Why it’s more important than ever to hold and promote eco-friendly attitudes towards sustainability and environmental protection
We all know that spending time outdoors brings many benefits for both ourselves and for the children in our care. Many schools and families are opting to take their children outside more often in an attempt to re-connect them with the natural world and to help to unwind from our ever-busy lives.
However, alongside these benefits can run an array of ecological impacts, some you may have never thought about before. With an increasing population opting to re-connect with the outdoors, it’s more important than ever to understand what some of the main environmental issues are. With a little thought about our environment in each of the things we do, we can make a big difference and be the driving force for sustainability.
Recent programmes and campaigns to reduce single-use plastic and to persuade people to adopt more sustainable life-styles are gaining momentum and, thankfully, making most people stop and think when they previously wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
Children follow by example, therefore, as the ‘grown-ups,’ it is important that we are the best role models we can be with regard to caring for our environment and promoting sustainable practise.
Where’s the purpose in trying to connect children with the outdoors when you are inadvertently causing more damage than good?
Here are some simple tips to help you to hold and promote eco-friendly attitudes outdoors:
- We should aim to leave the outdoors as it was found in the first instance, if not better. This follows a long-standing countryside code of ‘leave no trace.’ This may involve packing up your (or others’) litter and taking it home, putting items (including nature) back as they were found, and covering any traces of area-use before you leave.
- We should take only memories and leave only footprints. It’s all too tempting to cut back all of the nettles, pick flowers, snap off branches or take away a collection of rocks and sticks. However, have you ever thought that those nettles and flowers (especially dandelions), are crucial for the survival of bees, butterflies and other insects. Other natural materials help to make up the balance of the ecosystem, and logs and branches decompose to add valuable nutrients to the soil. Removing and disturbing nature upsets the balance of the ecosystem and can have detrimental effects on the habitats and food chains over time.
- Keep to footpaths where possible. Soil erosion from footfall can cause major problems to local drainage. Heavy footfall kills grasses and plants which usually act to absorb the rainfall and anchor the soil. Further trampling and compaction of the bare soil decreases its porosity, and in turn increases run-off of rainfall into our drainage system. This can have knock-on effects such as floods, increased deposit of mud into streams and drains, and destruction of local micro-habitats.
- Use only natural products in the outdoors where possible. Any element you add to the outdoors, however small, upsets the natural balance of the ecosystem. Paints, glues, glitter, wool, small plastic crafts (such as googly-eyes and beads), pipe-cleaners, wire, hand-wash, amongst others things, can have devastating effects. Even those labelled as ‘eco-friendly,’ or ‘biodegradable,’ can contain toxins or take years to break down, not to mention can harm wildlife if they mistake it for a tasty snack. If making your own outdoor crafts such as wildlife feeders, habitats or decorations, think carefully about the materials you use and try to either make them all natural, or remove them from the outdoors afterwards.
- If you do bring items into the outdoors, try to get into good habits and refrain from bringing single-use plastic and items with lots of packaging. Make your own picnic in re-useable containers, stop taking single-use plastic bags when picking and packing your fruit and veg, purposely choose refills rather than ‘new’ every time. Remember there is no ‘away’ when you throw things away. So much is thrown into both recycling and landfill on a daily basis that even recycling plants can’t keep up and are now having to bury or burn the waste.
Here are some eco-challenges which you might enjoy with your family:
- Eco-challenge 1: Why don’t you see how much waste you produce in a week? Separate it into different materials, compost & landfill and collect it over a week. How much do you produce? How do you feel about this? Which type of waste do you have most/ least of? Can you aim to reduce this over the next month? Try the challenge again in a month’s time and see if you’ve made any improvements. Take photos to compare your eco-footprints.
- Eco-challenge 2: Can you try to not only protect your local environment, but also to improve it? Can you plant native species and build natural mini-beast habitats to help to increase the biodiversity in your garden? Planting wild flowers can attract bees and butterflies, and leaving a little patch of your garden ‘wild’ can help to create a thriving mini-ecosystem. You can study your ‘wild area patch’ over time to see which species it attracts.
Here’s how teachers and leaders of outdoor sessions can take their eco-friendly mission to the next level:
Our online CPD workshop, ‘Eco-friendly Outdoor Sessions‘, is written especially for all types of outdoor leaders and teachers who want to gain more skills, knowledge and practical tips to run eco-friendly outdoor sessions, whilst passing these important skills and methods to the pupils in their care and involving the children’s ideas in the process.
The workshop consists of 4 units:
Unit 1: Understanding the key environmental issues of leading sessions outdoors
Unit 2: Calculating your current outdoor sessions ecological footprint
Unit 3: Improving your outdoor sessions ecological footprint
Unit 4: Reviewing and celebrating your successes & taking your practise into the future.
At the end of the workshop, you will have successfully evaluated your current practise to ensure you can be the best role-model for sustainability. The workshop allows you to involve your pupils in your quest for sustainability and a healthy eco-footprint, teaching them all about the values and eco-habits which are needed to help to preserve our planet.
Find out more about this workshop & sign up here