When we are out and about, it happens again and again: one of the children finds an empty can, the remains of a plastic bag or broken glass in the grass, on the forest floor or on the side of the path. “But that’s dangerous for the animals!” says Leon indignantly. He and the others can’t understand why people just throw their trash into the environment instead of taking it back home. “Or in the bins, there’s plenty there,” Ayla wonders.
What happens when we don’t take care of the environment
Environmental protection and sustainability are more important today than ever before. Climate change is now a reality and threatens the foundations and a livable future for our children. Many of them have witnessed the flood disaster of the past weeks and want to know why it happened and what can be done about it. Climate change is an abstract word under which they have little idea. Flooding, on the other hand, which is directly related to the changing climate, is very vivid and tangible for children.
What can we actively do for climate protection?
“Lights out, lights out!” shouts Max at the end of a long day at daycare. He is the last to be picked up and checks again to make sure the lights are off in every room. He knows that leaving the overhead lights on all night will only consume electricity unnecessarily. When it comes to water, too, everyone makes sure that the taps are always well turned off and that nothing drips or is wasted. Understanding interrelationships, conserving resources such as water or energy, and above all: becoming active ourselves – this is how we can introduce children to the sustainable use of valuable resources.
Another option is to go out and pick up litter. Questions quickly arise such as: Where does all this garbage come from? What happens to plastic packaging when we throw it in the bin? Will they be burned, recycled, taken to another country? How does it become the tiny microplastics we find in fish and seabirds? The children are wide-eyed when they learn that microplastics are also in their favorite shampoo.
Regional and seasonal shopping
In the farm day care centre we want to make agricultural production tangible with all the senses. How are potatoes, lettuce or carrots grown, how do they get from the field to the plate? In Germany, we import over 60 percent of the vegetables and 80 percent of the fruit. This means a lot of energy for the often complex water supply and the greenhouses on site, for cooled interim storage and long transport routes by plane, ship or truck. All of this pollutes the climate and the environment and ultimately contributes to global warming. But what we grow and harvest here on site saves transport and long storage – and often tastes better too!
Planting and harvesting together
“The salad is much crunchier and tastier than at home,” Emma notes over lunch. No wonder, after all, all varieties can ripen completely in our garden and do not have to go green or half-ripe on the journey. We plant and harvest together in the farm nursery garden. This way the children know exactly when it is harvest time and what ripe vegetables look like. And they can taste the difference too.
Cooking yourself, without any additives
Several times a week we also cook completely fresh – without any ready-made or convenience products, flavour enhancers or preservatives. We treat the food with care, try to throw away as little as possible and think about how we can use the leftovers.
We treat all food with respect and prepare it as gently as possible. After all, vitamins and minerals should be preserved so that the children are well cared for all round. In this way, they not only learn to be mindful of food, but also to eat a balanced diet. By the way, children are also really eager to try out harvesting vegetables themselves and helping to prepare them!
Our menu adapts to the seasons so that we can use many products from the region. We almost always bring organic fruit and vegetables from suppliers around Munich to the table, as well as meat and fish from species-appropriate animal husbandry.
Organic or conventional?
But is organic really more sustainable? The unequivocal answer is yes. This has been proven by numerous studies. Organic farming has a positive impact on our soils and biodiversity and helps to protect groundwater and surface water – unfortunately conventional farming is lagging behind.
Living soils and clean water are the foundation for us and our children to live healthy long-term lives. Organic farming also uses less fertilizer and can produce in a more energy-efficient way than conventional farming. The animals are usually better off, too, because stricter standards apply to animal husbandry in terms of outdoor space and feed than in conventional farming.
Understanding why sustainability is important
When children ask questions and get profound answers, they learn about different points of view and are able to understand the connections in their environment. Appreciation for animals and plants can form the basis for sustainable action in everyday life, today and as adults.
Explaining sustainability to children and teaching them to live sustainably is not difficult at all if we adults show them how. Whether separating waste, shopping consciously, throwing away less or cycling instead of driving: Many small steps ultimately contribute to change.
“You can never solve problems with the same mindset that created them.”
Photos by phuc-long, zbynek-burival, noah-buscher, janko-ferlic via unsplash