Friday, December 2, 2011

Make Recycling Second Nature for our Children

Thanks for the comment Lisa, by request:

I was involved in recycling well before it became the craze. It was second nature in our household and as a child I assumed it was the same everywhere else. I just did it because that's what I knew. The missing link in recycling is education. We've done better recently but what we really need is to instill it at a young age. Many schools are hoping on board but some aren't picking it up quite as quickly as they should. As always, Mom and Dad are the first step and below are a few ways to introduce it in your home.

1. Look at your garbage: It is helpful to "stage" a garbage can filled with recyclables and real garbage (you can control the amount of recyclables versus waste that they'll find). If you compost include those materials too. It is fun and also shows the true impact of pulling items out of the garbage. They will see the amount of landfill bound garbage diminish and the bin empty. I know it'll be a bit messy but it's really worth it and will leave an impact.

2. Sort: In conjunction with #1 make bins to put the recyclables in.  If you are using old containers that need to be painted or labeled, then let them help. For children under the reading age include pictures of the materials that belong in the bin. Continue to use these bins regularly and allow them to feel like they started their very own recycling program in their home recycling center.

3. Provide incentives: I'm always conflicted on this one because we want our children to do the right thing just because it's right. At times it takes motivation to learn what the right thing is. I tell myself that once it has been learned  it'll then just become second nature to them. If you want to go the route of charts and stickers that works (maybe reward for each item placed in a recycling bin or for each bin filled). The other much loved incentive is money. Cash in the aluminum cans and allow the recycling fund to buy something fun; a true reward for their efforts. It's unfortunate that aluminum cans are just about the only in house commodity that you'll receive a monetary value for since so many households have cut out soda but.. that's just how it is. 

4. Check out a landfill: Although they are currently essential for the removal of the "true" waste in our homes; landfills are typically vast, dirty, stinky places. It's no surprise based on the stuff we throw away each day but the actual smells and views of visiting a landfill leaves an impression. It's basically the difference of looking at a picture of a vast mountain or really being on the mountain. It's good for them to see just how much trash is there and how space is limited.

5. Make a recycled product: It's great to know that you're doing the right thing and keeping materials out of a landfill but if your child is anything like mine they want to know how. A little project showing them what the big word "recycling" really means and how simple it is for us to do can do the trick. Making paper is a true life example but there are plenty of other pretty cool things you can make by recycling or upcycling material.

"Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value." as quoted by Wikipedia
Check out a few cool sites that have really neat upcycling ideas. These are projects that you won't mind seeing around your house.

Instructions on how to make recycled paper:

Sock puppets, dreamcatchers &  crayons made from the broken sad crayons you have laying around:

Bags from grocery bags (Advanced - not young child friendly):

These are just a few there are so many ideas out there and can be found by searching "upcycling projects for children".

Everyone preaches for change and through the education of our children we can watch them make a real difference. By far the greatest impact we can have on our environment is the mindset we instill in of our little ones.

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