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The Path to Sustainability - Schools Workshops to Sheep Shearing

Monday 4th July: On the same day that I learned how to shear my first sheep, the Planet Positive Team completed another successful Schools Sustainability Day. Whilst apparently poles apart, they are connected as we are all on the same path to sustainability, but at different points along the way.At Planet Positive we believe that, no matter where you are, we should help bring people and business along that path to sustainability. 

For me, shearing the sheep was another step in being more self-sufficient in my small holding in East Sussex.  For the children at Dartford Bridge School, they had fun understanding more about the issues and great ways to be more sustainable.

The Schools Sustainability Day took place at the Dartford Bridge Community Primary School as part of the Planet Positive Building Certification of SusCon.  SusCon, the sustainable construction training centre, at the Bridge, Dartford has been developed by Prologis with main construction company Winvic for a public/private partnership that includes Dartford Borough Council and North West Kent College.We have been working with Deloitte, Prologis and Winvic to certify SusCon as a low carbon and sustainable design and construction building.  It has compensated for the embodied carbon (the carbon emitted in the construction of the building, including raw materials) by saving 70 acres of Amazon Rainforest.The certification also included the requirement to provide a local community sustainability project, hence the Sustainability Day. And what a day it turned out to be.

Our schools programme is designed to bring the subject of sustainability to life.  We host a school assembly and then conduct workshops with smaller groups.  The 90 children at the Dartford Bridge School were took part in workshops and sessions on what items can and cant be recycled, the CO2 associated with the journey to schools and energy maths to work out CO2 home.  The sessions are huge fun to run and also, we hope, much more memorable for the children.For me, shearing moved me further along the path to sustainability, and it was great fun.   I had started to acquire another skill to make life on our small holding more self sufficient.  We have Manx Laughton rare breed sheep.  Whilst they do self moult, we find it best for them to be sheared from May onwards when the oily winter wool has started to grow out.  Jim has been shearing our sheep for the last 3-years and yesterday he offered to teach me to shear my first sheep.Just like the school workshops, the best way to learn is to listen, watch and then try it yourself. 

It was hot and hard work but 10 minutes of clipping later I had shorn my first sheep. Shearing is much like boxing, where success is determined by the position of your feet.  I had learned to position my feet and my non-shearing hand in the right places to keep the sheep under control and stretch the skin so that it wasn’t snagged.  Jasmine, our most relaxed of sheep, looked slightly bemused and slightly tufty but she was shorn of her thick fleece and surely felt better.  I felt better for the experience and it has given me something to share. Sustainability is often like that.  I hope the children of the Dartford Bridge School agree! 

Steve Malkin

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