“In the face of climate change, diet-related ill-health, and widespread decline in wildlife, the need to change our food systems has never been greater.”

The Soil Association

Did you know?

There are 2,500 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the world’s soils - more than in the plants, trees and the atmosphere combined.Organic farming creates healthy, living soils and organic farmland is, on average, around 25% more effective at storing carbon in the long-term than non-organic land.

Last month, the UN Climate Report made sobering reading for everyone, and it is clear that we need to act now to avert a catastrophe on a worldwide scale. In this magazine article, you can read some ideas to help with sustainability on page 28, which links into this article on Organic September too, a month-long campaign by The Soil Association to encourage everyone to be more organic.

The September campaign is run every year and it has never been more important for each of us to do our bit to help. You can sign up to a newsletter on the official website and also get some practical tips on how to make small changes to live in a more sustainable way. If one nursery setting makes a few changes and encourages their parents to do the same, think how much could be achieved if all nurseries did a little bit? It’s how change really happens.

Why organic?

Farming organically, growing food organically yourself, and eating more organic food have many benefits to people and the planet, and if we want to live more sustainably on the earth to prevent climate change, it has to be at least one weapon in our arsenal. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased biodiversity
  • More wildlife habitats
  • Higher standards of animal welfare
  • Reduction of pesticides and exposure to pesticides
  • Reduced reliance on artificial fertilisers
  • Increased storage of carbon in soil
  • Cleaner water systems
  • No genetically-modified (GM) foods
  • Reduced use of antibiotics in animals
  • Better tasting food
  • Reduced waste
  • Nutritionally better food
  • Better farming for the planet as a whole

Did you know?

Organic farms have around 50% more bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

What does organic mean?

According to The Soil Association, ‘organic’ is “a system of farming and food production where organic farmers aim to produce high-quality food, using methods that benefit our whole food system, from people to planet, plant health to animal welfare”. In order to be classed as organic and gain the organic kitemark, farmers must work to a strict set of food-production standards, which must legally comply with strict EU regulations. Farms are inspected at least once a year by an authorised certification body, and need to show that they sustain the health of:

  • Soils
  • Ecosystems
  • Animals
  • People

These standards are built on the key principles of organic agriculture:

  • Health
  • Ecology
  • Care
  • Fairness

In practice, this means that instead of relying on chemicals designed to destroy weeds (weedkillers) and insects/other pests (pesticides), organic farmers aim to create a natural balance between plants and animals to prevent pests, and grow crops in rotation or in complimentary plantings to support the natural fertilisation and sustainability of the soil. Organic farmers also encourage birds, beetles and other ‘beneficial insects’ such as ladybirds on their farms to eat pests such as aphids, slugs and caterpillars.

Did you know?

Adult ladybirds can eat about 5,000 aphids (greenfly and blackfly) and will lay 20-50 eggs a day, quickly building a large beneficial population.

How to support Organic September in your nursery

On the Soil Association website, they have listed at least 30 ways in which people can get involved in Organic September in small ways, so you won’t be short of ideas to run in your nursery to join the campaign. We’ve listed some of our favourite ones here to help you make a small difference that can contribute to a greater whole.

  1. Swap your normal hot drink for an organic version. In the UK, we drink 90 million cups of coffee and 100 million cups of tea a day! That’s a lot of teabags! And a lot of differences that we could make if we all swapped to an organic version of our favourite cuppa!
  2. Release some ladybirds into your environment. You can purchase ladybirds and other organic products from www.organiccatalogue.com, teach the children about their lifecycle and beneficial effects, and make a big difference to the insect population of your local area.
  3. Set up a ‘nectar café’ in your garden space or even just in pots around your front door. Visit the Wildlife Trust’s website here for ideas on the best plants to encourage bees and butterflies including buddleia, honeysuckle and grape hyacinth. Many of these plants also have heavenly scents so you can incorporate them into a sensory planting area too.
  4. If you have space, why not grow some organic vegetables with the children? Potatoes and carrots are easy to grow, even in pots, and you can use them to make some easy, tasty treats when they’re ready such as jacket potatoes, potato salad or a hearty winter vegetable and carrot soup. You can get carrots in a whole host of colours other than orange too, which could be a great way to introduce the topic of diversity and inclusion into your setting as well.
  5. Link Organic September to a healthy eating session in your setting. You can use organic eggs to make omelettes or use other organic ingredients to create some organic cakes and biscuits. Why not shape them into ladybirds and decorate them with organic chocolate buttons or coloured icing too?
  6. Bake some organic bread. Baking bread is a fun thing to do with children and you can use a traditional sourdough recipe from Vanessa Kimbell with wild yeast, or there are other delicious recipes on the Soil Association site or via an internet search too.
  7. Finally, make your own organic beauty products. It’s not just our food that uses organic products. Much of the beauty industry still use ingredients that are either not organic or are not farmed sustainably. Check out how to make a natural organic face mask here, which you can use on the hands of your little ones instead of their faces if preferred to make them lovely and soft!

Whatever you do to celebrate Organic September, we’d love to hear about it, so remember to send your stories and photos to us at hello@parenta.com.

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