Learning how to cut down on food waste promotes sustainable living

According to the United Nations, 17% of all food is just dumped — almost 1 billion tonnes every year. It also says that as much as a third of all food may never be eaten. Although the UK is one of the leading countries in terms of reducing the amount of food waste, there is still much more to do. Teaching children about how to reduce food waste is a practical way to promote sustainable living and environmental awareness more generally.

A new UN report, the Food Waste Index 2021, says that food waste not only increases the amount of pollution but also exacerbates harmful climate change and biodiversity loss. It is a global problem, and governments and businesses have key roles to play in dealing with it. However, individuals can also do much to ameliorate the problem: the report says that 60% of wasted food is discarded by households.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the report also makes the following points:

  • In the UK edible waste represents about eight meals per household each week
  • Cutting food waste is one of the easiest ways for people to reduce their environmental impact
  • Individual action, such as measuring portions of rice and pasta, checking the fridge before shopping and increasing cooking skills to use what is available, can help significantly in reducing the amount of waste

A six-week household trial organised by Tesco and the charity Hubbub in 2020 found that most participants were able to reduce their food waste by as much as 76% and save up to £16.50 per week, the equivalent of more than £850 per year.

The participants received guidance on food planning, food storage, batch cooking and creative cooking to use up leftover items. These are all skills that can be taught in schools.

Although “understand and apply the principles of nutrition and learn how to cook” is listed as an aim of the design and technology National Curriculum programmes of study, there is no specific reference to reducing food waste.

Life-based learning takes the current subject-based approach for children aged 5 to 11 a stage further. Subject content is respected — all of it — but it is delivered through nine life themes that directly address the challenges we face.

A focus on learning about food waste draws on knowledge and skills from subjects like mathematics, geography and PSHE. It teaches children about nutrition and healthy eating as well as helping them to adopt the skills, values and practices that ensure they live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.

Life-Based learning

Find out more about what life-based learning is all about

Physical World

Physical World is one of nine life-based learning themes

An Ailing Planet

Why we need to rethink our relationship with nature

Image at the head of this article by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay.

We need to transform our relationship with nature, says the UN

A major United Nations report has characterised humanity’s relationship with the planet as a war and called for a fundamental reset in order to secure a prosperous and sustainable future for us all.

The report, called Making Peace with Nature, has been published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its focus is the triple threat the world faces: the climate crisis, the devastation of wildlife and nature, and the pollution that causes millions of early deaths every year.

You can read more about the report here.

In his Foreword to the report, Antonio Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, opens with the words: “Humanity is waging war on nature.” The result, he says, is a “broken planet”. But the report also offers hope for a better future, alongside the depressing description of the current crisis. Part II is entitled ‘Transforming humankind’s relationship with nature is the key to a sustainable future’.

It is a huge report, long on jargon and academese as well as on detail. It is addressed, in part, to governments, to intergovernmental organisations, to global financial and business actors, and to others who bestride the world stage.

All of which can make it seem a world apart from the everyday lives of ordinary people and thus all the easier to dismiss. But it isn’t a world apart, of course. It is the same interconnected world that we are all part of, and the catastrophic failings it documents will ultimately affect us all. We cannot afford to do nothing.

The report’s final section is headed: ‘All actors have a part to play in transforming humankind‘s relationship with nature’. To prove the point, the report’s authors even devote a section (on page 140 of the full report, reproduced on page 39 of the executive summary document) to “individuals, households” and others in civil society.

There we find, for example, the call to engage in initiatives that promote sustainable consumption as well as “education and citizen-science” initiatives. There we find a plea to make “climate-friendly everyday choices on transport and consumption.” And there we find encouragement to “promote the links between environment and human health.”

The key message of Making Peace with Nature accords with the UK government’s recent Dasgupta Review, which also called for an urgent reset of humanity’s relationship with nature, including greater priority for environmental education in the curriculum at all stages of learning.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that we need to reform the school curriculum for young children to meet urgent life challenges. Three of its nine proposed themes — Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World — directly address our relationship with and appreciation of the natural world. A life-based curriculum will help children adopt the skills, values and practices that ensure they live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.

