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What in your surroundings is most important to you? List 10 things. Did air or water or trees make the list? Chances are they didn’t - we often take them for granted. Air, water, and land are increasingly being filled or contaminated by the things people throw away. In the past, reducing, reusing, and recycling were ways for people to save money. Your great-grandparents reused glass bottles and sewed up the holes in their socks because their money went to keeping a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. Today, people “reduce, reuse, and recycle” for many reasons. Biking or walking reduces air pollution, saves money, develops leg muscles, and promotes a healthy heart. Second-hand stores sell cool, inexpensive clothing that others have outgrown. Using red wiggler worms to eat your kitchen waste will create a rich fertilizer for your plants and reduce the amount of garbage you throw away. Everyday decisions add up to big impacts on the environment. Often, the choices we make to preserve the environment also create a lifestyle that is less expensive and healthier for us.

So choose to recycle! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Activity 1 – Recycle Something

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What materials are recyclable? Create a list of recyclable materials and find the major groups that are recycled. This is a useful link: LIST of RECYCLABLE MATERIALS in the US. After making your list, try making choices between recycling, composting, charity, or true garbage. Take the Recycling Quiz and find out if you have learned everything you need to know about proper recycling!! Instead of throwing something away, think of a creative way to reuse it.

Choose recycling! Choose composting! Choose charity! Choose reuse!

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Activity 2 – Reduce Your Waste

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First, take a home recycling survey: Next, think of ways to reduce your waste.

What can you reuse? What can you recycle? What can you reduce? What can you rethink?

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Activity 3 – Spend Some Time With Garbage!!!

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How much garbage do you create? For one week, collect all of your family’s garbage in garbage and recycling containers. At the end of the week, weigh your garbage and chart how much your family accumulated. Now find out national averages about garbage and compare your family’s accumulation to the national average. Next, find out where the garbage goes once it leaves your house. Write five paragraphs about your research findings on garbage. Be sure to conclude with your vision for the future of garbage.

Garbage go away!!

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Activity 4 – The Art of Recycling

How can you engage your school and your community to appreciate the benefits of recycling? Take a close look at the recycling symbol. How could you modify or alter it to attract more attention to recycling and the benefits it could bring to your community? How could a redesign of the recycling symbol build a specific identity for your community? Interview people in your community showing the recycling symbol. Create a survey for them. Ask them to check out Beyond the Bin Resource or take the Smart Recycling Quizzes. Ask them if these resources are motivational for their recycling purposes or informational about what should be recycled and the benefits of recycling. Share the Recycling Use design thinking and word webs to brainstorm ideas. Develop three to five alternatives. Take the Zero Waste Challenge as a household, as a school classroom, and as a school community. Present them to your city’s recycling business. Be a sustainability entrepreneur!

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Activity 5 – e-Waste Recycling

Take a look around your house. How many electrical devices do you have? Computers, TVs, microwaves, cell phones, refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners? All of these are considered e-waste and can be recycled when they have reached their limit of use. Check out Facts on e-waste to see how much is in landfills in countries around the world. There are special certified places (e-Steward Certified that repair electrical equipment and R2 certified that disassembles and recycles the individual metals, plastics, glass, hard drives, and circuit board) products by type. Before you buy any new electrical product, be sure you recycle your old ones! Make a list of items in your home that will eventually contribute to e-waste. Sort the names of the items into a repair or recycled list. Do not let them end up in a landfill!

Activity 6 – “Never demolish, never remove or replace,always add, transform and reuse.”

“Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform and reuse.” Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillip Vassal, Architects and 2021 Pritzker Prize Winners

Recycling refers to building reuse as well. As the Historic Preservationists declare, the most sustainable building is the existing building. Do you have empty buildings in your community? Will they be torn down, creating landfill waste? Or will they be adapted to new uses? The building industry contributes 11% of global energy-related carbon emissions from carbon-embodied materials and carbon-generating construction. Why should what exists be torn down, generating greater carbon footprints? ECONorthwest, an Oregon-based organization, researched building demolition of over 1,000 buildings calculating the carbon footprint. Their findings concluded that renovating an existing home, rather than demolishing and replacing it, equaled removing 93 cars from the road for an entire year. A single commercial building renovation equaled the carbon footprint savings of removing 1,028 vehicles for the year. Next time you see an empty home with a demolishing sign, take action and ask your village design board why they are raising the carbon footprint of your neighborhood. Take a survey of your village and count the number of vacant buildings. Make a word map suggesting possible reuse. Typical uses include housing, offices, coffee shops, pet groomers, vets, hair salons, nail salons, repair shops, insurance agents, jewelry stores, bakeries, and bicycle repair. The possibilities are endless! Remember, the greenest building is the one that already exists!


  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle keeps:
  • Reuse reduces the strain on valuable resources such as:
  • Name the areas that hold our noncombustible, non-recyclable materials, as well as ash from incineration and residues from recycling.
    • Reuse creates less of what when making a new or recycled item?
    • You can do your part in helping the recycling by sorting what materials?
    check answers