Project: In touch with Nature

Core concepts

  • GAIA Hypothesis
  • Cosmic thinkers
  • Ecological lifestyle (Arne Naess)
  • Deep Ecology
  • Biomimicry
  • Life’s Principles
  • Integral ecology (Ken Wilber)
  • Bronfenbrenner ecological model
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Bioregionalism
  • Bioregional life


After many generations of manufactured urban life, more and more philosophers and religions have come to speculate that humans are somehow separated from nature. Indeed, some people, often working for corporations, actually consider themselves superior to nature. As a result, choices are made with a disastrous impact. For example, the massive expansion of palm plantations, which is causing large areas of tropical rainforest to disappear on a daily basis. And the abundant use of fossil fuels, with all the climate changes as a result.

Life on Earth has existed for three and a half billion years. So there is something inherently enduring about the ways of nature. When people can drop their hubris and approach nature as a teacher and guide, many important lessons will be revealed. Biomimicry designers already know the value of nature and use designs from nature for their innovative sustainable designs.

In this theme, the aim is to restore the learner’s connection with nature, including special places in the living environment, landscapes and their characteristics, trees, flowers, birds, animals, other creatures, soil, air, water, etc. Given the increasing separation of our mainstream culture from nature, more or less everywhere in the world, special attention should be paid to the creation of opportunities and environments, in which the learners themselves could find their own connection with nature as a whole and with specific elements and processes.

“There can be no peace between people without peace with the planet” – Thomas Berry

What is the importance of this?

  • To experience the connection to nature, and to integrate the meaning of this connection into the decisions we make in life.

  • To experience nature as a source of inspiration and information.

  • Deepening into ways in which indigenous and traditional cultures relate to nature and the earth and to be able to use this wisdom.

How can you learn about connecting with nature?

  • By exploring what you can learn from local traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous wisdom, local farmers and elders.

  • By applying the guidelines for developing bioregionalism to create custom designs that connect a project to its region.

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The Assignment

The client wants more people to have a deep connection with nature. He asks you how he can motivate these people to do this. He wants them to be inspired by nature and to use this inspiration in their daily lives

Short description

In this assignment, you will draw up your own research and design question based on three inspirations from the field:



Working method

Research and design questions

  • You will draw up your own research and design questions. Together with your class, you choose a research and design question that the whole class will work on. Together with your class, you will formulate sub-research questions.

Team Building

  • Together with your class, you form groups that will answer the sub-questions. You formulate for yourself what you want to learn in this project and the concept research and design question.

Product Backlog

  • You formulate in a Product Backlog what you want to learn about your team’s sub-research and design question.

Definition of Done (DoD)

  • You and your team have experienced two experiential moments in which you yourself felt a deep connection to nature and were inspired by nature.
  • You have made a map of the bioregion and mapped all the natural areas in the region. You have photographed and described the five most important local plants and five most important local animals in this area. You have turned this map into an infographic about the local plants and animals in your bioregion.
  • Together with other group members, you have been thinking about the relationship you have with nature and what a deep relationship with nature can give people. You have explored different ways in which nature can inspire people. You have made a mind map of this with your group and written a personal reflection report.
  • You have researched in your immediate environment what there is to do for people to experience a deeper relationship with nature. You have made a list of these with your group and made a short description of each example.
  • You have mapped out what in your immediate surroundings could be a nice addition and valuable to strengthen the relationship between man and nature. You have democratically chosen which idea you think has the most potential. As a group, you worked out this idea in a PowerPoint presentation, giving various arguments as to why this idea could be a valuable addition to the immediate environment. You presented this powerpoint to your fellow students and received feedback on it.
  • You have researched relevant organisations, government and/or companies that you could involve in your design. You have contacted relevant organisations, companies and/or the government and collected information for your design in a structured way. You have processed this information in a report.
  • You have made a design together with your group about how you can motivate people in your direct environment to build a deeper relationship with nature. You have processed this in a presentation.
  • You have presented the design together with your group. You wrote a personal account of the presentation in what you learned most while researching and working on this project.
  • The design can motivate people in your direct environment to build a deeper relationship with nature. The design uses inspiration from nature in the immediate vicinity. The design is meaningful; it gives meaning to the environment and to people.


