As the late Whitney Houson once sang “I believe that children are our future….” and I have to say that I agree with her whole heartedly .
It’s taken me nearly 30 years to pay less attention to what advertising tells me I want, and more attention to the bigger picture of what I (and the planet) actually need. But what if everyone learnt these values from an early age? What if learning about animals, growing food, and how we all have a chance to make the world a better place was something kids got to explore in a fun and interactive way?
Well that’s just what Hannah, founder of Free Range Learning, is setting out to do. I first came across her work a couple of years ago when she got involved in a free workshop event I organised in Cardiff (with the help of the awesome Green City Events), and was impressed by her enthusiasm, passion and all round fun approach to inspiring children to live happy, healthy and sustainably!
You can watch the video from that event below:
Here’s what Hannah had to say about the work she does, and why she seems to accumulate sacks of empty toilet rolls….
“I’m Hannah and I run an outdoor learning provider called Free Range Learning. I work with schools and communities across south Wales to improve understanding of how food and farming works and how what we eat impacts farmers and growers, animals, the environment and our wellbeing. This means that I try and find ways to make a wide range of inter-linked topics exciting and accessible. I might find myself running workshops on climate change one day, pollinators the next and healthy eating the day after.”
I have a small collection of animals who help me in this, including some cuddly chickens and guinea pigs, a gang of giant invertebrates and a nosy little hedgehog called Seren. The animals play a huge role in engaging young people (and grown ups!) and help open up many unexpected or difficult discussions on topics such as animal welfare, habitat loss and even bullying.
When I’m not working with schools I work with Green City Events to organise ‘Skills for Sustainable Living’ workshops for adults and families in Cardiff. These offer opportunities to learn traditional, rural and green skills in the city, as well as showcasing the skills of local tutors. So far we’ve tried spinning wool, keeping bees and hens, building living willow structures and loads more. Next year I’m quite excited about learning to make mead and grow edible mushrooms.
In my spare time I’m a novice beekeeper, a cake-baker, a gamer and an endless source of useless facts about chickens.”
What does green living mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your life?
To me green living means making well informed decisions. I feel that it’s important to make an effort to understand how we’re connected to our environment, our food and each other, and keep up-to-date with current research and guidance on sustainability issues. I think it’s very easy to label behaviours as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without having a full understanding of their true impact and for some decisions – choosing what to eat is a good example – the issues surrounding the topic are so complex (and sometimes counter-intuitive) that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and even feel a little hopeless. So for me, green living means lots of interesting reading and research, looking for reliable sources of information, then trying to act on what I’ve learned.
Why do you think it’s important to live a sustainable lifestyle?
Apart from the obvious need to protect resources for current and future generations, I think that making decisions about how I live day-to-day can help me feel less helpless and despondent in the face of often frightening news and research on the state of our environment. Making even small changes to make my lifestyle more sustainable reduces some of that sense of “oh well, there’s nothing I can do”, and gives me more confidence to find out about larger, global sustainability issues.
What have you found the easiest thing to implement?
I’m pretty happy when it comes to re-using and recycling because my mum was an early recycling adopter and would give you a withering look if you put anything in the wrong bin! Although to be honest many things that should probably go in the recycling bin end up squirreled away in corners of the house for future ‘projects’ which may or may not happen! Three giant bags of loo rolls anyone?
What habits have you found tricky to get started or maintain?
I do find it difficult to eat in the way I feel I should on my current budget. As a food and farming educator this is a source of some worry to me! It’s a time issue as much as a money one – my poor allotment is currently weedy and unproductive when I know I could be getting much more from it if I could squeeze in a few hours.
I’ve also recently learnt to drive and I am so tempted to hop in the car for short journeys where I know I could jump on my bike, especially when the weather is cold and wet.
What’s your favourite idea or tip for living green without costing too much time or money?
It’s so boring and unglamorous but… long johns! I’m terrible at complaining I’m cold when I’m walking around with bare feet or no jumper on. I kept whacking the heating up and it wasn’t good for my bank balance or for the environment. A few pairs of sexy, wrinkly long johns later and I’m happy. Plus you can use them as a pirate costume in a pinch.
Who or what keeps you inspired?
I love working with children and young people. When they, or their parents, let me know that they’ve learnt something new, or gained new confidence in learning outdoors, or even decided they want to be a farmer when they grow up – that’s when I feel inspired.