Taking the small steps

As a small business without the resources and expertise of the large corporates, it can at times feel like a real challenge to make changes that you feel will have a meaningful impact on our planet. Over the years we have developed a mindset of taking what small steps we can in the hope that alongside others, who are hopefully adopting a similar approach, our collective efforts start to make a big difference.

Some of the steps we have taken have involved investment, others have simply required the dedication and inclination to drive through change in our organisation. Providing that sustainability remains at the forefront of your decision making you will very quickly start to see the impact of your small changes adding up.

In this section we have shared with you a handful of things that you could do at home or in your business which will have a meaningful and positive impact for our natural world.

Green Tech Investment:

The green tech sector is booming right now across the UK and many other parts of the world, however if this is not your thing then the whole process can feel quite daunting. Below are a few simple ideas which we have deployed across our nurseries which have reduced our carbon footprint as a result.

  • Solar Panel Installation – Through the installation of solar panels you can self-generate a percentage of your energy demand on site. Although the lucrative tariffs (Feed in Tariff) to generate electricity are no longer available via suppliers, return on investment can be achieved in reasonable time frames whilst reducing the demand for electricity. generation from the central grid. Through the installation of solar panels at both of our sites we currently generate on average between 30 – 35% of our annual demand each year.
  • Renewable Electricity Supply – Switch to a renewable energy supplier. Although currently slightly more expensive than standard electricity supply generated by traditional fossil fuel generation the additional premium you pay offers peace of mind that the electricity you are consuming has a significantly lower impact on the environment. Jigsaw became carbon neutral from an electricity perspective in December 2020.
  • Energy Efficient Boiler Upgrades – If your building is currently running its hot water or heating on an old non-condensing boiler there can be very reasonable savings, both energy & monetary by upgrading to a modern condensing boiler which utilises the heat and your system more effectively.
  • L.E.D Light Upgrades – L.E.D lights are widely acknowledged as a far more efficient way of lighting your building. With the installation of L.E.D fittings or bulbs you can significantly reduce the amount of energy that you are using which not only results in lower costs but lower carbon impact on the environment also.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Units & Electric Minibus – Both the UK government and the major car manufacturers have publicly declared their commitment to moving towards an electrified transport system driven by green energy. By purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle you are supporting this transition and contributing heavily to the reduction of heavy fossil fuel emissions from traditional petrol or diesel powered engines. Jigsaw are currently awaiting delivery of a fully electric mini-bus which will be used to transport our children on educational visits. In readiness for this and in support of our move towards a carbon free transport system we have also installed electric charging points at our sites which will utilise the energy we are generating on site via our solar panel installation.

Plastic Free Status:

‘Surfers Against Sewage’, are a grassroots movement that have grown into one of the UK’s most active and successful environmental charities.

‘SAS’ have developed an educational programme aimed at eradicating the unnecessary use of single use plastic from the grounds of schools and day nurseries across the UK. The process involves identifying the areas in which singles use plastics are used within your organisation and exploring viable alternatives to eradicate them.

Examples of some of the changes we have made, which you may also be able to implement, have been detailed below.

  • Hygiene Processes – We moved from single use hygiene aprons (Used for nappy changing & mealtimes) to washable material aprons which was a reduction of around 95,000 single use aprons per year across both nurseries.
  • Food Supply Chain – We changed our fruit and vegetable supplier for a provider who had a more sustainable approach to food packing. The change resulted in a reduction of around 90% of single use plastic packaging related to our food order.
  • Educational Materials – We have removed all single use plastic art / teaching materials from our resource cupboards across both sites (Sequins / glitter etc).
  • Plastic Bag Reduction – When sending items home with pupils we ensure we do so in re-usable hessian bags provided by the nursery free of charge.
  • Food Preparation – Clingfilm has been fully removed from the nursery with sustainable alternatives replacing it.
  • Avoidance Mindset – When purchasing new materials & equipment for the nurseries we ensure we avoid plastic when a suitable alternative is available.

