Joshua, 11, has a special title: Waste Management Officer. Every Saturday morning he sorts all the recyclables for his family, packing up glass bottles into boxes ready to go to the recycling plant, squashing aluminum cans and sorting paper, cardboard and plastic waste. He’s not only proud to be given this responsibility, but makes a real difference in how environmentally friendly his family’s waste habits are!
Did you know that in many areas, if you put the wrong items into your recycling can or bag, the whole thing often ends up in landfill? Or did you realize that with a bit of extra effort in reusing and recycling in your household you could make a substantial inroad into your total carbon footprint each year?
Why not make waste a family issue and involve your children in helping to reduce, reuse and recycle? Giving children responsibilities of their own, as Joshua’s family has found, increases their self esteem and general enthusiasm.
Once you have implemented the obvious and are recycling as much glass, paper and plastic as possible, here are some extra ideas to further reduce your family waste:
Use food scraps and any other organic waste to compost in your garden
Aim to buy products with minimal packaging
Can newspapers, shredded paper or vegetable peelings be used for a pet – perhaps your neighbor would appreciate you saving them?
Sign up for online billing where the option is offered, saving lots of wasted paper bills
Train everyone in the house to use both sides of paper in writing pads or in your home printer
Investigate refillable printer cartridges. This can save you lots of money as well as reducing waste
Buy a battery recharger, and use rechargeable batteries where possible instead of disposable ones
Get refillable juice containers for the kids’ lunchboxes instead of buying individual juice packets. Remember to set a good example by taking using a portable coffee mug instead of buying takeaway coffee in cardboard cups!
Use cleaning cloths in the kitchen instead of paper napkins
Reuse plastic containers as desktop organizers, food storage containers, flower pots and more
Replace light bulbs with long lasting energy efficient versions – not only will you reduce your electricity usage but you’ll be throwing away many fewer bulbs
Buy concentrated laundry detergent in a smaller bottle to perform the same number of washes with less packaging
Consider whether toys or clothes can be repaired so that they last longer. Buy good quality shoes and have them resoled when needed rather than replacing them as soon as are showing wear
Donate old tools, toys or other hardware to a local charity, or have a garage sale and sell them cheaply. It’s a lot better than throwing them in the trash!
As you can see from the ideas above, sometimes all it takes is a bit of “out of the box” thinking to find new ways to reduce your family waste. Children can learn a lot if you decide to approach this as an opportunity for a positive challenge.
You could suggest a “Zero Waste Week Challenge” – and see how close your family can come to having an empty trash can for the week. Start by analyzing your waste and see where you can make the biggest savings. Perhaps your trash can tends to be full of disposable packaging from supermarket foods? Time to start buying goods with less packaging! Or you may find a lot of food is being thrown away. You could tackle this with better meal planning.
All of these ideas and activities are ones that the kids can help out with. It will help them to develop all kinds of useful skills and attributes, including:
Problem solving – thinking about the problem of excess waste, and coming up with possible solutions.
Creativity – remember that no idea is a bad idea! Encourage your kids to think outside of the box and let them know that all suggestions are welcome and will be considered.
Teamwork – Environmentally friendly waste management is definitely an area where the whole family needs to work together and cooperate for best results.
Communication – sharing ideas and plans for waste reduction with the rest of the family. Once your child is an expert at waste reduction, he’ll probably even start to communicate his solutions with friends and teachers as well!
Responsibility – Your child will soon realize that he has a responsibility to think about what waste he is creating as an individual, and how this contributes to the whole family’s carbon footprint or wider impact on the environment.
Tackle your family waste issues with some of these ideas and approaches and soon you will not only have a significant impact on your family carbon footprint, but chances are your kids will be enthusiastic “Waste Managers”, just like Joshua!