Unit Overview - Environment refers to soil, water, air and energy, targeting favourable conditions of the earth's renewable resources. In this unit the learners will reflect on their personal accountability for a clean and healthy environment and an economic and efficient use of resources. The learners will be enabled to analyse the local holding on above aspects, encouraged to propose improvements and find ways of engaging RMT students with those issues.
1. Understand your responsibility for an economic and efficient use of natural resources
2. Describe some measures to enhance environmental responsibility of the RMT student at the holding
1.1 Reflect on your own use of resources
Eyam has a number of advantages in relation to environmental accountability. First we operate without mains electricity. Electrical power is provided when absolutely necessary by use of a generator. At first I missed electrical power, but now I accept that this lack of mains power is part of the attraction of the site. Not having power requires some modifications to our practice here and there, but the advantages outweigh the negatives:
Positive features of not having mains power:
Negative features of not having mains power:
Secondly the fact that we are not connected to the gas network means instead we use 47kg LPG bottles on an auto switching valve system. This does mean that the bottles need to be changed every 6 months of so. A key advantage of this is efficiency. Gas is only used for occasional cooking and for the continual running of a fridge to ensure health and safety and compliance with regulations.
Thirdly the fact that we are independent from mains drainage means that we use a local soakaway that was built into the ground when the building was constructed. Our grey water is therefore dealt with and our toilets are contained systems which are emptied weekly by an external contractor. We are planning to install new toilets at some point soon when we can secure the funding.
Green waste is composted through our three bay compost system and the resulting compost is used on the vegetable beds.
We are connected to mains water and we have a water meter installed. We have to take care of the way we use water in order to be a sustainable holding. Harvesting rainwater is one way to help. Monitoring rainfall is another aspect of the record keeping on the farm. Using rainwater for the making of preparation sprays and for the watering of plants in dry weather saves valuable water.
For obvious reasons biodynamic systems do not add artificial fertiliser to the soil. Nor do they use any form of pesticides. Soil health is critical. It is covered in more detail in the soil unit. In basic terms soil is the most valuable commodity on the farm. Soil is cared for through addition of organic matter, through appropriate crop rotation, through occasional broadforking to improve compacted soil structures and through ensuring that the soil is occupied with crops for the majority of the year. In terms of the alkalinity of the soil, Eyam is slightly acidic, so lime is added to bring the PH to the correct level.
There are a number of other things that we do to ensure environmental sustainability. These are related to the PSTE activities that we undertake and they are practiced on a seasonal year round basis.
Our curriculum is seasonal. We use resources that are available on site at particular times of the year. There is more information about the detail of this on the learning section of the website. This is efficient and sustainable because it means that materials and resources don't often have to be brought in from external sources.
A good single example of this is natural ink making. Using a seasonal guide (shown bottom right) we can select the plant or ingredient needed, process it, understand the key principles involved in its creation and then follow through the required processes. Below Equisetum (Horsetail) is burnt and mixed with a binder to produce a metalic ink. Equisetum draws up metals from the soil as it grows. This feature is exploited when making ink.
Wool comes from the shearing of our sheep. This is scoured, washed and carded on site. We have constructed a dye garden. This means we can use natural dyes plants to create colours of all kinds using simple processes and the absolute minimum of additional ingredients. Garments are made from our own wool using the processes described above. For students, this is a magical activity, particularly when modifiers are added which completely change the colours of the dyes.
We cut our own hay for animal feed throughout the year. This is wrapped and stored in dry storage. We can ensure that the hay is sprayed with 500 and 501 for improving nutritional qualities.
Gates and fencing, furniture and storage where possible are made using local materials such as timber and willow. This avoids us having to buy in chemically treated timber gates and improves the efficiency of the operation overall.
We save rainwater in barrels for watering purposes and for making preparation sprays
We grow food on site to send to the school and also for eating on site. This saves us having to buy in food and we are expanding our growing areas to produce additional food. Food production on any scale is a good thing as food has to travel less, is more nutritious when harvested and eaten in good time and tastes better! Also students gain an understanding of what they are eating and how it is grown, paving the way for them to be hopefully involved in sustainable practices as they grow older.
1.2 Evaluate which measures could be taken to improve the efficient and economic us of natural resources on the holding
2.1 Describe some measures to enhance environmental responsibility of the RMT student at the holding.
It is my belief that good role modelling is the single most important aspect of environmental education at the farm. For example, in the autumn we encourage students to collect the falling leaves, shred them and keep them in bags to rot down for a season. These are then added to the compost heap. This is an education in nature's recycling systems and hopefully encourages students to understand the colossal amount of waste material that we produce and then throw away without a thought for its future. Similarly when we plant new trees we always take a trip down to the adjacent woodland to collect rich humus and leaf litter from the woodland floor. Through this activity students get a picture of the way in which falling leaves gradually rot down and add to the fertility of the soil. Similarly they understand how the rich soil here can provide a foothold for seedlings and spring bulbs, feeding the emerging plants through the initial stages of development.
Through all of the curriculum experiences we offer, particularly horticulture and PSTE, students gain an understanding of materials, efficient design, using nature as a guide and working with the seasons to truly understand sustainability.
© Brantwood Specialist School
Created by Jim Hildyard