Looking to make in a big difference in your community’s recycling and waste programs, but not sure where to start? Start small—more specifically, with small people. Big differences can begin with kids.
Start today with our lists of expert tools for kids from pre-k to senior year:
Treat Recycling as the Norm
What kids learn today has a tremendous impact on the world of the future. If recycling bins become as standardized in children’s lives as trash cans, that’s the reality they’ll grow up expecting—and demanding when it’s not there. The young folks of today are poised to be the generation that makes recycling as institutionalized as drinking fountains and Wi-Fi in public buildings.
Implementing recycling programs in schools, classrooms, and other youth organizations is a crucial part of this vision for the future. Schools are more than places to learn reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. They’re also where children pick up many societal norms, like how to work with a team, how to act during meal times, and how to dispose of waste.
Having thriving recycling programs in place empowers kids. It’s something they can participate in every day to help their world, and it doesn’t take long for the habit to become as routine as hand washing before lunch.
Education Equals Recycling Success
At the core of any successful waste reduction program for kids (and adults, for that matter) is education. To get the high level of buy-in that leads to high participation, kids must first understand why recycling exists, how it supports a healthy environment, and what difference it makes if they personally put paper scraps in a recycling bin instead of the trash can.
This may sound like a daunting task, but heaps of quality environmental education resources already exist, and are only a click away. The websites in the list below were compiled by teachers at Eco-Cycle’s School Recycling and Environmental Education program. They’re experts, and provide tens-of-thousands of kids with reasons and ways to protect the environment each school year.
Use these compiled resources to reinvigorate passion for an existing recycling program, educate participants in order to improve the quality of materials collected, or inspire a youth group to take action on another environmental issue. Other uses might include guiding waste-related research projects, or assisting a time-strapped teacher who wants to start an eco-club but doesn’t know where to begin. Decide on a goal, and go for it.
When Kids Lead, Adults Follow
As an environmental educator, I’ve heard over and over from parents that they never paid attention to their community recycling program until their kids started learning about it in school. We all want to be good examples for children, whether they’re ours or part of our community. If waste is an issue kids care about, it quickly becomes one adults care about too.
Ready to get started? Get the resources you need:
Kate Nelson has twelve years of experience in environmental education and classroom teaching. She now works as a freelance writer developing classroom curriculum and promoting Zero Waste.