top of page

Sustainability Goals Series: How To Take Small Steps To Make Your Setting More Sustainable

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

The world today is facing an overwhelming and diverse mix of challenges; some are natural but many are of our own making. As guests and caretakers on this planet, we have a duty to use our time well and act, in whatever way we can, to protect, preserve and improve the precious natural resources and environments that make our planet unique and lifegiving.

Equally, as grown ups - and more importantly educators - it is our job to calmly but candidly address the issues that face us and future generations. A key element of this is discussing what part we play in the various crises and ways in which we can be proactive and offset our impact.

This is easy to say, but a daunting task if you are starting from scratch. A good guide to refer to is the United Nations Sustainability Goals which outline how the global community can work towards a more sustainable future. Of course, you might want to adapt these so they are practicable on a more local level within your own setting or community. We lead by example, so if our children see us doing little bits to make the world a better place, it will become second nature to them as they grow up.

Over the next few months, we will be looking at some examples of the UN Sustainability Goals in action, closer to home. Feel free to choose one and make it a focus or a couple to ease into. Below, we’ve started with the first of the 17 goals - No Poverty - and shared some simple ideas on how you can work on this in your setting.

Goal 1: No Poverty

“End Poverty In All Its Forms, Everywhere”

Poverty and economic inequality is sadly an age-old problem, so nobody is expected to end it single-handedly. But there are small ways you can ease poverty for those working in and attending your setting.

Perhaps consider ways in which you can reduce the extra costs of attending for families who might be struggling, with a uniform swap shop or a book and toy borrowing library, to enable children from all backgrounds to access learning and play at home.

There is also support from local authorities and national charities or organisations to help families and ease child poverty.

Remember to keep an eye on your staff too. It’s no secret the sector struggles with low wages and poverty can, understandably, impact someone’s mental, emotional and even physical wellbeing.

Get to know your staff in case their home life impacts them at work. Sometimes indicators present in a person’s physical appearance, change in behaviour, or with them becoming increasingly withdrawn. You might have a team with a mix of lone parents, individuals who are the main income in their family or struggling with a partner’s job loss (especially post-Covid with furlough winding down).

Continued stigma surrounding poverty and fears of how they might be judged at work could prevent a team member letting you know their financial situation so be alert and aware of any signs that an individual is struggling. Better yet, have steps in place to support and signpost those affected by poverty, even without direct intervention.

A quick example of this is keeping people informed; perhaps putting up a poster about the local food bank (encouraging people to both access and donate), keep healthcare and hygiene essentials (bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste, washcloths and hairbrushes or hair ties) in the staff room should a member of the team need to brush their teeth, freshen up or access sanitary products. So-called ‘staples’ are often the first ‘luxury items’ to go when people struggle.

A recap of 5 simple things you can implement at your setting to help ease the effects of poverty:

● Uniform swap shop - Children grow quickly, so if you have uniform at your setting, why not host termly (or at least yearly) uniform swap shops. Families can benefit from this, saving them financially without having to sacrifice properly fitting clothes. Bonus: it reuses and recycles, so old outgrown uniform doesn’t end up in the landfill! (Tip: You can do a staff uniform swap shop too).

● Toy & Book library - We spend a lot of time and effort ensuring our settings are inviting, inspiring spaces for little ones to play and learn in. However, we want the learning (and the play!) to continue when they’re at home too, no matter their financial situation. Enter: the book and toy lending library. Limit the number to a couple of books and/or toys at once, with lending periods a week at a time. This will give plenty of opportunity to rotate items so everyone has fair access to varied and age-appropriate toys and books.

Noticeboard updates for indirect signposting - This is one of the easiest ways to help others in need at your setting. It is indirect, subtle, but very useful. A poster detailing local food bank locations and times will prompt people to donate, but also to access if they need it. An ‘information only’ notice with a number to call the local authority about benefits and help, or to call somewhere like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau for advice on finances. Even allowing other families to post “free to a good home” listings on there will - to some degree - empower others struggling with poverty.

Small stock of supplies for staff - Stocking up on a few personal care items might not seem like a big step or a way of easing the personal impact of poverty, but for those foregoing life’s little luxuries, the option to access what they need (if they can’t otherwise) not only ensures a professional appearance and improved personal hygiene, but also improves their mental and emotional wellbeing. Small steps cover many miles.

Open door policy - One of the simplest but most effective ways to support those overcoming poverty within your setting is to have an open door. Make the effort to show staff and families that you are ready, willing and welcoming to anyone who needs to talk. It is important to keep boundaries, but if people know that you will lend an ear in a confidential and non-judgemental way, it goes a long way towards removing some of the shame and stigma that sadly prevails when it comes to individual and families struggling financially.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow...the act of living and working sustainably has to be sustainable itself. So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by how much there is to do - small scale or not - then approach it realistically and strategically.

As we move through the year and you’re introduced to sustainability goals and ways to put them into practice closer to home, you might feel more comfortable choosing one or two sustainability goals to focus on in your setting or community.

When you have these sussed, you can look to tackle one or two more. Building up to it means you embed sustainable practice at work, at home and in the community. This will inevitably lead to children, families and neighbours following your wonderful example.

Be patient and remember that things take time, but if we all do one or two small things better, it makes a big difference overall.

Good luck and be sure to share your progress as we move through the series!

23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page