Why sustainability within the early years environment should be high on settings’ agendas in 2022 and beyond
With the COP26 summit last year – which saw leaders from across the globe gather in Glasgow to discuss climate change and environmental strategy – and the UK’s Environment Bill having passed to become law, there’s a huge focus on the future of our planet, and rightly so.
But what about the topic of sustainability and circularity within the early years sector – what role does it play for future generations and why should it be on the industry’s radar?
Our CEO, Chris Reid, and Cheryl Hadland, founder of the Green Early Years Choices Champion (GECCO) and MD of Tops Day Nurseries and Aspire Training Team Ltd., recently offered their thoughts on the topic to Early Years Educator.
If you missed the original article, catch up here…
Why green early years choices matter
In truth, there are many ways settings can improve their carbon footprint, green credentials, and resourcefulness – from upcycling and using more natural materials to recycling and incorporating nature-based activities into the education programme – and it’s vital that more providers start to make eco commitments and pledges over the coming months and years. But why?
This isn’t just important from an environment perspective in the ‘here and now’, it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle regarding future generations. It also helps to support and prioritise child development, the key social part of sustainability – not only in the short-term but for many years to come – which should undoubtedly be high on the agenda in the New Year and beyond.
It’s essential that we leave our world fit for the next generations to enjoy a healthy life, as a result, sustainability should be embedded into every element of the early years environment to help make this happen.
But it’s vital to remember that environmental, social, and business sustainability go hand in hand – and none can succeed effectively without all of them being considered.
In reality, no action is too small. The decisions the sector makes on a daily basis, from equipment procurement to on-site waste segregation, all add up to a greater cause of creating a space which not only thrives and supports children now but tomorrow, and every day after that.
Futureproofing the learning environment
It’s no secret that the world around us is becoming increasingly ‘digital-first’ as the years pass by. And our reliance upon tech is growing in tandem. It helps us to do our online shopping, keep in contact with our loved ones, and carry out our work – often quicker and easier than a more manually intensive alternative.
In the context of an early years environment though, technology adoption – such as nursery management software – can not only help to reduce the amount of paperwork used and stored on site, improving data management and security, but it can save settings money and streamline admin-intensive processes.
Looking at this through an environmental lens too, by making the switch to digital, this can help to reduce a provider’s carbon footprint – with less trees being felled for paper manufacturing – as well as decrease the amount of transport-related carbon emissions associated with paper deliveries.
It isn’t solely internal documents which benefit from being digitised though, correspondence with parents can also be carried out more efficiently with technology. What was once a written letter or report can now be done virtually – fitting in more flexibly with the busy schedules of practitioners and parents alike.
This is where the link between environmental and social sustainability can be seen – technology enables professionals to foster long-term relationships with parents, and vice versa.
Ultimately, by implementing eco-friendlier practices within a setting, childcare professionals can experience a whole host of sustainability benefits – environmentally, financially, operationally, and socially – contributing to the creation of a learning environment that always has both child development and the health of our planet at its heart.