Indigenous perspectives and Sustainability

There is much we can learning from Indigenous perspectives on sustainability. Australia’s indigenous people have cared for Mother Earth for over fifty thousand years. They come from country, care for country, celebrate country, feel sorry for country, and have a deep emotional connection and concern for the place they are born. This concept of Country fully embraces sustainability.
“The land is my mother. Like a human mother, the land gives us protection, enjoyment, and provides our needs – economic, social, and religious. We have a human relationship with the land: Mother, daughter, son. When the land is taken from us or destroyed, we feel hurt because we belong to the land, and we are part of it.” Djinyini Gondarra
The way we view the world is the way we treat it. Loving earth and having a world view that we are off this earth and need to maintain it in order to live; that if destroy our country we destroy ourselves is at the heart of many indigenous cultures but far removed from the modern western world view.
As David Suzuki said:
“The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity––then we will treat each other with greater respect. Thus, is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.”
Indigenous Australians fully understand the interconnectedness of all life and the fragility of our ecosystems.

If we can learn to treat Earth and nature with true respect, we will be begin the long journey of being good custodians of our earth.

The resources and links to resources that follow provide some information and ideas to support your teaching and learning and development programs. There are resources for educators, as we can only teach what we know, and we all have much to learn about Indigenous perspectives and sustainability.

EC EfS National Alliance

EC EfS Across Australia

The first Early Childhood EfS alliance meeting was held on Friday 6th May 2016 in Sydney. Representatives from NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, ACECQA and New Zealand came together to discuss and share our work in growing EC EfS in Australia/New Zealand. Two EESSA Inc representatives attended the summit. As well as sharing what is happening in our own States we began the important work of planning ways to progress what we are doing well and how we can improve EC EfS at many levels.

Since then groups have networked via email and occasional individual meetings working together for a successful poster presentation at the National ECE conference in September 2018. The associations used this opportunity to hold their second national EC EfS meeting and begin planning for a National EC EfS conference. We will keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

Environmentally Healthy Cleaning

Many people now realise that the cleaning and personal care products being sold nationally and internationally are doing us and our world far more harm than good.

The health of the earth and of all living things is interdependent. The saying you are what you eat is equally important for the earth. Soil is the skin of the earth. Earth’s health is determined by how we treat it. What we wash down the drains and into the rivers and oceans from the products we use personally and the myriad of synthetic chemicals and fertilisers used on farms and in factories across the world.

We can make a difference by knowing what’s in the products we use to clean our home and services.

Consider making some more environmentally friendly cleaning and personal care products and you can save some $ as well as helping save the Earth.

Energy Efficiency

There are many simple things you can do each day to support children to understand about energy and the need for energy reduction. This can begin at a very young age through modelling and example. When children, even our babies hear us say its sunny we don’t need the lights on, or lets open the windows to feel the breeze we are showing them how to be energy efficient.

Conduct an energy audit to learn how much energy is used by the electrical appliances at your service. You can borrow an energy audit tool kit from your local library in South Australia or contract a local provider who can conduct the energy audit for you.

The audit will identify appliances that may need replacing or repair (such as the seal on a fridge) and will help you eliminate unnecessary power use, and compare energy bills when available. You can then demonstrate the impact of the changes you make and provide motivation for further improvement.

When purchasing new or replacement electric appliances, consider the need before purchasing, then look for ones with high energy star ratings. Energy efficient washing machine and dryers can greatly reduce your energy usage. Remember the more stars the more savings!

Print our simple guide to energy saving

Education for Sustainability

Encouraging children (and adults) to put down their game controllers, tablets and hand held devises and get outdoors and experience the natural world; creating more natural play spaces for children in schools, early childhood settings and communities are all important and valuable. However, we need to go beyond this. Our recent summers and winters of extreme weather have been a stark reminder that the climate is changing and we will increasingly be faced with long very hot summers.

We need to take children beyond nature play. Learning in, about and with nature involves far more than using natural materials in our play space designs.

