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Sea Champion Natasha Stewart shares how she has brought change across her local council area.

"I work as an Early Years Practitioner at Hope Cottage Nursery in Edinburgh. In 2019, I attended an inspirational talk by Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell that highlighted the work the Marine Conservation Society do to protect our oceans.

Reducing our plastic waste

Following this talk and ahead of COP26, my colleagues and I agreed a workplace Eco Pledge in line with Zero Waste Scotland, to cut down, cut out and source natural instead of synthetic. Our Eco Pledge aimed to help tackle the huge problem of plastic waste, by making permanent, sustainable changes.

Our children no longer use plastic tape (preventing over 1400m going into landfill per year), glitter, or so-called 'eco-glitter'. We no longer use felt tips, sequins or other small single-use plastics. Using cotton aprons for food preparation and cutting out unnecessary plastic glove use now saves over 600 plastic aprons and 700 pairs of gloves from landfill each year.

We also have an Eco Section in our online parent newsletter. Staff and parents share sustainability tips, information and community eco-events. Our annual garden party has been renamed the ‘Big Blue Garden Party’ and is a plastic-free event, featuring our children’s Ocean Art exhibition, a culmination of our ocean learning for the year.

Utilising the knowledge of the Marine Conservation Society Education Team

We made links with the Marine Conservation Society Educational Programme. Through this, we've learnt about different jobs to protect the ocean, creatures that inhabit it and the positive actions we can take to help it. We now make an annual beach trip with our older children.

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Credit: Iain Stewart

In May 2023, Hope Cottage Nursery won a Scottish Education Award for making a difference in Sustainability. We believe the Hope Cottage ethos can transfer into educational settings across Edinburgh, and our children's environmental and sustainable learning should be mirrored with biodegradable, sustainable and ethical resources across the city.

With the help of our local councillor Steve Burgess, we invited Edinburgh Council Procurement to discuss removing non-sustainable items from citywide educational resources, beginning with glitter and so-called biodegradable glitter. At the end of 2023, this historic initiative was put in place.

Inspiring the next generation to look after our planet

The ocean needs our help. An important place to start is to change adult behaviour and habits. Implementing a few things to cut out in the workplace will have a positive knock-on effect in the home for families and communities.

We must be careful not to bring issues of Climate Crisis to our young children, but instead focus on widening and deepening their experience of the natural world and marking their respect and love of nature."

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Credit: Iain Stewart

Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity - and indeed, all of life on Earth, now depends on us.

Sir David Attenborough

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