In addition to the changes implemented across the nurseries we also carry out regular ‘beach cleans’ with our holiday club and Pre School children.

To find out more information on how to reduce and eradicate single use plastics within your home or organisation please visit: https://www.sas.org.uk/

One Tree Planted Partnership:

One Tree Planted is a non-profit organisation with a focus on global reforestation. As an environmental charity they are dedicated to making it easier for individuals and businesses to give back to the environment by planting trees.

Setting up an account and becoming a partner could not be easier. There are no minimum donation requirements and no pressure. With each single tree donation costing as little as $1, One Tree Planted has proved to be a fantastic vehicle for us to support reforestation programmes in a manner that works for a small family business.

So far, we have planted over 1250 trees in regions including the Amazon Rainforest, a region of Uganda which is home to a declining population of chimpanzees linked to deforestation, Ethiopia supporting key economic projects and finally in Australia as the region looks to recover from one of the largest natural disasters in modern history.

Moving forward, for every new child that registers with the nurseries we have committed to planting 10 trees.

To find out more information about this please visit: https://onetreeplanted.org/

The Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Award:

The Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Award encourages outdoor learning and inspires pupils about trees, woods, and wildlife. Through the award schools and nurseries can take part in fun, practical projects while helping the environment and improving their grounds. The award scheme is free, and the Woodland Trust provide resources and support to guide you through the process.

We currently hold Gold status and have very recently submitted our evidence for the prestigious platinum award.

To find out more information please visit: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/support-us/act/your-school/green-tree-schools-award/

3rd World Hope Partnership:

For over 12 years now Jigsaw have been a main partner of the charity 3rd World Hope.

3rd World hope is a UK registered charity which focuses activity on supporting remote communities in Malawi by developing infrastructure and facilities which support stability and growth in these areas.

Through our partnership with 3rd World Hope we regularly send parcels to Malawi, encouraging our parents to upcycle toys and clothes that are still in good condition which they no longer use at home.

As an organisation maybe you could look to establish clothes or toy banks at varying points in the year which could be donated to a good cause either here in the UK or in the developing world.

As an individual you could also look to support a local charity by ensuring that your unused items are re-purposed rather than simply visiting the local tip.

For more information on the great work that is happening at 3rd World Hope please visit: http://3rdworldhope.org/

Jigsaw Forest School:

In 2017 Jigsaw became the first Day Nursery in the UK to gain Forest School accreditation with the Forest School Association. Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process that offers opportunities for holistic growth in a natural setting. Forest School is built upon 6 key principles with 1 of those principles being a lifelong relationship between the learner and the natural world.

Although not a specific requirement we have ensured that our Forest School is 100% sustainably sustained. Absolutely every single item in our Forest School has been upcycled in some shape or another, from old wooden bed frames that now serve as pirate ships to old pots and pans that are hugely popular in our mud kitchen. It also home to many of the tree’s that we have planted as part of our Woodland Trust Green Schools partnership.

A Forest School is a such a wonderful environment in which to educate young people in a sustainable, non-traditional manner and we would love to see this provision become more widely available across the country.

As an individual why not look to bring a little bit of the Forest School ethos to your back garden? With a little bit of upcycling and a good dose of creativity and imagination you can very quickly make quite an impact even in a small space. The internet is full of great ideas and resources are all around you, all you need is that spark to make it happen and your children will have access to hours of outdoor, natural fun.

If you are an educator working at a school or nursery that does not currently offer Forest School, maybe now is the time to approach your head teacher or manager with a view to being the catalyst to getting things moving.

For more information on the Forest School Association or to find a provider near you please visit: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/


Founded in 1999, Jigsaw is a small, family-owned Children’s Day Nursery group based in Chester, UK.

Caring for the environment and our natural world is a fundamental part of the Jigsaw ethos and key learning objective for the children we care for.

Our children are our future so not only do we have a responsibility to take mindful decisions which safeguard their future planet we also have a duty to teach and guide them to ensure we are shaping sustainable citizens who will lead the way in years to come.

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