In order to respect and love the earth we need to understand it. Children need to connect with the natural environment to understand and value their role as caretakers.

However, this cannot be separate or independent of other key elements in sustainability

Gardening and nature play are important, they are necessary but not enough.

We need to go beyond these and recognise that Education for Sustainability is also about children’s agency, their right to participate in decision making and be involved in taking action on matters that affect them.  This involves building children’s self-confidence, resilience, optimism and problem solving skills so they can manage in a changing world. It also calls for educators to acknowledge that young children have an understanding and perspective of the world that is valid and thoughtful and often very wise. Children can use their unique knowledge and perspective to contribute ideas and strategies for managing problems such as waste reduction, being water wise, energy saving, reducing the use of harmful chemicals and help us build a more sustainable community. We are currently operating at 150% of the earth’s capacity and our current growth model is driving us to 300%.

What is education for sustainability?

The decade 2005 to 2014 was declared as the decade of Education for Sustainable Development by the United Nations. As we move on Education for Sustainability is a key to refocusing the way we live and work towards a lifestyle that fosters respect for the earth. Incorporating the principles, practices and values of sustainability into education beginning in the early years is essential to achieving a sustainable society.  If, however, you are only looking at sustainability and giving it attention because of National Quality Area 3.3 then you are probably doing it for the wrong reasons.

Education for Sustainability, living sustainably and sustainable practices and values are in all 7 quality areas. Before you can embed sustainability, before you can even teach sustainability you must first learn it and live it. You must discover what sustainability means to you and to your service before you can move forward. Developing a service philosophy that incorporates sustainable practices is a key step in bringing together the educators, staff and families in your service who are passionate about living more sustainably.

These people and your policy on sustainability will be the key drivers and motivators for everyone learning about how to live more sustainably and to start living this both at the service and at home. Sustainability is linked to your philosophy. It is not a policy you can take from somewhere else. It is a unique document for your service that will evolve and grow over time.

Start by asking some questions like: what does living sustainably mean to you? What does it mean for your family? Why do you think it is important for us to live more sustainably? What does this mean for your children? You may ask older children what they understand about sustainable living? Asking families and staff to respond to these questions and gathering the answers will help you build a picture of what is important for your service.

Recycle Right – there is no ‘away’

It wasn’t that long ago that when we had unwanted wrappings or something had broken we would say ’just throw it away’

However there is no such place as ‘away’. We only have one earth and everything we produce stays here. All the waste we create, everything we want to throw ‘away’ stays on our earth.

Nature is a great recycler, leaves from trees, animal droppings, branches, feathers, seeds, fruit and nut fall all return to earth creating good organic matter to feed the next generation of plants that then feed the animals and so the cycle repeats itself.

However humans have created a big problem not only for themselves but more importantly for the earth on which we live. We have created, plastics and chemicals and all sorts of things that do not decompose. We also use lots of packaging to wrap and rewrap, small containers for ‘individual serves’ and many of us buy most of our food prewrapped and pre-packaged from a supermarket.

The world is currently using 1.5 times more resources that we have on earth and the average Australian has a footprint of 3.5 earths. The reduced average for the world population is only because millions of the world’s people are poor and do not have access to their fair share.

There are many  things you can do to support your whole service community to recycle right.

However, we should first reduce our need to recycle.

  • Reflect – do really I need to buy it? Can I reuse or repurpose something I already have? Do I just need to use it occasionally? Maybe a friend or family member has one I can share?
  • Respect – has the product been produce in an environmentally sustainable way? Is it made locally? Is it made in Australia? Can I purchase the product without packaging?
  • Reuse – before recycling try swapping and giving away items you no longer need or use? Consider other ways you can use the item?
  • Repurpose – can I use this somewhere else? Some old furniture just needs a bit of attention and can be remodelled?
  • Refuse –unnecessary packaging especially plastic
  • And then
  • Recycle – learn how to recycle right. Your local council website will assist with recycling in your area.
Recycle mobile phones:

Mobile phones are not biodegradable and should not been thrown in the bin as they contain small amounts of potentially harmful substances which, if not managed properly, may harm the environment

One tonne of mobile phone circuits can yield the same amount of precious metals as 110 tonnes of gold ore, 123 tonnes of silver bearing ore and 11 tonnes of copper sulphide ore

You can be a collection point and help families and staff recycle right. Check the link below.

