Fremantle star Angus Brayshaw celebrates a goal. Credit: Wikimedia/MelbourneFan2022, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Students from WA’s Curtin University will help AFL club Fremantle to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy, as part of a series of sustainability challenges focusing on the built environment, urban greening and the circular economy.

Through the Curtin Sustainability Challenge, 12 groups of uni students will gain credit points towards their undergraduate degrees by finding ways to solve real-world sustainability challenges for the uni’s industry partners.

The challenges span the six key themes of decarbonising urban developments, urban greening, renewable energy, sustainable water management, zero waste/circular economy and corporate sustainability in practice.

The aim of the program is for the industry partners to present tasks based on the real-world sustainability challenges they’re trying to address, and then see what solutions the students come up with (with support from academic mentors).

Among those partners is the Fremantle Football Club, which generates about a quarter of the energy used in its training and administration facility in Cockburn (pronounced “Co-burn”), south of Fremantle, from a rooftop solar array.

As part of the project, the students will look at ways the club can improve on that to meet a target of 100 per cent renewables by 2025.

The potential solutions could include improving the building’s energy efficiency, or adding other forms of renewables to its energy mix.

A separate challenge will see students work with disability nonprofit Good Sammy and the Design Institute of Australia to solve the circular economy challenges from fast fashion. They will be tasked with finding ways to repurpose affordable items that are overlooked in op shops.

The program is being led by Professor Josh Byrne, Dean of Sustainable Futures at Curtin University, who is well known as the WA presenter on the ABC’s Gardening Australia program.

“When things are taught solely in a classroom, the information might be very good, but it’s only when you’re testing ideas within the realities and constraints of industry and community practice that you learn what’s going to work,” Professor Byrne told The Fifth Estate.

“We’re hoping to ignite something special within the students, so when they graduate and go into the workforce, or go onto further study, they are excited about the opportunities to make positive impact when tackling pressing sustainability issues.”

The program is open to students from all course backgrounds, rather than just those studying environment or sustainability related degrees, with the teams tackling each challenge coming from a range of different disciplines.

“This provides students with a chance to work together collaboratively, but also to cross pollinate and bring their different strengths from their various courses, and their wider life experiences, into their work,” Professor Byrne says.

Other industry partners include Hesperia, DevelopmentWA, the Australian Institute of Architects with GHDWoodhead, Jason Windows, Verosol, Somfy, Synergy, Horizon Power, DWER, Water Corporation, Waste Authority, City of Canning, Cleanaway, South Metropolitan Health Service, Perth NRM, Bamford Consulting, WA Gould League, and BDO.

UPDATED 30 June to clarify the quotes from Professor Byrne.

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