Adopting a Sustainable Approach in Early Years Settings and at Home

There are lots of ways you can adapt a sustainable approach in your early years setting or at home when planning your menu and food shopping . It is a great way to teach children about the benefits to the environment. The small steps you make can have a big impact towards taking care of our environment and reducing our carbon footprint to protect future generations! Families can also adapt the same approach at home.

Children collecting bottles in a recycling box

Why is important to think about sustainability?

  • Declining fish stocks- many well- known species, including Bluefin tuna and Cod, are likely to be extinct by 2048.Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

Two fish

  • Intensive farming– such as rearing cows for beef, as a huge impact on the environment and are a large contributor of Co2 emissions. Animal farming causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, lorries and planes in the world put together!
  • The environment impact of transporting food– did you know that 95% of fruit and 50% of vegetables eaten in the UK are imported? Locally sourced carrots have around 20 food miles whist many regular shop bought carrots use around 1,838 food miles!

How can we adapt a more sustainable approach?

When Cooking:

  • Eat foods in season– this will ensure you have foods at their best! Foods in season are often cheaper too. Plan menus around produce that is in season. Not sure which foods are in season? Check out our blog on Seasonal Vegetables and Fruit (opens in new tab) to learn what is in season this month!
  • Cook from scratch– this way you’ll use less processed and packaged foods. If you use a catering company (early years settings) ask about their approach to sustainability.
  • Store food correctly– this ensures you’re maximising it’s shelf life and reducing the chance of food waste. Regularly check that the temperature of your fridge is between 0-4 C. You could also freeze food (if safe to do so) if you’re concerned you may not get round to using the food before it spoils.


  • Grow your own vegetables, fruit and herbs- this will reduce the cost of your shopping and teach children how to grow and care for plants at the same time!This will help to reinforce the sustainable approach in your early years setting. Families can try simple growing activities at home such as growing cress on the window. Check out our Growing and Gardening (opens in new tab) activity cards for lots of ideas!

Children opening a pea pod


When Shopping

  • Make a list– this helps you to buy only the produce and food items that you need which will result in less food waste.
  • Buy locally produced foods– as this has a lower environmental impact. For example, choose local starchy foods such as potatoes and bread which are sustainable sources of energy. Follow the national guidelines by including them at each main meals and as part of at least one snack daily.
  • Choose more environmentally sustainable foods– for example, choose non-meat sources of protein such as beans and pulses as alternatives to meat. The Eat Better Start Better guidelines (opens in new tab) suggests early years settings have at least one meat free day a week. Early years settings can share this information in a Food Policy to help families learn more about your sustainable approach.
  • Choose fish displaying the Marine Stewardship Council logo– this guarantees it is sourced  sustainably. You can also find additional information at the MSC website (opens in new tab). 

MSC Logo - Certified Sustainable Seafood


  • Buy products in bulk– this is not only cost effective but also help to reduce the number of trips that you need to make to the supermarket. You could also consider ordering you foods shops online. Better yet, walk to local markets or shops. This can be a great activity for children to be involved in!
  • Make sure you recycle and buy products with minimum packaging.
  • Share good practice– with staff, families, children and visitors to help inspire them to adapt a more sustainable approach in your early years setting and at home.

We’d love to hear how you’re working towards being a more sustainable setting! Leave us a comment and share your ideas and suggestions 🙂 

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