How to Explain the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Program to Children

Recycling isn’t just for adults. Educating children about the importance of protecting and preserving the environment is equally significant, but what is the best way to explain to kids the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle program?

When kids see the garbage collector taking the trash from their home, it can be difficult for them to understand that this garbage doesn’t disappear, but it ends up in a landfill – most of the times. But if you start adopting eco-friendly practices in your home, your children will not only find out about the final destination of trash, but also about their contribution to producing less waste.

Understanding the Terms

However, before we get to talking about reduce, reuse, recycle, the terms need to be explained to children in their own language, in a way they can grasp the meaning of green practices. It is a matter of educating ourselves, our family, and kids about the importance of these three words that have the power to change our environment and future.

Reduce – means to reduce the waste a household is producing during the family’s everyday activities, studies, work, and life in general.

Reuse – means looking for ways to reuse some of the materials we use for our everyday life, including paper, toys, electronics and any other tools. If we reuse, then we do not have to buy a new item. Consequently, we save energy producing a new one and reduce the overall pollution.

Recycle – means that the things we cannot reuse in their current form have to be recycled. Then, they can be used as raw material to produce a new item that will be useful to us. This way, we waste less and also help our environment.

Each of the actions resulting from these simple and yet important 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – comes as reinforcement of the others. Together, they have the greatest impact on thus improving the state and condition of our natural resources. Ignoring the 3Rs philosophy will lead to a negative impact on the environment and our general quality of life.

Teaching Kids to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To do things right means to start our reduce reuse and recycle campaign with the right foot first. It means we need to lay the foundation for a sustainable effort. The right education is the only one that can help us achieve this goal.

We need to teach our children – whether at home or in school – how to reuse and recycle and, above all, the impact of their actions on the environment. As with anything else, recycling habits start at home, then they are externalized to the community, to our country and, eventually, to the whole world.

Here are some simple yet useful ways to put the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – into practice in your home.

How to Reduce

While there are many ways your children can learn about reducing waste, the most powerful one is by personal example. Take the kids shopping with you so they can see you take steps to cut down on waste:

  • Give up on disposable shopping bags; instead, teach your kids about the benefits of reusable ones.
  • Be mindful of the products’ amount of packaging; choose those that require the least.
  • Buy some products in bulk, such as shampoo, laundry detergent, cat litter, pet food, and other household items.
  • Instead of buying something new all the time, try to use what you already have in the household.
  • Say no to bottled water and Styrofoam containers; they already fill the American landfills to the brim.
  • Avoid buying single serving foods that come with extra packaging.

How to Reuse

Reusing is the second step in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and it means to find new uses to the items and products you already have instead of buying new ones. Teach your kids to get in the habit of reusing by promoting these policies in your home:

  • Give up disposable products – mugs, cloth napkins, dishes – and purchase reusable ones instead. Paper cups, containers, napkins, and plastic utensils only add to the growing pile of unrecycled items in landfills.
  • Invest in refillable containers, such as soap containers and water bottles, whenever possible.
  • When you must use disposable items, like paper napkins, teach your kids to take only as many as they need, not more.
  • Make a habit of repairing appliances, mending clothes, and fixing other products for reuse. Alternatively, help your kids donate the clothing and toys they don’t use anymore.
  • Find creative projects that help you reuse the items that might be thrown away otherwise. For example, find DIY crafts that allow you to reuse boxes, paper towel rolls, packaging, or empty containers.
  • Print on both sides of the paper when using your home printer.

How to Recycle

Many products are recyclable – probably more than we think. The environmental authorities in your area can tell you about the recycling programs you can use. You can also set up containers around the house for different recyclable items, such as glass, paper, steel, plastic, and aluminum. Opt for either curbside pickup of your recyclable items or drop-off centers. If you go for the drop-off option, take the kids with you. Here are some other ways to teach your kids about recycling:

  • Participate in recycling drives and other local environmental initiatives.
  • Establish a recycling program with the authorities’ involvement if your area doesn’t already have one.
  • Look for retailers that accept used products, such as batteries, motor oil, paint cans, plastic bags, and smartphones. Be sure to take your kids along when you drop them off for recycling.

Did You Know?

  • If all the other countries on Earth used as much things as the U.S., we would need three to five times more space just to sustain everybody.
  • Americans are guilty of throwing away about 40 billion soda cans and bottles annually. If they were placed end to end, they would reach to the moon and back almost 20 times.
  • Recycling an aluminum soda can produces 95 percent less air pollution and 97 percent less water pollution than making a can from ore.
  • Each hour, Americans dispose of 2.5 million plastic bottles.
  • You can save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles that you place in a recycling program.
  • Only about 10 percent of all solid waste in the United States gets recycled.
  • On average, an American will produce about 56 tons of trash every year.

Now that you know how to explain the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle program to kids, feel free to use this information in any way you see fitting. Maybe you plan to become more eco-friendly and you want to involve the entire family. Or maybe you needed the basics for an environment awareness at school. Either way, educating the next generation is our responsibility and we need to take it seriously.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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