Although we've all heard the term climate change, few people actually know what it truly means. Even fewer people understand these changes' impact on our environment, longevity, and future generations. Simply put, climate change is a change in the usual weather found in one specific location. It could be shifting in the total rainfall a territory receives or the average temperatures for a season (or, on a smaller scale, a monthly average).
Climate change is also a change in the Earth's climate. For example, this might include an overall change in the Earth's temperature (either warmer or colder than usual) or geographical location of precipitation; if it snows in areas that typically don't receive any or areas wind up getting significant amounts of rain). It's important to remember that weather can change within hours; climate takes hundreds and millions of years to shift.
What Causes Changes in the Earth's Climate?
There are plenty of things that cause the climate to change without human influence. The distance of the Earth from the sun, the sun sending out more or less energy, or a volcano erupting is all-natural causes of climate change overall. The majority of all scientists agree that human activities also influence the climate. Heating and cooling the home, using natural resources (like coal, natural gas, or gasoline) shifts the atmosphere. These gases heat the air in our atmosphere, which can influence the geographical climate of a location. If this heat continues over extended periods, it can also change the Earth's climate.
What is the COP26 about?
The COP26 is the United Nations Climate Change Conference for 2021. For almost three decades, the UN has brought together nearly every country around the world for a conference on global climate. During the last thirty years, focus on the Earth's climate has gone from a minor influence to a global priority. Global world leaders from around the world discussed emission reduction by 2030, with targets that align to net zero in the middle of the century. These initiatives include curtailing deforestation, expediting the switch to electric vehicles, and encouraging investment in renewable energy sources. This year COP26 took place in our backyard in Glasgow, Scotland. View the key outcomes agreed at the climate talks in Glasgow.
Why does an increase in global temperature matter?
The outcomes previously predicted by scientists are coming to fruition. Climate change has already had notable effects on the environment; plants and animal ranges have shifted, glaciers have shrunk in size, lakes breaking up earlier, and trees flowering sooner. Some of the future effects of climate change predictions hold that temperatures will continue rising, bringing a consistent temperature.
Likewise, the length of the frost-free season has nationally continued to grow throughout the decades. As the temperatures continue to rise, so do the droughts and heat waves that come along with the increase. Unfortunately, that's not the only influence climate change will hold. Extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, and regional disturbances are also likely to increase frequency, severity, and intensity.
What can childcare providers do to address climate change?
While it may seem like a losing battle, every little step toward fighting climate change can make a difference. If you're looking to make a few changes in your centre, consider the following tips to reduce your impact on climate change:
1) Avoid Single-Use Plastic
Although childcare centres can't entirely avoid single-use plastics, minimizing your footprint starts with small steps. These changes might include opting for reusable shopping bags, avoiding plastic straws or disposable plates and cutlery, or avoiding unnecessary packaging whenever possible.
2) Lower Food Waste
While no one wants to consider little ones going hungry, ordering smaller quantities of fresh produce can reduce spoilage and increase the freshness overall. Always follow the first-in, first-out system using older produce before it spoils. Whenever possible, repurpose older produce for alternate use before it goes bad. Consider making soups from older vegetables, frozen treats from berries, and applesauce from older apples. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also makes for healthy snacks for little ones in the facility.
3) Always Recycle Whenever Possible
Setting a recycling program doesn't have to be time-consuming or costly; it's simply a matter of educating staff and children within the centre on how to manage different types of waste. This education might include recycling, whether paper or plastics, tin, or glass. Securing images or drawings of the various items above each bin can offer a visual for young children while providing a receptacle to reduce the waste overall. To reduce their waste further, consider implementing a compost/fertilizer program for any food waste or scraps.
4) Create vegetable gardens with the children
Not only do green spaces reduce carbon dioxide, but they also provide teachable moments for expanding minds. Young children can practice planting gardens within the centre if outside spaces exist, or they can try their hands with potted plants inside the facility. Focus on how plants grow, where food comes from, and the nutrition connected for an equally entertaining, hands-on activity and educational experience.
5) Go Paperless Whenever Possible
Many childcare centres are home to endless paperwork and documents. Using a cloud-based solution such as Cheqdin can reduce the amount of paper, printing costs, and back-and-forth exchange (which is an added benefit during a global pandemic). Instead of printing out daily registers, start taking digital attendance, switch from paper-based booking spreadsheets to online bookings and more. Not only do you save time and money by choosing paperless management software, but you also reduce your carbon footprint.
6) Eat Less Meat and Dairy
While it's impractical to be a vegetarian or vegan facility, offering several meat-free days throughout the week is a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint. Red meat is a significant contributor to environmental impact, with one cheeseburger equivalent to six servings of fish and chips. Consider adding meat and dairy alternatives, along with locally sourced ingredients.
7) Switch to low energy bulbs
Using energy-efficient products are suitable for the environment and can save your setting money in the process. Whenever possible, choose products that use less energy to run the centre. This might include lowering the heat temperature during the cooler months by a few degrees, switching bulbs to energy-efficient LED options, or setting lights to sensor-style options (that shut off after periods of inactivity).
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