  • You execute the two elaborated sprints according to the provided sprint Backlog
  • You devise the remaining required sprints needed to achieve the DoD.
  • You will set up a sprint schedule and take care of time monitoring.

Final delivery

  • You will present your team’s findings to the rest of the class. You will present the final results of the project together with all teams to the client.




This is Naomi, she likes to play in nature. Behind her house is a meadow bordered by a ditch. Naomi goes there often. She looks for tadpoles, for example. Or she plays with the sand. She loves to let the sand slide between her hands. She enjoys the silence and the contact with the plants and animals around her.

One day big machines came onto the land. Large slabs of wood and building huts were put down. No more water came into the ditch. The tadpoles died. And it became too dangerous for Naomi to play in the meadow. Naomi now really misses the nature she loved. She wonders where all the plant animals went that lived in the ditch and meadow. When Naomi goes outside now, there is always noise. What Naomi is experiencing is something that many children go through. More and more nature is turning into a construction site. Between 1996 and 2015 almost 60,000 hectares of residential areas, workplaces and infrastructure were built in the Netherlands. In 20 years’ time that is slightly less than half the size of the province of Utrecht. In other words, an entire municipality of Haarlem is added each year. *1

*1: (Source:


Questions to think about


What do you think happened to the plants and animals that were in the meadow and ditch where Naomi played?


The housing shortage is severe in many cities. Are there other ways to solve the housing shortage, rather than new construction?


What would it be like if people, plants and animals shared the living environment, for example by building in a nature-friendly way?


Many plants and animals have to give up their habitat for human activities such as deforestation and construction. Can you point out places in your immediate surroundings where nature has disappeared for the benefit of urban development or arable farming?


What do you think about the fact that more and more nature is disappearing for the benefit of human activities, such as house building, construction of industrial sites, fields and road building?


Some facts:

Land take consists of the space occupied by our settlements, such as through housing, industrial and commercial uses, transport infrastructure, recreational purposes and greenhouses. It also includes parks, gardens, verges and dykes.

The term ‘land take’ is based on the European Commission’s definition of ‘settlement area’.


Roos lives in a very special house, her parents are committed to building a ‘living village’. In these houses nature is fully integrated in the house, so there is not only a lot of nature around the house but also inside!

The dream of Roos’ parents is to show that you can live together with nature. A ‘living village’. With the technique of ‘Living Building’ the parents want to create a green and edible paradise. And build houses of living trees, with the proven techniques of arborsculpture and treeshaping. With permaculture and foodforest design they want to realize an edible eco-village. They want to build this on a field, and create new, edible nature. They don’t want to destroy an existing forest for housing and a vegetable garden. In the village they want to experiment with living, but also organic and recyclable building.

Creative ways of building, starting with the material you have at hand. And not with a blueprint.

Source :


Questions to think about


Why do you think Roos’ parents want to live in a house that lives? For example by letting living trees grow into the house?


Do you think it would be easy for her parents to find a field or field and get permission from the government to build a ‘living village’ there? What do you think is easy and what is difficult about it?


Why do you think Roos’ parents want to realize a village with the technique of ‘living building’?


Do you know of any examples of Arbosculpture or treeshaping? If so, which ones? If not, can you find images of them on the internet?


Would you want to live in a “living village”?


Some facts:

Living construction is the shaping and growing of living trees into multifunctional objects. By allowing trees from the same family to grow together, Arborsculpture is created. Maintenance is the annual braiding of the offshoots; this is Treeshaping. So the trees form the structure of the building and the roots the foundation.

Permaculture is a design method, based on ethics, ecology and other sciences, for designing the human environment. environment in a way that is sustainable and economically stable.


Arnold van den Burg and Kas Koenraads founded the Zoological Museum. the Zoological Museum contains a collection of illustrated stories that tell, in words and pictures, about the lives of animals and how they interact with their environment.

Arnold and Kas want the museum to grow into an internationally recognized knowledge platform about the interactions between body behavior and the environment. Their main goal is to inform and enthuse anyone interested in the characteristics of animals and the backgrounds of the lives they lead.

