A Mother's Shade of Green: Even Little Hands Can Make a Difference…

How to Teach your Kids about Reusing, Reducing and Recycling at Home.

By Kate Agliata:

In honor of Earth Day, I was invited to speak to each of my children’s classes about the importance of recycling. I gathered up the facts, brought in some examples, and even had them participate in a game. In previous years, I’d been shocked to learn how few children actually recycled at home, or even knew much about it. Yet, this year I was amazed by their knowledge, and also with the incredible examples of their recycling many shared.

As parents we work to shield our children from the harsh realities associated with many of the world’s challenges. As adults, we are able to see how dangerously threatened our environment has become. Every year, the United States generates approximately 235 million tons of waste—about 5 pounds of trash per person per day. Sadly, less than one-quarter of it is recycled. The majority of it is either burned or buried in landfills. We watch the news, we read the articles, and we talk to our friends—we can fathom the potential health concerns related to pollution, chemicals, and toxicity. We are able to make healthy and educated decisions daily based on our ability to comprehend the world around us. Our children however, are not yet capable of processing such enormity—nor would we want them to! Yet, I continually see that they are capable of understanding some of the core issues of concern, especially those that are close to home, such as trash and recycling. They do realize that carelessness most often leads to consequences. As I have seen firsthand, many children are excited about getting involved and learning about the positive changes that help us to live a greener, and healthier way of life.

We too, can help teach our children about these necessary changes. By working as examples for them to follow and by discussing with them the facts, as well as the potential solutions, we are giving our children an incredible head start in practicing lifelong green living habits. Use the explanations, ideas and tips below to begin a discussion with your children about the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. A great way to begin the conversation, and to get them thinking, is to ask them if they have ever wondered what happens when they throw out a piece of trash. Do they know where it goes? What do they think happens to it?


When we throw garbage out, it is picked up by a garbage truck and then buried in a landfill. A landfill is a huge hole in the ground that is filled up with trash. The garbage can stay in the landfill for a really long time. It can also make the water and soil underneath of it very unclean and also unhealthy. This can hurt plants, animals, and even people.

We can all work together to make less trash. Making less garbage and learning others ways to get rid of things helps us all to take better care of our Earth.


Reducing the amount of things we buy and use on a daily basis means we will have less to throw away. When we avoid making garbage in the first place, we don’t have to worry about disposing of waste or recycling it later.

Examples about how we can reduce our waste:

  • Writing/coloring on both sides of a piece of paper
  • Using a reusable cup or water bottle instead of a juicebox
  • Bringing lunch to school in a lunch box instead of a paper bag
  • Bringing our own bags to the store for purchases, or saying, “No thanks, I don’t need a bag,” when we buy an item that doesn’t require a bag
  • Only taking servings of food we are sure we will eat.


Reusing means to keep using the same item as many times as you can instead of throwing it out. This also helps to take care of the Earth.

Examples of reusing:

  • Passing on clothing that we have outgrown to our siblings or others who can use them.
  • A yard sale: selling items that we no longer need to people who have a use for them.
  • Donating old toys or clothes to a charity
  • Using an old glass jar to hold pencils, markers or paintbrushes
  • Reusing gift bags or wrapping paper for new presents


Recycle means to find new ways to use old things. If you aren’t already recycling at home, now is the time to start! Check with your town to learn about possible recycling services, or call Waste Management at 205-841-2740 to arrange for curbside recycling. Set up a small bin in your kitchen or garage and teach your children about household items that can go into the recycling bin instead of the trash.

Examples of items that can be recycled:

  • Glass bottles
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Detergent bottles
  • Cereal boxes
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Plastic yogurt cups
  • Plastic toys

About Kate:

Kate, a freelance writer and mother of two, most often finds creative inspiration in writing, but occasionally at the bottom of an empty wine glass. She has hijacked her family’s former lifestyle and is in the midst of creating a simpler and greener approach to life. To follow her family’s challenges and successes in this endeavor, visit her blog, at Kate’s Musings. She and her family have lived in Birmingham since 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *