By Rakia Raney, RDN
You’ve heard it before: Reduce, reuse and recycle. But why does it matter? There are lots of reasons to focus on reducing waste, including saving scarce landfill space, decreasing air and water pollution and conserving valuable resources.
- Reducing means changing our habits. Think about buying products that don’t make as much waste. Avoid heavy packaging, single use items, plastic bags and water and soda bottles. To reduce food waste, start a compost pile in the backyard or sign up for your local compost collection service. This way, instead of contributing to overflowing landfills, you’ll be creating a rich soil that can be used in your garden or yard.
- You can reuse and repurpose all kinds of items! Try reusable lunch containers instead of plastic wrap and disposable baggies. Rip up old clothing for rags and use old paper as art supplies.
- Recycle! Did you know that 75 percent of garbage in the U.S. is recyclable, but we only recycle 30 percent? Most cardboard, cans, paper, plastic bottles, metal and glass can be recycled. Sign up for your local recycle hauler or collect your items and bring them to a drop off location. Here’s a great list of local organizations to contact for recycling of all kinds of items.
Now that you’ve got the basics, here are some tips and ideas to start decreasing waste in a kid-friendly way! Try these simple swaps and ideas with your kids:
- Choose reusable straws, cutlery and water bottles. Bring a set along with you in your bag so it’s always available. Try ordering drinks without straws at all.
- Offer zero-waste snacks. All those pre-packaged snacks come with a ton of waste. Try homemade trail mix, carrot sticks and hummus, stovetop popcorn, apple slices and peanut butter and whole fruits.
- Teach kids to save water. Try turning off the water when you brush your teeth, take shorter showers, don’t fill the bathtub as high, wash produce in a large bowl or fill up the sink to wash dishes instead of using running water.
- Get outside! This is a great reminder as to why it’s worth reducing our waste and protecting our planet. It’s easy to get caught up inside in front of the TV or playing video games.
- Pick up litter. Walk around your neighborhood with your child, and if you see litter, have them help you pick it up for trash or recycling.
- Find fun ways to declutter. Did you know the U.S. currently has three percent of the world’s children, but 40 percent of the world’s toys? Do you have any extras that could be donated and passed along? When you need new toys or clothes, think about buying second hand.
Resources for reducing waste with kids:
- NIH Kids Environment Kids Health
- NASA Climate Kids
- PBS Sid the Science Kid
- National Geographic Kids vs. Plastic
- EPA Reduce Reuse Recycle for Students and Educators
Rakia Ranney is a registered dietitian and lactation consultant for the Jefferson County WIC program. She loves working with families and children off all ages, from infancy and breastfeeding through childhood.