New early years resource to help settings promote sustainability

A new online toolkit to help nurseries become more sustainable and tackle the climate emergency is now available.

A group of nursery owners in the Bristol area launched the Early Years Eco Wheel at the first ever Green Early Years Choices Champions Organisation (GECCO) Early Years Eco-Sustainability Conference at the Nursery World Show in London earlier this month.

The Eco Wheel is designed to promote ‘spreading the message’ about climate change and sustainability by educating children, employees, parents and others within the community. 

Topics featured include:

  • Buildings
  • Energy
  • Food
  • Single use plastics, including nappies
  • Janitorial and personal care
  • Play resources and equipment
  • Money
  • Transport and trips
  • Nurturing nature

The toolkit provides guidance documents, logos, top tips, examples of good practice, book recommendations and a knowledge hub, all based on ‘The 8 Rs’, which are:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Repurpose
  • Repair
  • Return
  • Recycle
  • Rethink

Nicky Edwards, one of the creators of the not-for-profit scheme and co-owner of Natural Choice Nurseries, based just outside Bristol, said, ‘We need to not panic about the climate emergency, but rapidly shift to ”emergency mode”. We need to take action as a sector, and to do that we need a clear framework for success.

‘As part of an NDNA Network for Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire, we recognised that settings need help, they need a pathway to be successful in the changes required to become more sustainable. The Eco Wheel scheme maps out what to do and gives clear support. 

‘The idea is to build a “community” so that experiences can be shared, and support given when change is difficult. There are some challenging topics that mean changes in our way of thinking, such as the food we eat and the volume of things we buy. 

‘With unsustainable consumption being the root cause of the climate emergency, in order to prevent climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, we need to rethink our approaches. Simple things like the 8Rs (which is an extension to “Reuse, Reduce and Recycle”) can serve as a guide to our daily approach, and are essential concepts to get to grips with.’

Saffia Bullock, who owns three nurseries in the Bristol area and has been trialling the Eco Wheel in her settings, added, ‘Using the Eco Wheel has been a really useful tool for starting discussions with staff. It’s helping us all to think about all aspects of running the nursery differently and bringing the sustainability issues to the front of our minds when making decisions.’

Membership costs between £30 and £40 per setting, with a tiered system for nursery groups. The annual subscription fee goes towards the not-for-profit community interest company which set up the toolkit to keep the content updated. 

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