12 Sustainability strategies for your service
Published on Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Last updated on Monday, 10 May 2021
Sustainability. It’s a hot-button topic of course, but living, working and playing more sustainably are easier than you may think and can help to save your centre money.
Big changes can come about by lots of people making little changes to their daily lives and practices and teaching children about sustainable practices along the way is an even better bonus.
Here are 12 everyday ideas for boosting the sustainability performance of your service.
- Go paperless
If you haven’t already, it’s a good time to consider switching to online forms and emails for communication with the families enrolled at your centre.
Invoices, consent forms and updates are so easy to deliver online that there really isn’t much use for paper in the administration side of centres these days.
Consider talking to your suppliers about preferring paperless communication from them as well. It will make a difference to your carbon footprint, and free up file room space at the same time.
- Use recycled paper hand towels and toilet paper
Most of us go through so many packs of hand towels, paper towel and toilet rolls, both at home and at work, that it makes sense to use recycled products where possible.
It’s also a good way to teach children to only use as many towels and as much toilet paper as they need, as they can often be the main culprits for waste.
- Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products
Choosing products with biodegradable packaging, bulk-buying products and using natural, toxin-free cleaning products are all great ways to reduce the amount of toxins and plastics we’re putting into the environment, as well as minimising the amount of chemicals we’re exposing children to.
Hot soapy water, white vinegar and baking soda are all alternatives to commercial chemical cleaning products, and they’ll be much kinder to your hands as well.
- Go green with eco-friendly nappies and biodegradable wipes
Ecoriginals (Australian-owned, made in New Zealand), Australian Tooshies by TOMCo and Comfy Koalas, and New Zealand-based Tinkle and Noopii are just a few of the brands available to Antipodeans for both nappies and wipes.
For the most part they are made from FSC-certified renewable bamboo and are much more eco-friendly than standard nappies.
- Ask the council for a green bin for your garden waste
You may already have one, but if not ask your local council for a green bin for your organic waste. In some areas these bins are for garden waste only, so leaves and grass clippings, twigs, weeds, etc. In some areas, they can also be used for food scraps and will be turned into compost that is then used in farms, parks and gardens
- Install solar panels
This is a big one, obviously, but there are grants available through a number of local governments helping with the cost to small businesses of installing solar systems. It’s worth looking into whether it’s right for your centre financially and for your energy needs.
- Minimise single use plastic
When shopping for new products for your centre, try to source plastic-free whenever possible. Whether this means avoiding plastic toys or simply using beeswax wraps instead of cling film, every little bit can help reduce the amount of plastic circulating in the environment, while also teaching children about viable alternatives to plastic.
- Shop local for food and supplies
For food served at your centre as well as for centre supplies, source local providers as much as you can. This will not only support your local community and likely save you a bit of money, it will also reduce your carbon footprint and - with food anyway - will mean the children in your service are receiving fresher, healthier meals.
- Use wholefoods for meals
Talking about meals, try to source wholefoods to make meals for the children in your centre, rather than using processed foods. Especially if you have a dedicated cook at your facility, this is a healthier and much more eco-friendly alternative to processed foods, which tend to come with significantly more packaging and take a much larger toll on natural resources to create.
- Start Meat-Free Mondays or Fresh Food Fridays
A great way to trial this is to introduce one or two days a week where your menu focuses on fruits and vegetables such as a Meat-Free Monday or Fresh Food Friday. It makes it easier to plan meals when days have a theme like this, and it can also be much cheaper to create more meals when using plant-based ingredients such as fruits and vegetables, chickpeas, lentils and rice.
- Launch a community food swap
If your centre has a food garden - and if you don’t it’s a great idea to start one! - you may be aware that some plants such as zucchinis can produce a lot more food than can be quickly consumed.
Why not use this surplus produce to start up a community food swap? Members of your community may have access to fruit trees with an abundance of fruit - always in high demand with kids - available in season, that they would be happy to either give to the centre or swap for veggies they may not grow themselves.
This is a fantastic, free and easy way to teach children about community, sustainability and eating with the seasons, while also helping to save money and reduce carbon emissions.
- Set up a community book swap/ toy library
And while on the topic of community swaps, a great way to enable children in your centre to gain access to a new range of toys and books on a regular basis, and learn about sustainability practices, is to set up a book swap or toy library.
Setting up a street library is a fun project for older preschoolers and can be a way for people in the area to share books.
The children at Learning Adventures Warkworth can teach many others a few things about sustainability.
Reducing waste and taking care of the environment has never been more important to lessen the effects of climate change and ensure future generations can continue to thrive.
Opportunities for early childhood educators and children to care for the planet.