UN Report (Full)

Click to read and/or download the full version of the report

UN Report (Summary)

Click to read and/or download the review’s main messages

Life-Based Learning

Click to learn more about the life-based approach to learning

Image at the head of this article by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. from Pixabay

Coral reef threat to 25 percent of all marine creatures

Our ravished oceans face another threat: irreversible damage to the world’s beautiful coral reefs.

As reported by Aljazeera, half the corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died over the past 25 years. Climate change is irreversibly destroying the World Heritage-listed underwater ecosystem.

Coral reefs teem with life, covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, but supporting about 25 percent of all marine creatures.

“They buffer shorelines from the effects of hurricanes. An estimated 500 million people earn their livelihoods from the fishing stocks and tourism opportunities reefs provide. The tiny animals that give rise to reefs are even offering hope for new drugs to treat cancer and other diseases.” [National Geographic]

Due to global warming and warming seas, the coral is disappearing fast.

Over the last year, about 12 percent of the world’s reefs have bleached, due to El Niño and climate change. Scientists have predicted that nearly half of these reefs (more than 4,600 square miles or 12,000 square kilometers, or more than five percent of reefs) could disappear forever.

Life-based learning takes the issue of the environment seriously as one of nine equal priority themes through which all subject learning is channelled. The Physical World Theme teaches children about how environments can change as a result of human actions.

Make it, use it, throw it: A throwaway mentality is destroying the planet

The world’s oceans — majestic, awe-inspiring and essential for the survival of life on the planet — are being destroyed by eternal plastic.

‘Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. That is the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.’

Many plastics break down into smaller non-biodegradable micro sized pieces, as demonstrated by pulverising a foam polystyrene cup. Micro plastics pieces form the cloudy soup of plastic ocean swirls, the most notorious of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

‘Located in the South Pacific, Henderson Island is one of the worst places affected by plastic pollution, holding the highest density of plastic debris in the world. Around 3 500 to 13 500 new plastic items wash up here every day. The island’s East Beach spans 2km, and is polluted by 30 million plastic items.’

Lentil sized plastic pellets  known as ‘nurdles’ litter 205 of 275 British Isles beaches from Shetland to Scilly. The largest number recorded in the Great Winter Nurdle Hunt weekend in early February were found at Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, where 33 volunteers from the Widemouth Task Force collected about 127,500 pellets on a 100-metre stretch of beach.

Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. Nearly every species of seabird eats plastics.

Plastics absorb pollutants, making them poisonous to fish and we eat the fish.

Life-Based Learning brings children’s learning of science and geography to life – in the National Curriculum in England for children 5 to 11 years of age – by preparing them for the real world as adults.

What is to be done with super-trawlers?

Ravished oceans: A trilogy: part one: A Fishy Tale. Preparing children for tomorrow’s world today

‘Sea monsters’, the size of football fields, trawl nets hundreds of metres long, catching everything in their path. These refrigerated, factory ships can catch and process up to 250 tons of fish a day.

‘Bycatch’ is the euphemistic term for everything unwanted caught up in the nets to be shovelled back into the ocean – juvenile fish, non-commercial fish, dolphins, turtles, porpoises, sharks, small whales and seals.

Bottom trawling nets scrape the ocean floor. Small hole shrimp nets are especially indiscriminate. They deplete marine fauna, destabilise the marine floor and cause excessive bycatch for every shrimp caught.

Bycatch – difficult to estimate – is put at  63 billion pounds of unwanted catch caught every year, responsible for 40% of the worlds annual marine catch.

Life-Based Learning, for 5 to 11 year old children, includes learning about the human footprint in its Physical World theme.

Trilogy: parts two and three to follow:

Life-based learning on the environment ahead of the times?

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Last night David Attenborough, in the BBC documentary ‘Extinction: The Facts‘ tolled the bell on worldwide loss of habitat and biodiversity, threats to species and extinction of not just wild animals, but putting human existence itself at risk. Pulling no punches, Attenborough banged that bell to hell.