Arnold and Kas were inspired by a statement made by Baba Dioum in 1968: “People protect only what they cherish, cherish only what they understand and understand only what is taught to them” (Baba Dioum, 1968). For them, this sentence beautifully summarizes the relationship between education and conservation. With their museum, they want to offer a unique view on animals in the context of their environment, which will appeal to anyone interested in the how and why of the animal world.

Source :


Questions to think about


How many animals in Europe do you think are endangered and on the Red List? Which endangered animals do you know?


What is the greatest economic cause of extinction of plant and animal species?


Why do you think local farmers in the Amazon are going deeper and deeper into the jungle to create fields by burning trees?


Can you explain what Baba Dioum meant by his statement?

‘People protect only what they cherish, cherish only

what they understand and understand only what they are taught’.


What can you do to protect plants and animals?

Some facts:

The IUCN Red List is a comprehensive source of information on threats, ecological characteristics and habitats of animal and plant species. The list also indicates protective measures that can be taken to prevent or reduce extinction.

In Europe as a whole, less than half of the original biodiversity remains. The main causes of this biodiversity loss are changes in natural habitats due to intensive agricultural production systems and building activities.






Detailed activities

The Cosmic Walk

Developing a sense of the vastness of nature which makes for more inspired eco-designs.

Open sprint


Verstil in de natuur

Finding answers by quieting down in nature.

Open sprint



Free activities

Sounds walk

You will learn to listen attentively during the sound walk.

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Learning from nature

Vind bio-geïnspireerde oplossingen die oplossingen kunnen bieden voor de klimaatcrisis.

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What trail will you leave?

We will investigate traces that people and animals leave behind in nature.

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The Pachamama Allience program

The assignment aligns with the “awakening the dreamer” program developed by the Pachamama Allience institute.

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The framework of integral ecology (4 quadrants)

In this assignment you will learn how integral ecology brings together the complexity of all the different perspectives on ecology

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‘Life’s Principles for designs’

In this assignment you learn to apply the ‘Life’s Principles’ designed by the Biomimicry institute and incorporate them into a design.

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Inventorise your bioregion

In this assignment, you determine the bioregion of the school or place where you live using the main guidelines of bioregionalism.

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Young people experience connection to nature, and can integrate the value of this connection into their lives.



  • Experience nature in silence (listening, observing) during different periods in all seasons.
  • Some local species draw through close observation .
  • Write a poem or story about nature.
  • Participate and contribute to festivals or ceremonies in nature Develop a personal bond with an animal (species).


  • Create a herbarium of common species
  • Taking pictures of plant and animal species and putting them together in a visual-aesthetic form (slide show, exhibition, etc.).
  • Helping the local wildlife in some way Traces of animals.
  • Making fire, using bushcraft.
  • Reclaiming a piece of land.
  • Make a design for a small area Play a lot outside, also on trees, in the woods Go on different walks.
  • Be inspired and touched by something in nature through direct experience.


  • Name the common types of plants, birds and animals in the home and at school.
  • To describe the main natural cycles, such as the water cycle and the soil-forming process.
  • Explaining the importance of diversity in (eco)systems
  • Describing an ecosystem.
  • Analyse the condition of local ecosystems (nature) and make proposals to improve their health and diversity.
  • To describe the concepts of normal and deep ecology.

In-depth questions for the Teacher

  • Have you defined the core values described by the ‘Deep Ecology Platform’ for young people and implemented them in your project for young people?
  • Did you reflect together with the young people in how the core values described by the ‘Deep Ecology Platform’ are reflected in the implementation of their projects? And when they are not reflected, have you asked young people to justify this?
  • Would it be possible and desirable to carry out the activity ‘cosmic walk’ as part of your project?
  • How much time do you spend within your youth project on nature experiences and activities in nature?
  • Have you considered organising a pilgrimage to explore the issues at play in the youth project or the issues at play at the project site in more detail with the group?
  • Were you able to implement the ‘Life’s Principles’ in your project?
  • Have you explained to young people how biomimicry designers use nature for inspiration to design new innovations?
  • Have you encouraged young people to apply the ‘Life’s principles’ in their designs?
  • Have you had young people explore what they can learn from local traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous wisdom, local farmers and elders?
  • Could the use of integral ecology (four quadrants) help young people to gain more clarity about material and immaterial, inner, outer, personal and collective dimensions of their project design?
  • To what extent does your project connect to the idea of ‘cosmopolitan bioregionalism’?
  • Have you explored how the ‘guidelines for developing bioregionalism’ can help young people achieve a bespoke design that connects their project to its region?

