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Sustainability as a Way of Life

In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognizing abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, author and botanist

A recent New York Times article describes the small Japanese town of Kamikatsu, which has been working since 2003 to fulfill a “Zero Waste” declaration. Their Zero Waste Center offers 45 ways to recycle waste, motivating citizens with information and incentives, such as sharing what will become of the recycled materials and offering points redeemable for recycled and carbon-neutral products. The town also has a brewery that relies on crops too imperfect for market and a restaurant with a changing menu based on what’s abundant and available.

Actions like these speak louder than words, but how can early childhood programs focus on sustainability in developmentally appropriate ways?  The question is often framed as a choice between inspiring wonder in nature versus teaching environmental action. In an article that accompanies the Exchange Reflections, “To Save or Savor,” Ruth Wilson argues we can do both, aligning environmentally appropriate practice with developmentally appropriate practice. Citing several studies which note children's competence, compassion and connections with nature, Wilson concludes, “Integrating sustainability and early childhood education represents a 'goodness of fit' with benefits to children, society and the world of nature.”

Wilson served as an advisor for the recently released Environmental Kinship Guide by Fox, Gessler, Higgins, Meade, Warden and Williams Ridge. This free guide brings structure to the integration of care and wonder by considering ways children are learning inwithabout and for nature.

Heather Fox will be presenting on the guide at the Nature Explore | Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute on July 24-27.

Please share your developmentally appropriate sustainability approaches in the comments!

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