Second Nature Sustainability in a Nursery School

Grace Edwards Sustainable Nursery school teacher

Grace Edwards is proud of the way her nursery school children are embracing sustainability

By Grace Edwards

I work for an environmentally conscious nursery, and there we constantly review how we can improve on the way we work and the resources we use to be the most environmentally effective.

Sometimes it can seem a challenge to change the way we work when we are so used to doing things a certain way, or using particular tools and resources. I’ve certainly felt like this. Sometimes it can feel a little ‘what’s the point’ when making a small change for a lot more effort, but I have learnt that in reality a little goes a long way, and you soon get used to it.

One of the biggest examples of this is NAPPIES! During one day at the nursery, we get through a lot of them, which is why we use reusable nappies. When this system was first introduced, the effort of separating the components for cleaning them, washing them, hanging them out to dry, all felt overwhelming, but now its just part of the normal working day, and nobody thinks twice about it.

The same with bulk buying cleaning products that are then decanted into smaller re-used bottles to be distributed around the nursery. The thing is… if we had been doing these things from the beginning, the effort of the change wouldn’t have even occurred. So, at the nursery we are teaching the children to be environmentally conscious, so it wont be an effort for them when they grow up. We take the older ones round the nursery to collect all the clean recycling from the rooms, and they learn about the different materials and how to separate them into the right bags, ready for collection. Having a positive attitude towards these things from such a young age (the nursery takes children age 6 months-5 yrs) can surely only be beneficial.

Of course one of the biggest things we can teach the children, is to have respect for nature and the planet. Activities that support their love and wonderment for nature help create strong foundations for this to continue throughout their lives. The children often use ‘found’ natural resources for creative activities, and are taught never to take anything off a living plant. I love watching them wear their ‘nature crowns’ with pride all day long, and watching with such excitement as their sunflower seedlings grow in the spring. We have a ‘bug hotel’ in the wild garden, where the children can observe creatures with magnifying glasses, and learn about them, whilst respecting them and leaving them be.

Once a year, we take part in ‘walking and wheeling week’. This is part of a travel plan scheme called ‘Mode Shift Stars’, aimed at reducing the use of cars within schools and businesses. They provide fun activity ideas and encourage families to walk, cycle or take public transport to nursery. It’s more fun for the children, and better for the planet too.

I feel really lucky to work somewhere that embraces these things. Its brilliant when a parent tells you that their child has gone home and told them off for putting paper in the bin when it could be recycled. And when it comes from their own child, they really do listen! It’s a domino effect really; the more people see others making changes the more they will too.

Reusable nappies drying on the line in the nursery garden

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmental-ism. Embedded in most definitions of sustainability we also find concerns for social equity and economic development.
https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/what-is-sustainability.pdf

Why should I switch to reusable nappies?

Around three billion disposable nappies end up in landfill every year. It is estimated they each nappy will take around 500 years to decompose. This is an unsustainable system. Opting for reusable nappies helps to reduce the number of disposable nappies ending up in landfill. They also work out cheaper than disposable nappies in the long run and are even more cost effective if you use them for more than one child.

Why is it important to respect nature?

Nature is essential to all our lives. We rely on the natural world for all our essentials, from the food on our plates to the clothes we wear, from medicines to mental health benefits. We cannot continue to survive without protecting, caring for and respecting the natural systems we are quite literally a part of.