GAIA Hypothesis (SDG 14 and SDG 15)

“The Gaia hypothesis is a scientific hypothesis that states that the biosphere interacts with the nonliving environment in such a way as to create a self-regulating complex system so that favorable conditions remain for life on Earth. The hypothesis was formulated by scientist James Lovelock in 1969. He described all living matter on Earth as one organism and named it after the Greek goddess of the earth, Gaea. The American microbiologist Lynn Margulis was the co-developer of the hypothesis. One of the tools used to support this was the numerical model Daisyworld.

There is evidence that such systems do indeed exist: The single-celled alga Emiliania Huxleyi occurs in the ocean and algal blooms can be observed with satellite photographs. These algal blooms influence cloud formation: gases (dimethylsulfide) are formed, which are converted in the atmosphere to acids that form condensation nuclei; as a result, smaller water droplets are formed in the clouds, making the clouds whiter and reflecting more sunlight. The algal bloom thus indirectly causes cooling of the planet; it is thus a negative feedback effect.

The GAIA idea has gained a spiritual following in addition to scientific interest. This initially frustrated scientific acceptance.”

Source :

Cosmic thinkers (SDG 15)

Our criterion for selecting ‘cosmic thinkers’ is the person’s original contribution and inspiration in word or action to the emerging world vision, expressing ideas for transforming this planet into a more sustainable and spiritual world.

Two great cosmic thinkers of our time, who have contributed most to the new paradigm thinking, are historian and expert on Eastern religions, Thomas Berry and evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris. Both focus on the very big picture of the evolutionary development of life on earth. Thomas Berry fills us with inspiration with his broad “Story of the Universe” and his overview of the human condition. That is why he calls himself a “geologist”.
Elisabet Sahtouris puts it into perspective, as she convincingly asserts from a biologist’s point of view that humanity’s true destiny is to be found in cooperation rather than competition, consistent with the emerging worldview of total connectedness

Other cosmic thinkers include:

  • Thomas Berry (The Great Work)
  • Elisabet Sahtouris (Evolutionary Biology)
  • Rudolf Steiner (Anthroposophy)
  • David Bohm (The Implicate Order)
  • Arne Naess (Deep Ecology)
  • Fritjof Capra (The Web of Life)
  • Bill Mollison (Permaculture)
  • Joanna Macy (American Buddhist)
  • Ken Wilber (Integral Theory)
  • Stanislav Grof (Transpersonal Psychology)
  • Vandana Shiva (Indian Activist)
  • Helena Norberg-Hodge (Ladakh, ISEC)
  • Thich Naht Hahn (Plum Village)
  • The Dalai Lama (Eastern Spiritual Leader)
  • Ari Ariyaratne (Sarvodaya)
  • Sulak Sivaraksi (Spirit in Educatio)n
  • Johan Galtung (Peace Research
  • Duane Elgin (Voluntary Simplicity)
  • Eckhart Tolle (Western SpiritualLeader)
  • David Korten (from Empire to Earth Community)


Characteristics of an ecological lifestyle (Arne Naess) (SDG 13) 

  • Use simple means and don’t chase after all novelties
  • Activities that directly serve or possess inherent values are important
  • Promoting sensitivity to goods of which there are enough for everyone
  • Regularly residing in situations of inherent or intrinsic value (instead of pursuing ‘kicks’)
  • Solidarity at global level (“Think globally, act locally”)
  • Choose and value lifestyles that are feasible for the entire global population
  • Prioritising meaningful work over earning money
  • Living in a collective instead of as an individual in an anonymous society
  • Participating in the production of basic necessities
  • Satisfy vital needs rather than desires

Core values of the Deep Ecology Platform (SDG 13)

  1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the utility of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
  2. Wealth and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
  3. Humans have no right to reduce this wealth and diversity except to meet vital needs.
  4. Current human interference with the non-human world is excessive and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.
  5. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease in human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.
  6. Policies must therefore be changed. Policy changes affect fundamental economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be very different from the present.
  7. The ideological change is mainly about valuing the quality of life (living in situations of inherent value) rather than holding on to ever higher standards of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between great and great.
  8. Those who recognize the preceding points are invited to participate directly or indirectly in the effort to make the necessary changes.

