A rural enviroschool is the recipient of a 2021 Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Award.
Ratapiko School, 15 minutes southeast of Inglewood, is one of 16 winners.
The council has presented 313 environmental awards since the programme began in 1993.
The awards have five categories: environmental leadership in business; environmental leadership in dairy farming, sponsored by Fonterra; environmental leadership in land management, sponsored by Corteva; environmental action in the community; and environmental action in education, sponsored by Contact Energy.
The school received the award last Tuesday for empowering students to take action to build a sustainable community.
Ratapiko School principal Lisa Hill says the award is an acknowledgement of the hard work pupils put in.
"I may be the leader of the school but it's the tamariki who put in the mahi and decide on our enviro projects."
Since 2016 the school has been involved in the enviroschools programme, a national programme aimed at teaching pupils about sustainable living.
Schools work through a level-based award system where they first earn a bronze award, with the option of then working towards further awards or levels. Each enviroschool has a facilitator who supports and guides their vision for a sustainable future.
After successfully achieving the Silver Enviroschool level last year, the school is continuing on the journey, with the hopes to earn the Green-Gold Award.
"We've planted 800 trees on-site and on local farms, we regularly remove kilograms of rubbish from around the Ratapiko School and Lake area. We also upcycled 1500 plastic bottles to make a greenhouse for seed growing and have also built a pizza oven. Pupils also trap possums and rats and have established an orchard and garden to provide food for the community. We also work with Experience Purangi and the Maunga Project."
Lisa says being part of an enviroschool teaches tamariki valuable life lessons.
"Being a rural community, we can't just pop down to the shop if we need something. We're teaching the children to be resourceful, creative and live off the land."
Blayke Collins and Alex Young, both 12, were at the small ceremony to receive the award.
"These two students have come with me and presiding board member John Marriner as they've been with the school since we started the enviroschools programme in 2016."
Alex says his favourite project to work on was the bottle house.
"It's made entirely of upcycled plastic bottles and bamboo. We all had a part in making it. It took us almost a year to collect enough bottles. The junior classrooms had the jobs of cleaning the bottles to make sure there was no sugar residue that would attract flies and the senior class cut the bottles and put them on the bamboo sticks."
At the moment cabbage, tomatoes, cauliflower and more are growing in the bottle house.
"There's a lot in there and it's very fun to plant things and watch them grow."
Blayke says it's an honour to receive the award.
"I'm very happy about it because it's my last year at the school and the award celebrates the work me and my peers have done. It's a special moment."