and balloon releases. Releasing balloons into the environment is illegal in Victoria. Schools must ensure balloons taken outdoors are well secured while in use and deflated and disposed of appropriately when the activity is completed. For more information refer to Balloon releases and the lawExternal Link .


Climate change adaptation
Any process of adjusting to actual or expected climate and its effects that:

  1. in human systems, seek to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities
  2. in natural systems, may be facilitated by human interventions.

Climate change mitigation
Mitigation is about limiting the amount of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (for example, from burning fossil fuels) or enhancing the ‘sinks’ that accumulate and store greenhouse gases (such as increasing carbon sequestration in forests, mangroves and soil).

Climate change
A change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

Mental distress or anxiety associated with perceptions of the negative impacts of climate change and worsening environmental conditions.

Environmental sustainability
Addresses the ongoing capacity of earth to maintain all life.

Greenhouse gas emissions
Emissions of:

  1. carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide or sulphur hexafluoride
  2. a hydrofluorocarbon or perfluorocarbon that is specified in regulations made under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (Cth).

Relevant legislation

This policy has been developed by the department in partnership with the Faculty of Education and with support from Melbourne Climate Futures, University of Melbourne.

Department policy outlining requirements, advice, and supports for schools in relation to environmental sustainability and climate change. Not all of this policy is mandatory for schools.

Reviewed 20 March 2024

Policy last updated

19 December 2023


  • Schools


Operations and Governance Division

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