Pennies Green Initiatives

At Pennies Day Nurseries, our ethos is to do all we can to operate as environmentally sustainable as possible.  We are aware that there is always more we can do, and that we are at the very beginning of our sustainability journey, but our aim is to take sustainable steps forward, and find friends who will join us on this journey.  Take a look at some of the current initiatives below.

Awards for the environment

Pennies have been working towards some demanding targets set by others offering environmental awards. Our aim in achieving these awards is to learn from experts and add our own creativity and passion to bring about a level of achievement that means we can show we are making a positive difference when it comes to sustainability. In 2022 the company set a target that each setting would achieve an award and we reached this when Hockers Lane and Newnham Court both earned Wilder Kent Gold Awards, and Mark Cross achieved the nationally recognised Eco-Schools Green Flag award. In the case of the Kent-based settings, our awards were up from 2021 when we achieved silver and we were thrilled to be amongst the first ever winners of a gold award (first given out in 2022 when amongst 50 winners there were only four at gold standard, two of these being our nurseries). Mark Cross isn’t eligible to enter the Wilder Kent Awards so we chose that setting to pilot our first attempt to achieve a Green Flag (a national award, requiring comprehensive actions across all areas of a setting).

Many of the details of specific activities below helped us to achieve the awards won in 2022. Our belief is that by working openly with awarding organisations and discussing this work with parents and online we will find support for what we are doing. We are always happy to discuss this, and to hear the opinions of others on this subject.

Bug Hotels 

We have installed bug hotels and other insect accommodations at all our settings. When we have worked with others, notably Detling Parish Council on a project from our Hockers Lane setting, we have also been able to install bug hotels in other places and encourage our children and their families to visit them. In doing this we can explain to young children that the smallest creatures want the same as people – to have a safe place to spend the day, and things around them that they like. This particular message was behind one bug hotel which we installed with the kind permission of the landowners, in a wood directly opposite the front door of our Hockers Lane nursery, meaning we can explain to children that their front door faces the bugs. This bug hotel can easily be seen from the Hockers Lane front door during autumn and winter after the leaves have fallen.

Children at all our settings can see insect accommodation and watch bugs and flying insects coming and going. In doing so, the children have lots of learning opportunities.  They can explore and learn more about their natural environment and there’s no better way to learn, than through first-hand experiences. Children can learn about insects and the importance they play in our environment, with plenty of ways they can get involved in the construction of the bughouse.

Vegetable Peelings Composter

Pennies at Newnham Court have introduced composters so we can compost the kitchen vegetable peelings.  These include an eco-friendly tumbling composter, allowing us to create compost for our vegetable patches. Children can help with composting by placing vegetable peelings into the composter and turning the handle, to allow the composter to do its job. This process is so easy that some of the smallest children can take part and begin to understand why we are doing this and the difference it makes in terms of saving waste and helping new food to grow.

Vegetable Garden

In our planter areas in the nursery gardens, we grow our own herbs and vegetables.  Once these are established the children can pick the leaves and be able to smell the wonderful aromas they give off, before being used to flavour their lunches.

In the mud kitchen areas, the children plant their own potatoes, carrots, dwarf beans, runner beans, courgettes, butternut squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.  Once they have grown and ripened, the children pick them to be cooked in their lunches. Mud kitchens are also popular places for children to play, all year round, meaning they enjoy being outdoors in areas where their food grows, and get used to seeing nature at work around them. We have had help from the RHS campaign for school gardening who gave us guidance on what to plant and when. 

Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juicing At Mealtimes

We are very excited to be introducing juicing at mealtimes.  All rooms have access to a  juicer and their own supply of fruit and vegetables, which the children can help press their own juice drinks.  This healthy option allows all our children to benefit from the goodness of the vitamins produced from their fresh produce.  It’s a fantastic way for them to learn about the process of planting a seed to drinking and eating the produce.

Introduction of Plant-Based Foods

There are so many reasons that Pennies have introduced a plant-based menu to its 4-week rolling menu, but one of the main reasons is conserving land.  We understand that a plant-based diet is better for the environment.  Introducing a plant-based menu is a win for environmental sustainability and moves us forward towards a more sustainable environment. When national initiatives – like the Veganuary event at the start of the year – take place, Pennies often make menu changes to offer children and families the choice to take part.

Tree Adoption At Vinters Valley Nature Reserve

In 2021 Pennies adopted a silver birch tree which is located on the southeastern edge of the main lake, near to the lifebelt stand of the Vinters Valley Nature Reserve.  We did this as a thank you to all our families and children the way they coped and how they supported us in the pandemic. We chose this tree in this location because we know it’s popular with families and kids locally (apart from anything else it’s near a well-loved pond in the nature reserve where our children go to see ducks and other birds). The connection with the reserve led to a much more ambitious project in which Vinters Valley became a regular visit for our PKC Holiday Clubs and our children got involved in planting wild-flowers and understanding more about the reserve. Pennies have written a leaflet explaining more about this ongoing work, and encouraging children and their families to visit the reserve and get to know its many attractions.