Seeing that big pile of presents under the Christmas tree – and the often bigger pile of packaging and wrapping it somehow produces – can make any parent feel a little guilty about their impact on the environment. Americans throw away around 25% more trash during the holiday season than they do the rest of the year. Very little of this trash is unavoidable. In fact, with a little thought and care, you can dramatically reduce the amount you throw away at this festive time of year.
If the glut of waste produced during the holiday season has inspired your family to get serious about recycling, why not include some green goals in your New Years’ resolutions? One of the best ways to cut your carbon footprint for good is to teach your kids the importance of recycling and sustainability. After all, tackling this issue as a family can help you minimize the amount of trash sent to landfill for generations.
To help you introduce the younger generation to the wonderful world of sustainability, we’ve put together our top tips to get your kids recycling in 2023.
1. Set an Example
It’s incredibly important for your kids to see you lead by example, so make sure you double your recycling efforts. If you have recycling boxes in your house, garden or out on the street, make sure your kids see you separating out your recyclable materials and dealing with them properly. If you take your waste to a communal recycling point, bring your kids along whenever you can so they see it as part of the routine.
If you have the space, you could also create a compost heap so your kids can get an up-close view of recycling in action. Use the compost you create to grow herbs, fruit or veg for the family and show your kids how recycling can be part of a sustainable food cycle.
2. Talk About the Environment
As any parent of a toddler will know, kids love to know why we do things, so give them as much information as you think they can absorb. You could put a piece of plastic in your compost heap to demonstrate how some materials never break down, or you could show them photos of landfill sites and beaches covered in trash.
If your kids are a little older, you could watch a few environmental documentaries together. Wildlife shows that depict the impact of trash and plastic waste on animals often have a particularly profound impact on young minds.
3. Give them Some Stats
Putting things in black and white with a few stats and facts is another great way to teach your kids the importance of recycling. Make sure you choose information that’s easy for kids to relate to. For example, did you know that:
- If you recycle one aluminum can, you can save enough energy to power your computer for a few hours?
- Half a million trees are cut down every week just to produce the Sunday newspapers?
- It takes 95% less water and energy to recycle an aluminum can than to manufacture a new one? What’s more, aluminum, like glass, can be recycled again and again.
- Cardboard boxes can be recycled at least seven times and used to make all sorts packaging.
4. Get the School Involved
Getting the school involved is a fantastic way of giving your recycling push a bit of structure. It can also help you to spread the word on the importance of sustainability. Kids are always more likely to become interested in a subject if their friends are fascinated too.
There are lots of ways that schools can encourage kids to recycle, from installing recycling bins in the playground to creating fun recycling projects for students to work on. Often, just having a lesson or two on the value of recycling can be enough to kickstart kids’ recycling ambitions and get them living more sustainably.
5. Make it Fun
The more fun recycling is, the more likely your kids are to do it. So try to turn it into a game whenever possible. If you take your recycling to a local drop off point, you could challenge your kids to get the plastic, metal, glass and cardboard in the right boxes as quickly as they can.
If you have a curbside program in your area, you could incentivize your kids to collect recycling by paying them a few cents a piece, or by giving a prize to whoever collects the most. Turning recycling into a game should help to keep your kids interested and ensure your recycling push is a success.
6. Get Crafty
Getting a bit creative with the waste your family generates is another fantastic way to get your kids interested in recycling. A lot of trash can be cleaned, dried and turned into craft materials. Popsicle sticks can be used to make model houses, cardboard boxes can be transformed into robot costumes, race cars or castles, and aluminum cans can be turned into everything from Christmas tree decorations to candle holders.
Although you can make a lot of great things out of waste glass, waste aluminum and waste cardboard, you can also reuse a lot of items without doing anything to them at all. For example, you could use jam jars as glasses, vases or kitchen containers. Cardboard boxes can be used for storage and newspapers can be used to clean windows or provide bedding for your household pets.
Old clothes can be cut up and used as rags or you can donate your good quality items to charity. Reusing products instead of throwing them out is one of the best ways to reduce waste and live sustainably.