Posted by Deirdre Mundy, guest blogger
If we want our children to care about good stewardship of our natural resources, we have to start young. It’s important to encourage recycling for kids so they grow up to be adults who avoid waste. The only problem is that recycling involves garbage, and garbage is a chore. With a bit of creativity and a positive attitude, you can turn good stewardship into a fun family activity and help your children grow into responsible, caring adults.
Reduce and Reward
Recycling is good, but it’s even better to reduce your household’s overall waste. Bring less potential garbage into the house, and prevent more items from ending up in the garbage through recycling, repurposing, and composting. Cutting back doesn’t have to be dreary. You can turn an environmentally responsible lifestyle into a game for your kids.
Teach your kids about sustainable packaging options. When you’re shopping, have them help you choose products that package responsibly. Make it into a game, and award points to the child who finds the most eco-friendly packaging for each item on your list.
At home, set up a “Garbage Fund.” At the beginning of the month, put enough money in a jar to cover a few coveted treats. Each time a full bag of garbage goes out to the curb, take a dollar out of the jar. At the end of the month, use the leftover money to give the kids a treat. The more they reduce waste, the bigger their treat will be at the end of the month. Suddenly, excess garbage won’t be a convenience—it will be a drag.
Before you recycle, look for craft materials and let the kids go wild. Cereal boxes can make excellent card stock for projects like dioramas and boomerangs. If you paint milk jugs black and fill them with water, they become solar heaters. Place them next to vulnerable plants to provide passive heat that protects from spring frosts. You can stretch a plastic bag over a wooden frame to make a kite and braid other plastic bags to make a tail. A used can forms the base of pencil holder, part of a scarecrow or wind chime, or the base of a sculpture.
When you find creative ways to use the contents of your recycling bin, you teach your children to live responsibly and sustainably. Best of all, you give them a practical way to have a good time.
Recycle and Record
Even adults get lazy about recycling and composting. A late night, a hectic morning, or a looming party can throw the best recycling systems into chaos. Let your kids take charge of household recycling. Each month, choose a “Recycling Czar.” The Czar takes possession of the crown (made from repurposed materials, of course) and the record sheet.
Let the Czar set monthly targets, and try to reduce your waste each month. If your family cuts waste to a new low, celebrate! Have a party and reward your children for their achievements.
Once your children learn the basics of recycling for kids, they’ll be ready to teach their friends, teachers, and classmates about sustainability and good stewardship. Your work with them at home might lead to real, positive changes in your community and your world.
Photo credit: Jessica Reeder; Flickr