Biomimicry (SDG 15)

The term biomimicry is derived from the contraction of the Greek words bios ‘life’ and mimesis ‘imitate’, so literally ‘imitate life’. In other words: learning from nature instead of about nature.
The term biomimicry was first used by Janine Benyus in her book ‘Biomimicry, innovation inspired by nature’ (1997). Nature harbors a number of basic principles that Janine M. Benyus described in her book. She describes how we can learn from nature when it comes to solutions for our current problems and challenges. With her 3.8 billion years of experience, she can serve as a model, yardstick or mentor in the creation of a Future Proof Organization. Benyus distinguishes the following three application areas:

  • Nature as a model: “Imitate or draw inspiration from designs and processes to solve our problems.”
  • Nature as a yardstick: “With 3.8 billion years of experience, nature knows what works, what fits and what stays good.”
  • Nature as a Mentor: “View and appreciate nature to learn from it.”

► ‘Life’s Principles’ (SDG 12. SDG 13 en SDG 15)

“The American organization Biomimicry 3.8 (Janine Beyus) which laid the foundation for the Biomimicry thinking, has distilled six basic strategies after thorough research that apply to all organisms on Earth. We call these basic principles the life’s principles. They are the principles that underlie the success of life on Earth. You can see them as design principles of organisms that enable them to survive successfully on a planet where conditions change cyclically, where raw materials are limited and where chemistry takes place on the basis of water. They are basic and at the same time sustainable strategies:

  1. using environmentally friendly materials
  2. using raw materials efficiently
  3. adapting to local conditions
  4. adapting to changing circumstances
  5. evolve to survive
  6. integrating development and growth

Source: translation in Dutch of chapter 2 from the book 4’33” time for a circular economy by Fontys University of Applied Sciences.

Pachamama Alliance (SDG 13)

Pachamama Alliance is a global community that offers people the opportunity to learn, connect, engage, travel and nurture life with the goal of creating a sustainable future that works for everyone. With roots deep in the Amazon rainforest, their programs integrate indigenous wisdom with modern knowledge to support personal and collective transformation that is the catalyst to bring forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet.

Pachamama Alliance has created the up-to-us development path to educate, inspire and engage a critical mass of pro-activist leaders who are committed to creating a thriving, just and sustainable world for all. The first step on the path is the Awakening the Dreamer program, a transformative educational workshop exploring the role people can play in creating a new future. You can find this program with the link below,

Integrale ecologie van Ken Wilber (SDG 15)

Integral ecology is the application of Ken Wilber’s integral theory in environmental studies and ecological research. The field was developed in the late 1990s by integral theorist Sean Esbjörn-Hargens and environmental philosopher Michael E. Zimmerman. Integral ecology uses a framework of eight ecological worldviews, eight ecological forms of research, and four fields.

Bronfenbrenner ecological model (SDG 15)

Bronfenbrenner’s theory has an ecological model. He describes the environment of people as an onion, with different layers. This onion has five layers, and each layer has a different influence on the development of a person. The closer the layer is to someone, the more direct influence that layer has on that person. The further away the layer is from the person, the more indirect influence that layer has on that person. Indirect influence may sound like it has less influence on someone, but even a factor that has indirect influence can determine a lot (Van der Wal & de Wilde, 2017).

Cosmopolitanism (SDG 17)

Cosmopolitanism occurs when a person experiences a sense of connection with humanity in general that is stronger than any sense of national or regional identity. It is also referred to as world citizenship.