Unfortunately, while the message is not new, human impact on the environment is ever on the increase.

Only last week the Living Planet Report showed that, on average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68 per cent between 1970 and 2016.

The Independent Tackling the extinction crisis is everyone’s responsibility – and time is running short

One of the nine themes of Life-Based Learning [along with Plant Life and Animal Life] is ‘The Physical World‘. Children in Primary School learn scientific and geographical concepts, knowledge, techniques and skills through their exploration of the damage to the world’s physical resources by human activity and the impact this is having on life and living.

Is it too much to hope that the National Curriculum subjects can be rearranged to ensure our young children are prepared to meet the environmental challenges they will face as adults?

Collapse in wildlife populations caused by human activity

Image by Ylvers from Pixabay

According to the newly published Living Planet Report 2020, wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, and the principal cause is human activity.

It says that, on average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles fell by 68% between 1970 and 2016.

According to the Guardian, the report found that “from the rainforests of central Africa to the Pacific Ocean, nature was being exploited and destroyed by humans on a scale never previously recorded.”

The devastation of wildlife is principally caused by:

  • human overconsumption
  • population growth
  • intensive agriculture

Sir David Attenborough is quoted as saying that this could be the moment we [humans] learn to become stewards of the planet. “Above all,” he says, “it will require a change in perspective.”

Animal life is one of the nine themes that are at the heart of the life-based learning curriculum for children aged 5 to 11.

Life-based learning focuses on the value of animals to humanity and aims to foster in children an interest in the need to preserve animal diversity, protect animal habitats and manage the use of animals in sustainable ways to the mutual benefit of humans and the planet.

Above all, it ensures that children are sensitised to the issues facing animals caused by human use of animals and their environments.

Greenland and Antarctica melting match ‘worse-case scenario’ predictions

Image by InstaWalli Official from Pixabay

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, has confirmed the polar ice caps are losing mass at rates threatening dire sea-level rise.

As reported in the Express:

  • Trillions of tons of ice are melting
  • The melt has caused a sea level rise estimated at 17.8 mm
  • The melt contributes to coastal flooding, shifting ocean currents and extreme weather events
  • A further 6.7 inches (17 cm) rise is predicted by the end of the century to impact on millions of people.

Life-based learning gives children the foundation concepts, knowledge, attitudes and values to contribute positively in their adult lives to finding life-sustainable solutions. Life-based learning prioritises learning about and looking after the physical world.

Weather bring 1,000 tons of microplastics to US protected lands every year

[Photo: Bailey Zindel/Unsplash] Edited by Fast Company


America’s national parks and wilderness are being filled with plastic we can barely even see.

When I was young there was a saying, ‘What happens in America, happens in Britain ten years later’. The article written by Kristin Toussaint for Fast Company – see link above – reveals 1000 tons of microplastics inundate America’s protected lands – 6% of America – every year, brought in by the wind or evaporated into clouds and deposited by rainstorms. 

“The biggest category of these microplastics was fibers related to clothing. Samples included polyester, nylon, polypropylene, and PTFE, which is used in technical wear such as waterproof jackets.”

And, as far as Britain being behind America, there is every reason to suppose the same microplastics are raining down now in Britain as they are in America – no time lag there then.

Who would have thought walking in the Highlands of Scotland with your waterproof on could be polluting the environment?

Teaching about the climate emergency

Such a powerful opinion piece in Tuesday’s Education Guardian from the paper’s environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey, about the failure of the current National Curriculum adequately to address the climate crisis and sustainability more generally:

But in England, climate change barely figures on the national curriculum, and campaigners claim that schools are not required to teach it directly.

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 11 February 2020 (p35 of the print edition)

The Merged Action Curriculum puts our relationship with the planet at the heart of what children need to learn. Living Sustainably is one of MAC’s three life areas, covering Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World.

We’re new. Come and have a look around the site. Let us know what you think. Join in the discussion about how we make the primary school curriculum better for our children.