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Greening up lives. The way forward in sustainable steps
We've all become accustomed to the many, varied and sometimes curious words connected to sustainability and the environment. Related terminology is now part of the national lingo. Hopefully, by now, most people lead at least partial sustainable lives and are environmentally aware. Even if you choose to ignore the message, there's no doubt that it is up to each and every one of us to play a part in protecting the planet. What part do gardens play in all this? Quite a large part, actually...
Caring for the environmentThe environmental awareness message is part of schooling and education. Indeed, around 70 per cent of UK schools are part of the Eco-Schools programme. This provides a guide framework to help schools make sustainability all part of normal school life. Whilst it might not be part of the national curriculum in terms of separate topics, sustainable living certainly does play a part within the school day. Most school grounds now have growing and gardening areas. Why? Because it has been shown that engaging with the natural world helps people in many different ways. Firstly, it encourages them to become more environmentally aware and the adults of tomorrow might therefore be growing environmentally conscious habits. Secondly, it really does help children in their journey to becoming socially, physically and academically able.
Gardens, why are they good for you?
Gardening is educational. It helps children to develop new skills and to improve and expand their existing abilities. Take the science of plants and animals, for example. Understanding cause and effect is really valuable. If you are responsible enough and care for your plants they will grow. If you don't water during dry weather, they will die.
What are seeds? And what do they turn into? There's a wealth of learning to be enjoyed when children (and adults) plant seeds and watch what happens. Hey presto, there's a lesson in nutrition. Fresh food can be grown from seed and fruit can be planted out in the garden. Then everyone can enjoy eating it.
The weather is a good indicator of when to water. Keeping a 'weather eye' will enable you to work out when's a good time to protect against frost. What is the weather? What's rain? It's fun to find out.
Physical funPhysical fitness: theres nothing boring about using garden tools responsibly and all the activity that lifting, carrying, planting and digging encourages. Self-confidence develops as children discover they are just as good as the next person when they wield a garden fork instead of a pencil. A love of physical exercise can certainly be sustainable!
Then there's mathsCounting runner beans or rows of vegetables, even matching the number of plant ties that are required. There's plenty of counting tasks to be found out in the garden. What's more, the small people won't even realise they are learning.
CommunicationThere are plenty of social skills to be gained from working in groups, talking to others about various activities, problem solving and even writing or drawing about the outdoor fun afterwards. All these are highly valuable. Joining the ECO Schools and other programmes Its easy, and often completely free of charge. Whatever organisation you belong to, there is probably an environmental scheme that might help to improve it. Most sorts of schools, from nurseries through to special needs or secondary, can join the Eco Schools programme. Registered schools receive a monthly e-newsletter in which there are details of training courses and conferences. Schools work towards their Green Flag via Bronze and Silver awards.
Funding opportunitiesOther programmes and funding opportunities exist. In fact they are numerous, particularly for young people. Here's a just a few ideas: The Arts Council: this organisation provides grants ranging from £1,000 to £30,000. It's for individuals and arts organisations and projects which help artists. Tel: 0845 300 6200. Awards for All: there are grants available ranging from £300 to £10,000 for schools and other community organisations in the UK. It is intended for projects that encourage art, sport and community activities. Tel: 0845 410 2030.
More than just waste or DIY!
Biffa has grants available for community spaces and places for outdoor recreation. Tel: 01636 670000. B&Q, the DIY store, awards One Planet Living Grants for materials to support community projects. This store also has a Waste Donation system for local organisations whereby seconds such as can be given to local groups.
Protecting wildlifeBig Community Wildlife has grants available from £300 upwards for projects that help protect local wildlife. Tel: 0845 4102030. The Educational Grants Advisory Service helps students aged over 16 who are thinking about further education. These are intended for those who are not entitled to statutory funding and priority is given to lone parents and those from underprivileged backgrounds. Tel: 0207 241 7459. There are many, many more funding organisations who are there to support good work. Some are gardening and wildlife-based whilst others are community and education-focussed. Doing something worthwhile? There might be something available to support you. Visit www.princes-trust.org.uk to find out more.
The six steps along the path to a better world?
- Education - learn about things that matter. Teach children to appreciate nature and the environment.
- Recycle, and be proud of doing so.
- Use the earth resources wisely.
- Community: get involved in it.
- Get outside and garden! Plants are good for you.
- Practise what you preach. Lead by example.