An ecological footprint for an early learning centre: identifying opportunities for sustainable early childhood education through interdisplinary research
McNichol, H, Davis, J & O'Brien, KR 2011, 'An ecological footprint for an early learning centre: identifying opportunities for sustainable early childhood education through interdisplinary research', Environmental Education Research, vol. 17, no.5, pp. 689-704.
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In this study, engineers and educators worked together to adapt and apply the ecological footprint (EF) methodology to an early learning centre in Brisbane, Australia. Results were analysed to determine how environmental impact can be reduced at the study site and more generally across early childhood settings. It was found that food, transport and energy consumption had the largest impact on the centre’s overall footprint. In transport and energy, early childhood centres can reduce their impact through infrastructure and cultural change, in association with changed curriculum strategies. Building design, the type of energy purchased and appliance usage can all be modified to reduce the energy footprint. The transport footprint can be reduced through more families using active and public transport, which can be encouraged by providing information, support and facilities and appropriate siting of new centres. Introducing the concept of ecological footprint in early childhood education may be an effective way to educate children, staff and parents on the links between the food they eat, land usage and environmental impact. This study responds directly to the call in this journal for research focused on early childhood education and for more to be made of interdisciplinary research opportunities.