Recycling is an amazing way to help our planet, but it’s also a great way to teach our kids. By participating in a recycling program, our kids learn not only environmental responsibility, but they also learn to sort and even practice their reading. Our landfills don’t fill up, but our children’s minds do! Ready to get started? Here are 4 steps to get you rolling:
Join a Recycle Program
Seek out your local city recycling programs. Sign up for curb side service or find your nearest drop off center. Be sure to print out all requirements; some cities will take all recyclables in one container, others must be stored by paper, plastic, glass, etc. Make a note of items that are recyclable, but not allowed in the curbside pick up and where they should be dropped off instead. Think electronics, paint and some plastics (i.e. bottle caps and straws).
Many cities even offer composting programs too!
Set up an area in your home to collect your recyclables. It could be as simple as a trash can (if all items can be mixed) or you may need several containers if they need to be sorted. Try color coding the sorting bins: green for paper, blue for glass and pink for plastic. Note the day of pick up so you are sure not to miss it. Or choose a day during the week to make your drop off. Empty cans mean you’ll always have room to fill them up!
Print a list of what each recycling code means and keep it handy. Practice looking at the bottom or side of each item before you toss it in the trash. Does it have a code that means it could be recycled? If so, toss it in the recycle bin instead. Be sure that containers are rinsed before recycling – food covered items are not accepted at recycling facilities. And clean recyclables mean your bins won’t stink either.
Get your kids involved! Clean a stack of recyclables and then let them sort them into the right bins. Let them drag bins to the street, or help load them at a recycling center. Being a part of the process will make it more appealing!
Reduce and Reuse
The last two steps of any good recycling program is to create less waste to begin with. Use reusable bags for the grocery store, department or convenience store (throw them in your trunk and you’ll always have them). Pack lunches in insulated reusable bags rather than a paper bag. Take your coffee and water to go in a reusable thermos or bottle. Don’t grab the disposable utensils at lunch unless you really need them – instead keep a set of utensils at work. While it may seem like a lot of extra work, it is an easy habit to get into.
For items that can’t be recycled, or for those that have some life before they get recycled, reuse them! Turn plastic containers into food storage or transportation. Use tin cans as seed starters for a garden. Refill hand soap pump bottles from a larger bottle rather than buy a new small bottle. Or break down items and let your little one’s imaginations take over! Build “recycle bots” with items and create fun, whimsical creations.