They learn from being in our wonderful nature environments, but they also learn to take responsibility from an early age – for reducing waste, recycling, upcycling, and being aware of the impact of things like plastics.
Children are where looking after the planet starts, and they love to feel they are doing something useful that makes a difference. Starting them off on recycling from a young age teaches them that they have a role in looking after our world.
Here at Young Friends Kindergarten we are trying to be as zero-waste as possible.
Re-use is better than recycle, but where recycling is the only option we involve the children as much as possible in the process.
From food leftovers to scrap paper, wood offcuts to furniture, where possible we re-use everything.
Leftover food from lunch becomes tasty afternoon snacks. Second-hand furniture gets upcycled for use in the nursery rooms or outdoor areas and bits and bobs of all descriptions get used in our workshop or around the loose parts nursery.
Sometimes there’s nothing for it but to recycle, and our recycling station in our woodland garden, plus our parent recycling area in the lobby, takes the children’s understanding and involvement to another level.
Each room has its own recycling area. When it’s full we take the waste from the rooms for the children to stamp on it (lots of fun) and separate (as we explain why).
The children help us to sort everything: plastic, glass, paper, cans, ink cartridges, batteries etc, and take it to the local community recycling point.
If there’s anything collected that can’t be recycled in the community bins, staff and children will take it to the correct recycling depot.
They love being responsible for this, and there are many learning opportunities to be had.
Where possible, composting is our first waste disposal choice. We involve the children in the composting process from beginning to end, resulting in them growing their own food with the scraps they have thrown away.
They compost food waste, shredded paper, animal (guinea pig) waste and more. We have a large double composter in the garden, a wormery and leaf mulch area. The children learn and understand how to use them, what they are for and why they are so valuable. Waste is minimal – the children take the end products to our Kitchen Garden and Growing Patch.
Our sustainable kindergarten approach partly grew out of a growing concern about how much plastic (and especially single-use plastic) was being used in nurseries generally.
From plastic aprons to shoe covers and disposable gloves, plastic toys to glitter and sequins (things of the distant past), we realised how much our children were being exposed to a throw-away culture at an incredibly important time in their lives. We also started counting the cost to the planet.
So it began with adopting the plastic-free pledge. But it’s since expanded to our holistic approach to sustainability.
We’re making changes and improvements all the time, but here are just a few of the things we’ve adopted:
No single-use plastics. That means no throwaway shoe covers, glitter, sequins, plastic milk bottles, delivery bags, laminating sheets, poly pockets, nappy sacks, baby wipes, disposable nappies, plastic bags, cling film (or tin foil). We buy loose food with no plastic packaging wherever possible.
Plastic-free pledge. We’ve taken things a step further and eradicated ALL plastic from our kindergarten. That means: stainless steel beakers and cups, silicone bibs/tablet covers etc. instead of plastic, systematically replacing all plastic plates/bowls and cups and replace with stainless steel alternatives, no plastic equipment or toys.
Cloth nappies. No more horrid disposables going into landfill, and no nasty waste bin for us. We provide cloth nappies for all our children and these are washed and reused. We use washable liners and washable wipes with natural grape seed oil to keep those little bottoms super soft.
Re-use rather than recycle. Wherever possible we re-use furniture or buy second hand. We love to up-cycle and the children can often be found making their own equipment with reused materials with the team. 300 000 tonnes of bulky waste get sent to landfill each year in the UK alone so we’re showing the children how much impact we can make.
LED lighting. We’ve changed all our nursery lighting to LED’s, which are 60-70% more energy efficient than traditional bulbs and last for up to 100,000 hours of use so we don’t need to dispose of so many.