Go Green or Go Home. That’s the motto of the St. Marks Spartans here in Wilmington and may be one that we should all adopt in our everyday lives. While you may avoid toxins in your home and live an eco-friendly lifestyle it’s important that your child have a healthy environment at their childcare facility. The idea of a “green” childcare center is not too farfetched. Eco-Healthy Child Care is a national program that endorses child care providers who meet standards and helps facilities to improve. They endorse more than 1,100 centers in 44 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. In order to become an endorsed provider your center must comply with at least 24 of 30 best practice standards which can be found on their checklist. They also offer training and marketing through their website, newsletter, and other media outlets to facilities they endorse.
In Santa Barbara, CA there is a program called Greencare for Children that began in 2002 as a project for the Community Environmental Council. A survey of 748 local early care and education centers was performed to find out if there was a possibility of exposure to environmental hazards in the childcare setting; to identify information gaps in risk management; and to measure interest in environmental risk management training. The survey revealed that there was indeed a need as well as an interest in set environmental standards for facilities to reduce environmental hazards. A copy of the survey can be found here. Since that time, with the help of a grant, 52 local childcare facilities and 11 facilities located outside of Santa Barbara County have taken the Greencare pledge. The pledge consists of 25 environmental standards and to qualify as a Greencare provider you must pledge to uphold at least 18 of the 25. Six of the standards are required and they are:
- We protect children from pesticides
- When a pest emergency requires the use of pesticides we notify parents and staff in advance.
- We protect children from disease through good hygiene and sanitation, and through the careful use of disinfectants when required.
- We have polices that protect children from tobacco smoke and automobile exhaust.
- We pledge to complete the GreenCare room-by-room Inspection Form and verify that all products and site conditions meet the GreenCare Standards we have agreed to.
- We pledge to contact outside service providers, contractors and/or property managers and have them agree to uphold the GreenCare Standards we have agreed to.
The closest thing Delaware has to this is their Healthy Child Care America program. This program supports the health and safety of Delaware’s children in childcare settings, a mission that goes hand in hand with that of Eco-Healthy Child Care and Greencare. If a center is already incorporating the goals of Healthy Child Care America it should be simple for them to become an endorsed Eco-Healthy provider or Greencare provider. Most of the standards are free or low cost recommendations that can help your childcare center make safer choices for your children and reduce their exposure to environmental health hazards.
Sadly at this time there are no endorsed childcare facilities in the State of Delaware by either of these two groups. Their mission is an important one and as the majority of the population moves toward being more environmentally aware and conscious of how our everyday decisions affect our health and the health of our children so should our childcare providers. Maybe they are already endorsed by another eco-friendly group. If they are that’s wonderful, if not recommend these two groups to your provider and that they become an endorsed facility. It’s at no cost to them to take the pledge. Eco-Healthy Child Care has a link right on their website to send an email to your provider telling them about the program. Encourage Delaware’s childcare centers to Go Green today.