Lyneham High School captain James Etherington is spending his final year on campus hoping to do more than pass his subjects: he wants to create a new world record.
“People think maybe it’s out of our grasp, probably more than a bit whacky,” he says.
“But I definitely think we can do it.”
The 15-year-old is applying to Guinness World Records to create and then take home the title of ‘Most Students Cycling to School in a Day’.
“The world record doesn’t actually exist yet, so when you apply you have to set a minimum,” James says. “Otherwise we could claim it with just one person riding to school.
“So the goal is to get between 600 and 800 people riding to school.”
He hasn’t yet won the tick of approval from Guinness. But James still wants to give it a crack even if it’s not officially recognised as a world record attempt.
“We can still run the day and call it a school record,” he says.
“I hope each year we can then bump the number up and make it a school tradition after I’ve left.
“But the world record is definitely the goal.”
And it’s the goal he ran his school captaincy campaign on. One that obviously resonated with the students who gave him their vote.
“We have a really large school population, and a huge number of them already ride bikes to school. So I thought we might as well play to our strengths.”
The plan is to hold the event during the next school term. But it’s not the only legacy the Year 10 student wants to leave behind. He also plans to introduce compost and bottle recycling bins to the campus.
His green goal came after he discovered Lyneham High School’s agriculture faculty was buying compost and food waste from an external supplier to use on its vegetable gardens.
“It just seemed so unsustainable, especially when we have the untapped resource of students’ lunches already here.
“People don’t have to do it, but I want to give them the choice to do something for the environment.”
He’s also worked out how to fund the initiative by applying to the ACT Government’s Community Zero Emissions Grants Program.
“Eventually it would be great to get bins for all areas of recycling in the school.
“But this is a great place to start.”
He’s received strong support from school staff, with each faculty trialling the compost initiative as part of a competition to see which one can recycle the most in four weeks.
“Their prize is the principal will take some lunchtime duty.”
James also plans to have Indigenous trees with connections to Canberra planted on campus in the school house colours – Kurrajong, Silky Oak Grevillea, Casuarina and Yellow Box.
“As they grow, we can also grow what we do together for the environment.”
It’s all part of increasing school spirit and a sense of environmental responsibility as James prepares to say goodbye to the school at the end of the year.
“I wanted to feel like I was contributing, and the environment is a compelling issue to me personally.
“I realised I wanted to leave something behind that I could be proud of and that will last here.”