Nursery World Awards 2022 - Eco-Friendly Early Years

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Joint winner: London Early Years Foundation, Green LEYF

You can download the digital Awards book here

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As a childcare social enterprise, London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) is determined to improve its sustainability and reach net-zero by 2030.

The group has begun by measuring the entire organisation’s carbon footprint using the Planet Mark scheme to ensure sustainability is embedded.

LEYF is also ISO14001 certified, the most widely used international standard for environmental management systems.

A sustainability manager oversees all ‘green’ practices alongside the sustainability strategic leadership team. This cascades to the ‘Green LEYF’ eco-champions in nurseries, parent champions and sustainable partners.

Eco-champions role-model good practice and help other teachers and children take more care of the environment. For instance, children are part of a rota to switch off lights.

LEYF’s portfolio of green initiatives includes using glass milk bottles, reducing or eliminating single-use plastics including gloves and shoe covers, replacing glitter with environmentally safer options, introducing cloth aprons to reduce plastic use, and recycling across all nurseries.

Sustainability is embedded within the LEYF Pedagogy and gives children a well-rounded education, so they grow up respecting the planet.

Children learn to look after edible herbs, plants, fruits and vegetables to use in their daily meals and discover more about food and water waste reduction. Any leftover waste is put into composters and wormeries and watered with rainwater stored in water butts. The castings from the wormeries are then put onto the garden beds as fertiliser and the cycle continues.

Nurseries feature bug hotels, garden beds and a variety of plants to enhance the outdoor space and attract a variety of wildlife. The planting is rich in flowers to encourage bee migration as well as other minibeasts that are critical to maintaining a healthy eco-system.

All settings have air purifying indoor plants as well as CO2 monitors to check and monitor air quality. Where lower air quality has been identified, air purifiers, additional plants and mechanical ventilation are introduced. Children also learn about propagation and how to start a pipeline of plants for sharing with their families and communities.

Sustainability Gardens focus on making outdoor spaces as environmentally friendly as possible and allowing biodiversity and eco-systems to flourish. The gardens play a vital part in the group’s zero waste goals, and feature wormeries, composters, and water tanks.

To encourage parents to get involved, nurseries regularly provide home learning activities such as seed and soil kits to encourage planting and propagation activities, tips on how to recycle and reuse household items, and advice on activities that promote respect and understanding of nature.

In 2021, LEYF’s CEO and sustainability manager wrote the book 50 Fantastic Ideas for Sustainability to encourage other early years practitioners to celebrate sustainability as part of their teaching.

LEYF’s Level 4 qualification, ‘Developing Sustainability in the Early Years’, is a CPD opportunity for teachers to enhance their knowledge of the subject. It gives LEYF teachers confidence to lead sessions on sustainability, and is also offered to external organisations. It is soon to be expanded to international students to ensure early years sustainability becomes widely adopted across the globe.


Jayne's Nursery, Chelmsford


Childbase Partnership

Dandelion Education, Norfolk

Holly Grange Montessori Nursery, Lymm


Open to early years settings and services who are developing an eco-friendly approach in all aspects of their work, from management, resourcing, recycling and design, to educating young children about sustainable development.

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