Community Leadership on Waste Reduction Emerges From a Love of Local Places

| By Enviroschools Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui

The natural world has always been highly valued at Imagine Childcare in Petone. As the tamariki, whānau, and team at the centre have become more connected to the world around them, they have begun to lead the community in reducing the impact of their waste on the special places they visit.

Just imagine!

Connecting with nature

Mealtimes at Imagine Childcare involve children climbing over each other to help take their scraps out to the garden to feed the worms or mix in with compost. From this, they start to learn about natural cycles.

They also connect with nature in the wider community through explorations into the local area.

Bush Club started in 2017. Each week, teachers began taking groups of the older children to visit Percy Reserve, a short walk from their centre. From time to time, even the toddlers made the trek and over the last year, the outings have been extended to more areas in the community, including the beach.

As the children spent more time in their environment they developed a strong sense of caring and they started to notice and remove litter. Sometimes this was impromptu but gradually the centre began organised community clean-ups.

Organising for community action to remove litter

Pathway to Percy clean up

For Keep NZ Beautiful’s Clean Up Week in 2018, about 40 teachers, parents and children turned out for Imagine Childcare’s “Pathway to Percy” clean-up which started from the Hutt Road and progressed to the motorway entrance of Percy Reserve.

Together they filled 9 bags of recycling and 10 bags of rubbish as well as finding an old tyre, some billboards from a previous election campaign and a $20 note!

The clean up made a huge difference to that area and those that went on Bush Club afterwards proudly noticed how much more cared for the environment looked.

In Seaweek 2019, teachers at the Centre initiated a community riverside clean-up to prevent rubbish along Te Awa Kairangi /Hutt River from entering the sea.

In just one hour the team collected 7 bags of rubbish, 6 bags of recycling, a traffic cone, a strange metal lock box, a bag of used incense sticks and a large rusty metal grid. The children say that’s a lot of stuff that will now stay out of the oceans and away from the creatures who live there.

Beach Club

Moving from waste management to waste reduction

While the Centre were pleased with what they had achieved, they also realised that it would be much better if there was no waste in the first place.

They encouraged whānau to think about their own generation of plastic waste. This lead to lots of good conversations and ideas, with families pledging to reduce their single-use plastic by bringing reusable cups for their coffee or reusable bags for the grocery store. Parents also began discussions with their tamariki about the impact of plastics on the environment.

The staff are modelling waste reduction by re-using and re-purposing equipment and materials in their learning spaces and creating their own resources out of natural materials. You will find old pots in their sandpit, wooden trays for storing art supplies and art made from re-used paper. They recycle old wooden pallets for building and carpentry and use cable reels for climbing equipment.

When they purchase new equipment, the staff now consider sustainability and ethical sourcing of the products.

Embedding in centre philosophy

Connecting with the earth!

At Imagine Childcare their approach to waste management is embedded in the centre philosophy, which has a strong focus on sustainability.

“Our learning environment is committed to supporting environmental sustainability. Making decisions and taking action in the interests of protecting the natural world, we focus on preserving the capability of the environment to support both present and future generations.”



“Our Enviroschool team has changed since we first joined the Enviroschools Programme but what has stayed the same is Imagine’s dedication to deepening our practice and knowledge of how to be an environmentally conscious centre. The Enviroschools Programme has provided the support and knowledge that has helped up to provide a learning environment where tamariki can form a relationship with nature and recognize their role to exercise kaitiakitanga in their local and global environment.” – Imagine Childcare teacher.