Teaching Kids the 3 Rs - Reduce, Reuse, RecycleRecycling is important. Everyone benefits from taking care of our planet and saving money and resources. That alone is enough to motivate everyone into participating in a recycling program or a swapping group or something similar. Learning about recycling different materials and how each person can play a part in preserving and protecting the earth is key to survival methinks.

Why recycle?

Let’s think for a moment about how much garbage our family generates each week. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in the United States alone, each person generates 4.5 pounds of solid waste each day! So when you multiply that by the number of people in your family and then think about it as it pertains to the number of families in your neighborhood, number of neighborhoods in your city/town, cities/towns in your state, etc, it’s quite easy to see that there is just too much waste for our landfills to handle. Let’s face it. We live in a disposable world!

I think back to my days growing up. At 33 years old it wasn’t that long ago that I was living in my parents house and throwing away everything from toilet tissue to fruit roll-up packages. We consumed and trashed, day after day. But by in large the message of recycling was a well-kept secret. Heck! Earth Day had just been started 8 years prior to my birth. No one ever expected our planet to get where it is today. Things are different now. We are educated. We are wiser. We are more conscious. And in order for this trend to continue we must educate our children. But how?

Perhaps the most obvious thing to do is to raise our children teaching them about recycling and reducing and recycling. Knowledge is key! Kids are exploratory by nature and always want to learn so childhood is a perfect time to teach them how to recycle. We need to all teach our children proper stewardship and that the earth is our home and must be nurtured and treated with respect.

To that end I have come up with a few tips to help teach kids the 3 R’s of waste management; Reuse, Reduce & Recycle.


  • Start out with a tagline. In our house we use, “Easy in. Easy out.” Just as easy as it was for us to buy it and bring it in we can take it out and take it out correctly. No extra energy needed.
  • Consider packaging. All kids love “their own.” But do you really need to buy individual packages of snacks? Could you not buy a bulk container and then put it in a food safe storage container? The container gets washed and reused.
  • Just say NO! Nancy Reagan may have been referring to drugs but these days we are referring to plastic bags. They are simply unnecessary and other than becoming bathroom trash bags, they server no real purpose beyond the 7-minute trip home from the store. Let your kids have their own reusable grocery bag that you can fill with “their” snacks and such at the grocery.
  • Grow your own food.  This is fairly self explanatory. Growing a garden means NO packaging and when you do so organically you can enjoy food straight from the ground. It is like living in a concession stand.


  • Trash = Treasure. Remember the old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, it doesn’t have to be old. Let’s teach our children that we can use what others consider waste. Perhaps you can think of a craft or an art project using discarded items. Maybe this will help.
  • Your nose won’t know. Why not try using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Or what about handkerchiefs instead of disposable kleenex?
  • Donate. Twice a year help your child go through his/her clothes and toys to see what he/she no longer wants/needs and encourage them to donate it reminding them that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”
  • Go with a nappy. Buy cloth diapers instead of disposable ones as they are better for the baby’s health as well as the environment.


  • Waste not, want not. Designate cans for recycling and for normal garbage. Teach your kids what is recyclable and where to put it for recycling.
  • Money makes the world go ’round. Have your child separate recyclables and put them in the appropriate receptacles. If they do a good job reward them with a treat or a few quarters. Remember, money is a motivator!
  • Earth Day, every day! Even though we should make every day Earth Day try to remember the date and plan an activity or participate in a community-wide celebration with your family.

No one is perfect. We all have to focus on being better stewards or our planet. What are some tips you use as a parent to reinforce the message of reduce, reuse, and recycle? 


Share this story & help promote green living concepts:
Facebook Twitter Plusone Tumblr Reddit Pinterest Email

Leave a Reply