Kitchen gardens that work

Frustrated with trying to grow good vegies so that you are ready to give up or are have already given up?
Have you been trying a kitchen garden at your service and having trouble growing and harvesting?
Many people think that by putting in a garden bed, using some potting soil and then plantings some seedlings and watering they will grow and harvest!
As our garden gurus will tell us there is much more to good soil than just buying what is recommended from your local landscape service. There is much more to a plant than the major hardware chains can tell you and much more to watering than just using a hose or irrigation system for ½ an hour every day.

Soil, Seed, Water:

The soil is the key. A good quality growing soil that is friable and provides the correct nutrients for the plant is essential. Soils can become water resistant and loose nutrient value especially if exposed to the harsh SA summer. Always put a blanket of mulch on your garden if you leave it unplanted. This will keep the soil active.  Soils need to be refreshed with quality compost each planting season or you can try growing a green crop and digging into the soil to regenerate. It may also be worth doing a soil test to check the nutrient levels.

Then you need good quality seed.   Whenever possible purchase locally produced seed or collect your own. When purchasing seeds from a commercial supplier research their sustainability credentials.

If you purchase seedlings, they must be quality plants that are produced ethically using quality growing soils. The life of the seedling before you plant it will determine its productivity. Plants that have been stressed when they are young will not be as productive as those that are nurtured and well cared for.  Seedlings must be grown in good quality soil, watered regularly and then planted when they are ready. Inconsistent watering and being left too long in small pots will lead to problems as they grow and issues with fruiting.

Water is essential. To get a good harvest will mean shading during summer and regular, water especially in the hot dry SA summers.

Many people give up when gardens fail to thrive because they haven’t taken care of the basic needs of the plants. Different types of gardens also have different requirements. Plants grown in raised metal garden beds, wooden ones, pots or garden patches all have different needs.

Kitchen gardens that work require time and research. In SA we have lots of great garden gurus to help us.

 

Sustainable Procurement

To procure means to acquire something in a careful manner. Sustainable procurement essentially involves thoughtful consideration of environmental and social as well as financial aspects when purchasing goods and services. It is about purchasing that goes beyond the up-front costs of making the purchase to determine the whole of life environmental and social costs, or total life cost (TLC). There are many variations associated with different commodities and services.  For example, buying local is always best but not always available. An organization with a focus on sustainable procurement aims to: reduce consumption of resources, minimise the environmental impact of the resources it does require, and support and promote environmentally healthy goods.

Some of the issues with sustainable procurement?

Sustainable procurement takes time. The process of sustainable procurement is a complex and time consuming process when done appropriately and can be difficult for small business operators to achieve. Researching information on products or services to determine their environmental and social impacts can be quit onerous.

However options to achieve greater influence for small businesses can be created through partnering with other organizations to increase the purchasing power eg a cooperative of similar services.

Small businesses are also helped by external certifications. This is where an external body or agency certifies the sustainability of a product. Knowing if the products has trusted certification (eg. FSC, Fair Trade, Australian Energy Standards) will save you time and energy as the key questions about the environmental and social costs have been researched by an external body in order for the product to receive the certification. Sustainable procurement can at least be used when purchasing major items like computer, printers and white goods. Suppliers of these products should have environment policies and even carbon reduction reports available for customers.

What you can do?

  • Despite the difficulties you can still have sustainable procurement as a goal.
  • All individuals and businesses can use start with the following key points.
  • The first step in sustainable procurement is always to avoid or reduce consumption.
  • Remember ‘the lowest cost option up-front may not be the cheapest over the life of the asset’.
  • Have conversations with suppliers to promote sustainable practices.
  • Develop a procurement checklist that is used before any new item or services are purchased.