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Four ways to make reuse and waste reduction fun for kids

Waste reduction habits, like so many habits, are established early in life. By creating fun and rewarding waste-reduction activities for kids you can help inspire a generation that will keep finding new and creative ways to reduce waste.

DIY tote bag

Have fun with reusable shopping bags

Shopping can produce large quantities of plastic waste. The average American uses over 300 plastic bags per year. These bags are only used briefly and take around 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. 

Help reduce plastic bag consumption and have fun in the process! You can find plain white reusable shopping tote bags at a local store or you can make your own no-sew t-shirt bags. These tote bags can be decorated with fabric paint or markers, buttons, patches, and other creative decorations. Kids will be just as excited to use these bags at the grocery store or library as they will be to decorate them!

Turn waste reduction into a game

According to the EPA, the average American produces 5.9 pounds of trash per day. Small daily changes can make a big difference when trying to reduce waste production. You can get kids involved with waste reduction by turning the process into a game.

Start by taking note of how many trash bags you fill in a week and create a scoreboard to keep track. Create a reward system that incentivizes producing a lower total number of bags than the previous week. Encourage your kids to pay attention to what’s filling the trash and reward them for finding solutions to eliminate waste production. Lots of cans and bottles? Everyone in the family can start using refillable beverage containers. Lots of packaging? Maybe items that are being purchased online and delivered can be purchased locally instead.

Major scoring milestones can be rewarded with fun family activities like an evening at the movie theater, a trip to an amusement park, or a family favorite meal!

DIY planters

Teach kids the importance of repair and reuse

Landfills are filled with countless household items that could be repaired, reused, or repurposed. You can reward kids for finding alternative uses for items that could have ended up in the trash. This is a great way to teach upcycling and reuse at a young age!

Projects like turning old containers into planters, using packaging for arts and crafts projects, or bringing a broken toy or clothing item to a Fix-It Clinic are all examples of projects that could earn reuse points. These points can be saved up and redeemed for rewards. The waste eliminated by each project might seem minimal, but these activities can create lifelong waste reduction habits.

Mother and daughter cooking in the kitchen

Find creative ways to use food before it goes to waste

Do you find yourself frequently forgetting about ingredients in the back of your cupboards or fridge? You can enlist kids to help solve the problem and have some fun in the process.

There are hundreds of items in the average kitchen and it’s easy to forget about some that may not get used regularly. You can get kids involved with solving this problem by offering a reward system for identifying food that may have otherwise been forgotten. A plan can then be made for utilizing the food or ingredients before they potentially go to waste.

You can create a scoring and reward system for finding items that could have gone to waste. You can even offer points for coming up with a use for those items. Has the marinara sauce been in the fridge for a while? Let’s make it spaghetti night!

No matter what game or activity you create, remember, it’s not always about how much waste you save with that individual activity. It’s about creating lifelong reuse habits and awareness!