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Practicing the New Three Rs

Try some of these projects together.


  • Check with your sanitation department or waste service to find out what you need to do to get items ready to recycle from home. Then, set up and label empty cardboard boxes to help children separate items for recycling: aluminum, plastic, cardboard, newspaper, etc.
  • Start "Recycling Tales." Have children think about what items may become when they send them off to be recycled. For example, what plastic items do they think their plastic soda bottle might become—a toy car with sirens, a comb, or outdoor furniture? Or, what would the paper from that old phone book look like if they saw it again—a coloring book, a birthday card, a library book?
  • Help your child go through toy boxes and drawers to choose those toys and clothes that could be "recycled" for a younger child.


  • When a jar is emptied and cleaned, have the family think of as many ways as possible to reuse it. (See the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Planet Protector (PDF) for a coloring book filled with ideas.)
  • Take your child to a yard sale to find that special "gently used" bike, scooter, or wagon. Then, work together to paint it and customize it.
  • Have your child gather cloth or net bags to help bring home groceries without asking for paper or plastic.
  • Create recycle arts and crafts using old empty boxes of different sizes, magazines, newspapers, junk mail, old ribbons, ice cream sticks, etc.


  • Buying the large economy size of laundry detergent and other items you use often is a great way to save money and reduce the amount of packaging you’ll have to recycle. Challenge your child to find as many "environment savers" as possible when you grocery shop.
  • Instead of individually packaged juice boxes or cans, buy the largest recyclable bottles of juice or sports drink. Then, let your child personalize a reusable, plastic container. Use this to take juice and drinks wherever you go.

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Updated on 3/21/2012