Sustainability in Early Childhood Education Settings

Author: Lara Jennings   Date Posted: 28 August 2018 


In this blog post we discuss:

  • Why sustainability is so important in Early Childhood Education
  • What sustainability looks in Early Childhood Education
  • Easy ways for you to embed sustainability into your Early Childhood Education setting
  • How to create a Sustainability Policy
  • What is #CAREFACTOR


Why is sustainability important in early childhood?

Sustainability is important for us to address in early childhood because if children don’t find a connection to nature, how are they going to know they are responsible for protecting it? If they don’t have a positive connection to nature in the early years, then there’s a stronger possibility they might not care for nature when they get older.

We need to use these early years to connect children to nature, connect them with the environment and to help them appreciate the natural world so that when they’re adults, they too want to protect and care for it.


CARE is key

The key word here when we’re talking about sustainability is CARE. We want children to be able to care for the natural environment that they are a part of.

Sustainability isn’t just about caring for the natural environment, we need to make sure that there is care for the people who create the resources. It’s important to know that the resources we use everyday have been made under fair working conditions with care for those who made them.

At Offspring Education a big part of our policy is to find these things out.

Before we stock a product, we research what the working conditions are like for the people who created them. We want to make sure that every resource we put in to an early learning centre, has been made, with not only care for the natural environment, but also care for those who made them.



Make this a part of your Sustainability Policy

This should also be a part of your sustainability policy in your early learning service. Your policy should cover more than just environmental sustainability. You must ensure that the resources you include are sustainably created with care for the environment but also with care for the people who made them.


National Quality Standards

The National Quality Standard tells us of the importance of being environmentally responsible for early childhood education providers. Element 3.2.3 is titled ‘Environmentally Responsible’. This means as a service we need to care for the environment and support children to become environmentally responsible.

This is a BIG ask!

What does being ‘Environmentally Responsible’ actually mean? There are so many parts to Environmental Responsibility.

Within National Quality Standard Element 3.2.3, we can break this down into two parts:

  1. As a Service you;
    1. Have a Sustainability Policy
    2. Implement this Sustainability Policy
    3. Have resources that are environmentally friendly and focused on sustainability
  2. Your Program;
    1. Encourages children to take responsibility and care for their environment
    2. Engage children in this program in meaningful ways so they are learning how they can be responsible as well


Have Sustainability Policy

A Sustainability Policy is the guiding document for everyone involved in your service. This Policy clearly identifies what you are aiming to achieve and what is expected of each and every person in the service. This could include:

  • How you are going to make reductions to waste, water and energy consumption
  • How you are going to select resources you use e.g. resources that use natural materials, produced sustainably and sourced fair trade


Next step… Implement!

Your Sustainability Policy then needs to be implemented. This involves sharing the Policy across the service so that everyone knows what their responsibility is and the processes and procedures to achieving their responsibilities. Make sure each educator is on board with this Policy and understands what is expected of them. You will also stipulate why you include (and/or exclude) specific resources in your centre.

It is really important that you create your Sustainability Policy together as a service. Ensure that this is talked about as a team. You could brainstorm ideas in a staff meeting…. Perhaps start with talking about what you are already doing as a service that is sustainable and then come up with ideas of what you could include in your Policy going forward. Use the ideas that were discussed as a team to create your Policy.


How to lay out your Sustainability Policy

Introduction –

  1. State why your Sustainability Policy is important
  1. List the goals for your service -
    Here is an example of goals from a Community Childcare Cooperative (CELA)
    1. The education and care service will ensure that the environment is safe, clean and well maintained.
    2. Children’s awareness of the environment will be promoted through daily practices, resources and interactions
    3. Sustainable practices will be encouraged within the education and care service. Educators, children and families will be encouraged to become advocates for a sustainable future.
  2. List your strategies
    1. Take the ideas you discussed as a team and turn these into strategies. A strategy refers to the actions you will take to achieve your environmentally sustainable ideas.
      For example, your service could join or align yourself with environmental education networks to liaise with other education and care services and keep up to date with practices and ideas. There could also be local environmental services you could align with.
    2. We have put together a list of strategic ideas that you could imbed in your service. Check these out here. This list is a great start to reflect on your own practices as a service. You could use this list as a starting point for discussing your Environmental Sustainability Policy.
  3. Plan of action


If your service is doing some amazing things with sustainability we would love to hear about it! Reply to this blog or contact us.


we’ve introduced #CAREFACTOR to help you identify sustainable products easily:


Find out more here



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