How thoughtful purchasing choices can support ECEC services to be more sustainable
Quality Area 3 of the National Quality Standard asks early childhood education and care (ECEC) services to ensure that there are resources, materials and equipment available to be used in multiple ways, and there are enough to allow for every child to engage in play-based learning.
When it comes to services catering for 100 children or more, it’s only natural that leaders and others who make purchasing decisions would want “the most bang for their buck” – after all, ensuring there are enough resources for 100 or more children is a big ask!
How big is the problem of waste?
When things are placed into a dumpster bin in one service, it might not seem like a big deal. The scale of the problem becomes more clear when you multiply it by 15,429 – the number of early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings in Australia at last count.
That’s a lot of contribution to landfill, and to the environment, the children we educate and care for will inherit.
Australian’s generate 67 million tonnes of rubbish a year, on average, 40 percent of which goes into landfills. With a number of countries around the world having virtually eliminated the need for landfills, sending just 3 percent of their refuse to landfill, there is a lot of work to be done.
As well as asking ECEC services to make sure they have sufficient resources, Quality Area 3 tasks services with caring for the environment and supporting children to care for the environment and become environmentally responsible…but how can they do that if they are part of the problem?
Going the distance
Pricing is just one of many factors for services to consider when selecting resources. By making active choices which prioritise products which are high quality and designed to stand up to hours of play, services can contribute to a more sustainable future.
Children are hands-on explorers, who need resources which are fit for purpose, and designed to stand up to many hours of continuous play, which is why the team at MTA put each and every product “through its paces” before including it in their collection.
This process means MTA customers can feel confident that any selection made for their service has been built to stand up to many hours of play and learning by children, which in turn supports fewer products ending up in landfill at the end of their useful life.
“MTA are committed to providing high-quality resources that are tried and tested for educational learning environments,” Naomi Walker, General Manager Education Resources, Early Learning said. “Our experienced and specialised product development team do everything they can to ensure that the educational resources and equipment will ultimately be part of many playful experiences for many years to come.”
Ms Walker said the team behind product selection for early learning always places safety at the forefront, giving careful consideration to elements of design, materials, functionality and learning features, creating a unique mix of trusted favourites as well as new resources that are introduced throughout the year, to ensure there’s always something for everyone.
Part of teaching children environmental responsibility is supporting them to understand that when it comes to disposing of waste, there is no such place as “away.”
Whenever something is placed in a bin or a dumpster to be collected and disposed of, it goes somewhere, usually to landfill.
As well as the sustainability tenets of “reduce, reuse, recycle” children can be supported to learn more about what it means to care for the resources in their environment, and use them in ways which preserve the environment, as well as the life of the product itself.
Children can be involved in cleaning and repairing toys and equipment, as well as participating in discussions about waste management. One aspect of sustainable thinking which services may not have considered is the ethics of new resources coming into the service.
MTA offers a range of “greener” choices when it comes to introducing new products to a service, or indeed establishing a service which is environmentally aware, right from the start.
Many in the sector are aware of the dangers of microplastics, which are present in many products, but which are especially harmful when it comes to a long time favourite addition to ECEC arts and crafts….glitter.
Glitter is made from plastic, and when it makes its way into the environment it can be consumed by plankton, fish and birds, often with fatal effects as it builds up over time.
While many educators can no doubt connect with childhood memories of joy when glitter appeared at school to make a special project “extra sparkly”, glitter is terrible for the environment.
Thankfully MTA has a greener alternative, Creatistics Bio Glitter, made from plant cellulose, and compostable and biodegradable, with the same shiny, metallic finish of plastic glitter, without the damaging effects to the environment.
Thinking outside (and about!) the box
While sustainability is important when sourcing materials for children, it’s also important to think about how the products themselves are made and packaged. MTA have thought about this too, proudly stocking a wide range of Green Toys products made from 100 per cent recycled plastic milk bottles, and dishwasher safe.
Green Toys are non-toxic and safe for little ones to use, with no BPAs. The manufacturers prioritise safety in all their products, as well as making a difference to the future of the planet, by turning recycled milk bottles, yoghurt cups and other consumer plastics into classic toys which have been enjoyed by children for generations, perfect for role-playing.
To take the environmental effort one step further, all Green Toys products are packaged in 100 percent recyclable cardboard, with no added materials such as twist ties or cellophane wrappers. Printing on the boxes is kept to a minimum, and made with soy-based ink. Where extra padding is needed to keep Green Toys safe, the company adds components made from recycled water bottles, something which led to them winning a prestigious Greener Packaging award.
For those services who prefer to stay away from plastics, the range of Plan Toys stocked by MTA fits the bill. Founded in 1981, Plan Toys prioritise sustainability and child development, working to meet children’s developmental milestones with wooden toys which enhance both physical and cognitive development.
Plan Toys are intentionally focused on sustainability throughout the production process, seeking to minimise their environmental impact at every turn, based on the company’s three pillars of sustainable material, sustainable manufacturing, and sustainable mind.
As well as having exceptional play value, Plan Toys are non-toxic, helping children to develop cognitive and motor skills with resources that are engaging and beautiful, suitable for both the classroom and home.
Want to do more?
A good start is a sustainability audit, which will prompt services to consider all aspects of the sustainability journey, from power use to purchasing decisions.
Climbing the Little Green Steps will also support educators and leaders to begin an environmental journey.
When it comes time to make purchasing decisions or to set up a new service, MTA’s experienced consultants are able to guide decision-makers in more eco-friendly options.
To get the conversation started, contact your local MTA Representative or send the MTA team an email, to [email protected]