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British children enjoying the great indoors.

What happens when you survey 1,000 British parents and 500 children on their leisure activities? You might find out that a quarter of the kids don’t play outside. Or that 12% of adults admit to having ‘no interest’ in the outdoors and 5% thought that trees which don’t lose their leaves during winter are called Carnivores. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. 6% of British adults thought strawberries grew on trees, so it should come as no surprise that 25% of British kids did not know what a mouse looked like.

Yet, oddly, the same surveyed parents do recognise the benefits of outdoor play. The report revealed that 71% of parents think their children are happier when they play outdoors and 92% believe outdoor play is good for their children’s health. So why are they spending twice as much time glued to a computer or TV screen, than being outdoors?

According to the survey 45% of parents listed safety concerns as a key factor. 40% blamed their hectic lifestyle and ‘feeling too tired’ by the time it’s the weekend to venture outside. The weather was also cited as a deterrent.

Kids Closer to Nature Campaign
The survey complied by OnePoll was commission by Arla Foods UK, who released the results to kick off their campaign to encourage more children to enjoy the great outdoors, via a new program called Kids Closer to Nature. Ironically, however, the project is centred around a website!

There will, though, be incentives for kids to leave the screen and get some air in their hair. A grants scheme of up to £1,500 per project will be open to the general public with the intention to create natural spaces and the like. The Kids Closer to Nature online adventure club has been established to inspire children to frequent their back garden, local park, and school playing fields. Arla is also working with the British National Schools Partnership on resources for primary school teachers to encourage pupils to explore nature.

All of which is great news for British parents and their kids, but the skeptic might wonder why is Arla getting so involved in this nature gig? Well it does tie in very nicely to their branding which is, unsurprisingly, ‘Arla brings you closer to nature.’

However the business does have some impressive runs on the board, so this not mere greenwashing.

World’s Fourth Largest Dairy Cooperative
Arla Foods is headquartered in Denmark, and lay claim to being the fourth largest dairy cooperative in the world, with 7,625 Danish and Swedish farmers as cooperative owners. Now if one were set aside the question of how natural it is for human adults to drink milk intended by nature for baby cows, then Arla does appear to walk their talk.

The company’s environmental targets for its own operations are a 34% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, from a 2005 baseline, and that 30% of its energy will come from renewable sources, also by 2020. They are striving for a 20% reduction in water usage by 2015 and very impressively are setting next years as their target year to attain says zero waste to landfill.

World’s Biggest Supplier of Organic Milk
Arla lay claim to being the “biggest supplier of organic milk in the world.Currently 7% of the milk delivered to Arla is organic, with goal of this becoming 10.5% as of 2011. This may not sound like much, but the company does process approximately two billion litres of milk a year, in the UK alone. And to their credit Arla, as an incentive to convert to organic, pays their cooperative farmer members the higher price of organic milk in the last six of the two years required to complete conversion. And they sell that in-conversion organic milk to customers as regular milk.

So there is some solid background behind their push to be seen as the dairy company closer to nature. Here’s hoping their campaign to get kid outside is also successful. For as we often quote, Henry Thoreau prophetically observed that, “in wildness in the preservation of the world.”

Arla’s Kids Closer to Nature project, via Sports One Source (free subscription rquired)