What is bioregionalism? (SDG 15)

Bioregionalism is a fancy name for living a ‘rooted’ life. Sometimes called ‘in place’, bioregionalism means being aware of the ecology, economy and culture of where you live and committing to making choices that improve them.

Main guidelines of bioregionalism (SDG 13, SDG 14 and SDG 15)

  • The world is made up of bioregions. Bioregions are defined by geography, flora and fauna, topology, environment – different social, cultural and economic characteristics and arise where physical connections make sense.
  • Bioregions are locally focused, at a scale where everyone can achieve real impact.
  • Bioregions are diverse and unique. Across the world there are tens of thousands of ecosystems, thousands of ecoregions, hundreds of bioregions, and as with any ecosystem, the solutions needed to address the same problem will be just as diverse. This diversity is a bioregional force and represents a healthy exchange of ideas, dialogue and movement.
  • Bioregionalism connects people to indigenous ways of life.
  • Culture has its roots in the history of a place. Bio-region’ is simply an abbreviation for ‘bio-cultural region’ – and emphasises both the diversity of the place, and the people who live there. Many of these attributes come from sharing a land together; where the same crops grow and weather patterns and climate are dealt with in the same way. When there is a natural disaster, such as a flood, an earthquake, a forest fire, drought or salinization, it affects the entire bioregion.
  • Bioregionalism builds identity. We talk about it as a social and cultural movement because culture is the sum of our interpersonal interactions. Culture includes food, drink, music, sports and recreation, and the subjects that touch the heart.
  • Bioregionalism acts locally and connects globally. Locally, bioregional movements seek to increase regional autonomy and independence by moving toward local sources of renewable energy, shifting from global to local food supplies, promoting sustainable forms of housing and transportation, creating local currencies and economies that keep wealth within communities, creating local democracy that allows people to influence the decision-making process.
  • Bioregions are anchors for change.
    By reducing problems to a local level, we can connect people with those already working to make a difference. Bioregionalism assumes that change starts at home, and that anyone can make that difference.
  • A bioregional movement is a gateway movement.
    Bioregional movements help each other during difficult times, listen and learn from residents around the world, adapt lessons that can work for their own area, and openly share their models for success.
  • Bioregionalism goes beyond boundary lines on a map
    Instead of political boundary lines, everyone is equitably empowered to create sustainable environmental policy, growth management and planning, disaster preparedness and response, and create real solutions and consensus on the most challenging issues.
  • Bioregions are proactive. The bioregional approach can be seen as ‘proactive’ rather than a form of protest against existing social, economic and political arrangements.
  • Bioregions are building the world they want to see. And that means not waiting for others to do it for us.
  • Bioregionalism supports a holistic systems approach. Bioregionalism provides a framework for creating a bioregion that is sustainable, autonomous, resilient and independent, and advocates holistic systems approaches.
  • Bioregionalism builds from the ‘shell of the old’
    And works on two tracks to achieve change. On the one hand, it promotes policies and initiatives that align with bioregionalism, while on the other hand, it actively creates alternatives that are more resilient, sustainable and democratic.

Bioregional life (SDG 13)

Living a bioregionally conscious life means making daily choices that focus on the local ecology, economy and culture. This can mean any of the following:

  • Buy locally grown food (and organic).
  • Avoid large retail chains in favor of locally owned stores.
  • Looking for products made close to home by companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
  • Banking with local government owned banks, especially banks that invest in the community.
  • Know the birds, animals, trees, plants and weather patterns of your locality, as well as land features and soil types.
  • Understand the human cultures that have taken your place in the past and respect their way of life.
  • Get to know your neighbors and look out for each other.
  • Looking for entertainment created in your area; supporting local artists, musicians, theater companies, storytellers.
  • Watching less TV and spending more time with loved ones or neighbors playing games, making music and wanting to have fun with you.
  • Knowing where your waste comes from and keeping your waste to a minimum.
  • Know where your drinking water comes from and use conservative water.
  • Knowing where your electricity is generated and using sustainable energy sources, such as solar power, where possible.
  • Voting in local elections and being involved in political decision-making.
  • Being directly involved in your children’s education, whether they are in school or being taught through home schooling.
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