Sustainability is something that is close to my heart. I have almost finished my degree in Learning for Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh. Of course, I chose it as outdoor learning falls under this area, but I have learned so much more over the years I have studied.
One thing I have learned is that the word sustainability really can mean so many different things to different people. But, the Oxford Dictionary has 2 meanings for it
“the use of natural products and energy in a way that does not harm the environment”
“the ability to continue or be continued for a long time”
How do they relate to what we do?
Let’s look at the first meaning, to begin with – “the use of natural products and energy in a way that does not harm the environment.”
How does this impact us?
Well, working with children, there are so many plastic resources we could buy. They tend to be cheaper and readily available. For example, we recently purchased a range of musical instruments for the Babes in the Woods sessions. I don’t know if you have ever looked for musical instruments, but there is a real price difference between those made of sustainably sourced wood and plastic. As a business, we often have to think carefully about our costs, which relates to the other meaning of suitability which we will explore later, but we also care about the environment. We will always choose renewable, responsibly sourced materials every time. Yes, you will find the odd resource made of plastic at our sessions, but after careful consideration.
Why do we care about this?
Well, we want to leave a world fit for purpose for the next generation. We want to set that good example.
Some might say we are a totty wee business, how we can make a difference. But, if enough totty wee businesses make the choices all of a sudden, a difference can be made.
But it extends to more than just the resources. We want to ensure we use our sites in a way that cares for them and does not do harm.
Do you know, before every session, we deliver we do a litter pick?
Did you know we work with the site owners, rangers and managers to ensure we help care for the environments we work in? This level of sustainability is at the core of what we do.
The second meaning is “the ability to continue or be continued for a long time”.
As a business, we want to be here for a long time. We have huge goals and aspirations. But to achieve these, we need to be sustainable. This is where the money comes in. We need to ensure we do not charge too much, but we need to charge enough to cover staffing. We need to be mindful of the resources we buy to ensure they last and afford them.
I made the decision early on in business that I did not want to be the next millionaire. I want to make a difference in the world I live. That is why we always keep prices as low as possible.
But it is more than just money. The long term sustainability is also about me, as the founder and director, ensuring I have the right people in the right roles to continue this.
That is why I find it hard to describe what Ashleigh and Judy do; It is more than just lead sessions. It is more than just be friends with me.
They are in the position to ensure the business keeps growing. As we grow, their roles grow. I cannot sustain a business on my own. But, with their help and future staff, we can sustain it together.
And that will help us reach our big dream.
But what is our big dream?
Our big dream has sustainability at its core.
We want to create an outdoor residential centre with a difference. Most centres either deal with traditional skills or outdoor activities. We want to combine the two and more.
I want us to have an outdoor centre that children come to and spend the first part of the week exploring how to live sustainably, grow food and care for animals, and pass on the knowledge and skills of traditional crafts and arts. It helps children learn about their emotions and how to focus on them. As a society, we often look at emotions as being separate from ourselves, and they can be damaging. But, we can teach children about their feelings and how to use these for growth.
The second part of the week is about encouraging children to experience outdoor activities, from gorge walking to high ropes and more. It is about moving outwith our comfort zones together and supporting each other.
The rich experiences children would benefit from would help prepare them for life, challenges and more. It would build their confidence and resilience.
Sustainability is all about having something which can last; it can sustain. The experiences from this residential will sustain children throughout their lives.