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Earth Day: Recycling with Students

Leah Holloway


width=300Recycling: everyone knows they SHOULD do it; not everyone does. What better place to start green habits than in the classroom?


We’ve all heard (and used) the excuses: it's not a practical option in all areas; it takes more energy to recycle some materials than it does to create new ones; the sorting process is too confusing, or takes too long; my students need to be the priority, not their garbage.


Though it may not be a question on standardized tests, recycling, energy conservation and green living are crucial factors in our world. Students need to know about these issues in order to be informed citizens, as well as responsible Earth-dwellers.

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Establishing that knowledge and those good habits doesn’t have to be a hassle.

Ask the Administration About School-Level Recycling Programs

Many schools already have some sort of recycling program. With the stimulus money encouraging green schools, now is a perfect time to establish or improve your current program.

The typical program consists of  bags made of recycled plastic in the classrooms for paper, and large bins scattered in strategic places throughout the buildings to collect plastic beverage bottles.


Schools use a tremendous amount of paper. Some offices have switched to using 100% post-consumer paper in all of their printers and copiers, completely and totally debunking the myth that says recycled paper tends to jam more than virgin paper. Recycling and even compost bins are becoming pretty common in workplaces as well.

Recycle in Your Classroom

Whether your school endorses recycling or not, you can encourage the habit in your classroom. Try:

  • Set up bins that are easily accessible to collect recyclable materials.
  • Talk with your students about the importance of recycling and about the facts and myths surrounding it (read on to learn more about the debate!)
  • Encourage them to do their own research into the subject, or even integrate such research into an assignment.
  • For younger students, make a fact sheet they can take home and share with their guardians. Do a recycled art project with the materials they collect in the classroom.
  • As a student project, have THEM petition the school, district or community to establish recycling programs and greener practices.
  • Always use both sides of paper.

Better yet, Go Paperless!

  • Post worksheets and study materials online. You can use Google Docs or your class website.
  • Submit and return papers via email.
  • Try quizzes and tests online instead of on paper.

If your school does not have its own recycling program, take a look at this fantastic guide to establishing one.


How do you teach green? Share in the comments section!