Nursery World Awards 2021 - Eco-Friendly Early Years

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Meadow Lane Children’s Nursery, St Ives, Cambridgeshire

You can download the digital Awards book here

At Meadow Lane, indoor and outdoor environments are designed to be as natural and environmentally friendly as possible. An air source heat pump and energy efficient lights are set up in the main building, with natural, open-ended materials including logs, willow rods, pinecones, shells and flowers available throughout.

Man-made resources are usually reused or recycled, such as small tiles, glass pebbles, tin cans, kitchen utensils and fabric scraps.

The setting’s Forest School has been grown from scratch, with children involved in planting and caring for the trees and shrubs.

A geodesic dome in the Forest School area acts as an investigation centre for children to explore the natural world even further.

The nursery uses homemade compost for the vegetable and flower garden, avoids pesticides, composts green waste from the garden and kitchen and uses the muck from the setting’s farm animals.

Staff have created a small garden in front of the nursery where children can explore a log pile and bug area and observe the lifecycles of chicks and tadpoles.

The nursery’s small farm shop offers candles and soaps, homemade jams, chutneys and cakes, free-range eggs and surplus produce from the garden.

The setting has signed up to the Green Flag/Eco Schools initiative and, thanks to its new eco-committee of children, staff and parents, has revamped its bike and buggy area to encourage walking or cycling to nursery. After children commented on the smell of car fumes at pick-up time, they made posters for the car park to encourage parents and visitors to turn off their engines.


Jayne’s Nursery, Chelmsford

Jayne’s Nursery has become one of the first settings in the country to be awarded the OMEP-UK Bronze Award for Sustainable Education. It worked to embed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into all policies and develop a specific sustainability policy.

The nursery makes use of its own allotment, where each age group has its own planting area. A water butt has recently been installed in the garden which children can access independently and use for watering to support understanding of consumption.

The use of paper towels has been reduced by 90 per cent, rubber glove usage has been reduced, and wet wipes, glitter, plastic bin bags and nappy bags have been eliminated from the setting.

The nursery is moving towards a plant-based menu and aims to work towards the OMEP Silver Award. It has also signed up to Surfers against Sewage to become an entirely plastic-free zone.


London Early Years Foundation

LEYF reviewed its carbon emissions and developed the ‘Green LEYF’ approach for 42 nurseries across 12 boroughs.

LEYF parents contribute a £1 per month Green LEYF levy to support activities helping children to be ‘green minded’. This is supplemented by donations from sustainability partners, Hope Education and MyPrint director.

These funds have helped introduce 20 wormeries, 12 tumble composters, 14 mushroom growing kits, water tanks and an eco-brick machine to LEYF nurseries.

LEYF has started ISO 14001 sustainability management certification, an international framework.

During lockdown, LEYF developed a Cache Level 4 Developing Sustainability in the Early Years qualification.

By October 2021, 16 LEYF nurseries will have taken on green electricity provided by wind and solar power.


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

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