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How my son brought out my inner Eco Warrior

15 October 2020

A three-year old son with a penchant for picking rubbish off the street and shiny new pair of tongs were the inspiration for MercyCare Early Learning Services’ Eco Warrior Program.

MercyCare Early Learning Manager Rosina Smith tells her story on how MercyCare’s 14 Early Learning Centres are on a journey to become the shining stars of environmental sustainability.

“This story is about how my four-year-old son, Tate, who has inspired and challenged me to be more environmentally responsible.

When Tate was three years old, he started picking up rubbish during our outings. Naturally as parents do, I freaked out about germs. I encouraged him to keep walking and leave it alone.

But every time we went for a walk and he spotted rubbish on the ground he wanted to pick it up and put it in the bin. Often saying things like: “that’s yucky Mummy”.

One day, as he bent down to pick up yet another bit of discarded rubbish, and again I began to ask him to leave it alone, a realisation hit me: Why was I asking him to stop? Even at three years old he knows the rubbish on the ground is “yucky” and he is very determined to correct the situation and make it beautiful again.

Now, I am not a green thumb, in fact I kill almost every plant I own. I do my best, but I am no Captain Planet, and I have no expert knowledge about environmental issues or how to be sustainable. There are many more people out there with the passion and drive to fight this environmental war than me. 

I would never stop them from doing the important work, so why was I stopping Tate now? I should be supporting him and empowering him to make our place less “yucky”.

So, I purchased some tongs to keep in Tate’s bag. Now with the tools he needs and with all my support, he continues to pick up rubbish safely. 

Later I reflected on Tate and the concept of empowering and supporting people with the passion to be environmentally responsible. And I wanted to apply this to the 14 Early Learning Centres at MercyCare.

In Early Learning the National Quality framework consists of seven Quality Areas, 15 Quality Standards and 40 Elements. Element 3.2.3 is “Environmentally responsible”. It is also part of MercyCare’s Early Learning Philosophy and is one of MercyCare’s Mission Ethos Shapers. 

I realised that I need champions - people that have a passion and interest in being environmentally responsible. I would give them tools, knowledge and opportunity. I wanted to empower them to make a difference, to drive change in others and to share their knowledge. I decided to elect an “Eco Warrior” at each centre.

This September, after a year and a half of sharing ideas and information we finally got all our Eco Warriors together for a full day workshop on how to be environmentally responsible in our Early Learning Centres.

It was a great day of networking, sharing knowledge and storytelling. We all learnt something new that day - from each other and from the expert trainer. Having everyone together and seeing their commitment in creating and implementing our Early Learning Centre Environmentally Responsible Action Plan and contributing to a less “yucky” world really inspired me as a leader.

I wanted to share this story to remind people, as leaders we don’t have to have all the answers or even particularly want to do it. But we can empower others to do what they are passionate about.

As leaders we can be inspiring, but we should also draw inspiration from our peers and our next generation of Eco Warriors.

As I look out on our land - our Boodjar - I want everyone to think about what you can do. Because doing something is better than nothing, because even the smallest of actions can lead to great change. And if you need some tongs - let me know!”

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