Sustainability (noun): 1. the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
2. The avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. (Cambridge Dictionary).
Our fourth value at Canopy Forest School is sustainability and like all our value’s sustainability is woven into everything that we do. We understand sustainability as being the ability to maintain and support a process continuously over time. It is about meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This refers not only to natural resources but also to social and economic ones as sustainability is embedded in social equity and economic development. Our core value definition of it is:
“To use methods that do not harm the environment so that natural resources are still available in the future. To be able to support eco-systems so they can continue over a period of time”
Sustainability informs how we work, the resources we buy, the companies we work with, and who our business is run through because we believe that these are some of the most powerful tools for changing the world for the better. We strive to provide exciting and adventurous forest school activities whilst contributing to a sustainable future through the resources, activities, and actions that we take. We think it is important that every element of our business is true to our vision, ethos, and mission. Our Forest School recognises that there is a multiplicity of linked social, economic, political, cultural, and technological elements that impact on actual sustainable and environmentally safe activities. In an increasingly complex world for young people and young adults Canopy Forest School strives to be an educator of small actions and steps that are quick, simple, and easy to achieve by anyone regardless of their background, income, health, or employment status. We are committed to our green values and because of this we support local wildlife charities such as Hampshire Wildlife Trust and make a 5% donation for every child enrolled on our books. We believe that we can make an impact by taking small steps that can make a big difference.
For each site that we work at we always produce an Ecological Impact Report, A Sustainable Woodland Action Plan, A 3-year Sustainable Woodland Management Plan and these documents guide and direct the work that we do. These formal systems have helped us to identify and create an inventory of all the flora and fauna that exist on the sites we use as well as the topography, substratum, site history, ownership, management, and protection. This process evaluates the factors which support and enhance of interactions with this space and the mitigation measures that we have put in place to protect this environment. (https://www.canopy-forest-school.com/our-forest-school-site)
We are committed to being stewards of the environment and understand the important role that we play in connecting people to the natural world. We aim to educate children and adults in the benefits of sustainability and therefore thread this through all learning taking place. Our mantra is: "Take only memories and leave only footprints" Chief Seattle, therefore after each session any waste that is created is either recycled or composted. All waste is collected in recyclable paper bags. Re-usable cups and only healthy compostable snacks are offered each session. During cooking activities, we always ensure that all food is taken away from the site and we only use environmentally friendly biodegradable soap. Any dish water that is produced is strained through a fine mesh or into a container. Any food bits captured in this process are put in the designated rubbish area and 'grey water' is disposed of by broadcasting it over a wide area. All the equipment at Forest School is re-used, repaired, cleaned to make sure it is used for as long as possible. Added to this we have written policies and procedures including, Our Forest School Site: Provision and Environmental Impact: 1 &2, Daily Operations Procedures-Before and During Session, Daily Operations Procedures-After each Session, Sustainability Policy all of these can be found in our handbook https://www.canopy-forest-school.com/handbook and outline our responsibilities and commitments as a Forest School.
During our long-term programme we share with our students our 3 Year Sustainable Woodland Action Plan. They are taught about sustainable woodland management and as part of this they will actively take part in coppicing trees such as hazel, sowing wildflower seeds, putting up houses and boxes for wildlife and taking part in flora and fauna conservation surveys. These activities not only actively help us to care for the site but also develop our community’s relationship to it. We learn woodland management techniques and at the same time can use the harvested wood to make objects and put the wood to good use.
Finally, at Canopy Forest School we have developed a meaningful climate emergency declaration (Appendix 1). By making this declaration we acknowledge the significant impact climate change is having on the world and commit to taking meaningful action to reduce our environmental impact.
To us a climate emergency means that we:
• Acknowledge the scientific indicators e.g., IPCC reports on warming and UN reports on loss of biodiversity and consequences of economic growth.
• Accept the urgency of the situation: if we have a real chance of tackling these issues, we must take urgent and immediate action within the next few years.
• Acknowledge that our purpose as educators is to connect the communities we work with to the natural world, model sustainable education practices and teach about the great importance of taking action to support of the minimisation of climate change.
Alongside our declaration we have developed a Climate Action Route Map (CARM) (Appendix 2). The aim of our Climate Action Route Map (Appendix 3) is to:
1. Communicate the facts regarding climate change with our Forest School community and beyond
2. Review the coverage of climate change within our sessions in meaningful ways
3.To refine the processes, we use on our Forest School sites to minimize the effects of climate change
4.To involve our students in the planning and implementation of a sustainable educational approach
We think that it is important to hold onto the hope that as a global society we can make a difference and come together to fix what is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. We think our work as Forest School leaders is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of our beautiful planet and all its inhabitants. Our choices matter and as a Forest School we take responsibility for the impact that our choices have on the planet. The ripples of our work will spread and we hope to inspire others and help them on their own sustainable journey. Connecting, Growing, Exploring and living a more sustainable life.