Dans cette période sensible qu’est la petite enfance, Claire crée un contexte propice à la prise en compte des valeurs du dévelop - pement durable grâce à l’association “Ecolo crèche”. Celle-ci forme les professionnels aux pratiques respectueuses de l’environnement et de la santé, et sensibilise les enfants à leur écosystème grâce à une pédagogie innovante. Grâce au label “Ecolo crèche”, Claire favorise la reconnaissance des crèches engagées qui en font un lieu de vie exemplaire. Le label “EcoAccueil Petite Enfance” est, lui, destiné à valoriser l’engagement des assistants maternels. L’association encourage les institutions à soutenir les démarches engagées en direction de la petite enfance, ainsi que l’émergence de solutions écoresponsables.
Plus de 250 crèches ont été engagées dans la démarche en France et 30 000 enfants ont été concernés en 10 ans. Les impacts quan - titatifs dans ces crèches sont forts : jusqu’à 58% d’économie sur l’électricité, jusqu’à 95% d’alimentation bio dans certaines crèches, jusqu’à 77% d’eau économisée et disparition complète des produits d’entretien pollu - ants pour certains établissements. On note également une amélioration de la qualité de vie dans les crèches : moins d’absentéisme des professionnels (75%), diminution des maladies respiratoires, plus de créativité des enfants. Le 22 Mars 2016, “Ecolo crèche” a signé une convention de partenariat avec le ministère des Familles, de l’enfance et des droits des femmes et la CNAF facilitant l’accès à sa démarche à toutes les crèches du territoire.
QUI EST-ELLE ?
Ecotoxicologue, Claire met ses connaissances de l’impact des polluants sur les écosystèmes au service du public. Jeune maman, elle s’investit sur les questions d’éducation et de pédagogie et crée à Marseille, en 1998, une association pour mettre les sens des enfants en crèche au contact de la nature.
Going beyond providing educational content through these programs, Claire also seeks to enlist professionals (working with the children) to model behavior that will demonstrate that we all have a role in protecting the environment. Claire has created an Ecolo-Crèche certification for early childhood education centers and kindergartens that have committed to conserve energy, use organic products, recycle materials, consume fewer plastics, and take other steps on a daily basis to protect the environment. Each professional—whether he/she is an educator, or a cleaning and catering employee—commits to play a particular role in integrating ecology in his/her daily work activities. Claire is thus not only targeting children in the classroom, but also creating a sustainable daily environment around the children in which waste recycling, switching off the lights, eating local and green food, or cleaning with natural detergents, are common practices. Marked by an eco-label, these childcare centers and kindergartens demonstrate a clear, simple and direct way for an institution to play a role in protecting and preserving the environment.
To spread her model, Claire is engaging, as partners, local environmental organizations, education organizations, and governments, including the City of Paris, to train early childhood education centers across the country to adopt the environmental education programs and the standards required to be considered certified as an Ecolo-Crèche. Her goal is to have a national network of partners who will be able to train others and respond to the enormous demand she is getting from early childhood educators around the country.
Despite the enormous environmental challenges facing France and the rest of the world, environmental education has not been a part of early childhood education in France, nor have environmental protection and advocacy groups seen young children as important targets of their message. The main reason environmental protection and sustainable development have not been part of early childhood education is because it is considered too complicated or abstract for young people.
In 2007 the French Ministry of Education set new standards to integrate sustainable development and environmental education in primary, junior, and high schools. However, today, only a few thousand of the twelve million pupils benefit from the new measures. In addition, about 700 non-profit organizations around the country focus on raising environmental awareness among children and teenagers, but they target children over six-years-old. There is a lack of attention or concern for young children, from ages one to six, even though children at this young age are very curious and open to new ideas, and often the most interested in connecting with nature.
Over the last ten years, understanding the need to protect the environment has gained ground in French society. However, most French citizens still do know what they can do in their daily lives. Awareness campaigns have not effectively convinced a critical mass of citizens and economic actors to adopt green behaviors. Recent surveys show that 91 percent of French people have heard about “sustainable development,” but two-thirds need more examples and ideas for how to concretely change and adopt ecological lifestyles. Current strategies used by advocates encourage people to be more environmentally conscious on a daily basis may seem condescending, make people feel guilty, or are too childish to have significant impact.
Claire sought to reinforce the impact of her programs and curriculum by ensuring that the early childhood centers were operating in a way that reflected the values and ideas behind environmental protection and sustainability. To do this, Claire created a special Eco-Crèche label to certify those education centers that are committed to integrating ecological behavior in their daily activities. To attain this certification, she does an initial diagnosis or audit of the early childhood center and the ways in which it could become more environmentally sustainable. Claire then conducts a short and simple “focus group” that includes all employees. She asks simple, straightforward questions that are not judgmental, and are designed to reduce individuals discomfort with environmental protection or any guilt they might have that they are not doing enough. Claire also focuses on reducing their perception that environmental protection is complicated and tries to enlist them at the earliest stages in solving the problem for their particular center. From this initial diagnosis, she and the team develop an action plan that enlists every adult at the center to play a role in making the center more environmentally sustainable, whether it is turning off the lights, recycling, using cloth diapers, buying organic food, or other steps. Claire is also empowering these professionals through various practical trainings and tools (i.e. booklets, DVDs, a collaborative website, and a shared database of green providers). To incentivize and reward change at this level, Claire certifies successful initiatives with an Ecolo-Crèche label, which now has national recognition.
Boosted by the good results of the first twenty centers labeled Ecolo-Crèches, Claire has created a two-part strategy to spread her model throughout the French territory. First, she builds strategic alliances with kindergarten groups to reach a critical number of organizations (e.g. she is developing a partnership with the City of Paris to reach 450 early childhood centers); second, she is setting-up a network of partnerships to train and support the early childhood centers at the local level. Thus far, Claire has trained six environmental associations or consulting companies, and she aims to train up to 100 consulting professionals by 2015, who will then be responsible for training and supporting local early childhood schools.
Focusing on the growth of her organization, Claire also created a research and development lab to experiment with the adaptation of her methods on new target audiences and other sectors, such as tourism. To date, 8,000 adults have benefited from the tools and trainings created at this lab, such as practical-ecology toolkits, a resource center in the City of Marseille, and innovative workshops to raise awareness at enterprises and fairs.
Becoming a mother further shaped Claire’s thinking about environmental protection and sustainability. Indeed, it helped her figure out new ways of transferring these critical values and ideas to others. She also began to understand how nature can be easily integrated by young children, even before they internalize other types of information. Claire tried workshops and games with her own kids and quickly created a complete curriculum with pedagogical content that she could offer to preschools. She received a warm welcome from educators and parents, showing that they were eager and interested in educating their children about sustainable development.
A few months after Claire completed the initial pilot tests with her new ideas, she consulted with a team of environmental psychologists to strengthen and validate her approach. She continued to develop her programs with young kids while continuously observing older children and teenagers. Engaging the children’s parents and professionals in the programs helped her identify levers of action for adults. Claire’s interest was to support individuals to find the best way to awaken his/her instinct and curiosity toward nature.
From kindergartens to schools and professional organizations, Claire has never stopped imagining new means of action to facilitate the emergence of a practical ecology that everyone can develop on their own. Despite the growth of her organization, she remains an accessible person. Ambitious but modest, Claire is sometimes surprised by her initiative’s success—to envision a deep transformation of society’s perceptions of sustainable development. Recognized in the environmental and social entrepreneurship fields, she has received many awards, such as the Nicolas Hulot Foundation Scholarship (2008) and 1st Prize for Women of the Earth with the Yves Rocher Foundation.