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Teach a Child to Recycle…

We all wish to break a habit of our own. Whether it’s a goal to use less water with household chores, cut down on sugar consumption or to stop biting one’s nails we know it to be a process. Becoming aware of habitual actions, in and of itself, is a large step and for many of us, this is the most difficult step. Some would say, however, it’s easier to break a habit than it is to pick up a new one.

Reducing, reusing and recycling is a way of life. It’s not simply a collection of habits but also a way of thinking and acting. In order to build environmentally-friendly habits we must make conscious choices in everyday life. As consumers, this could mean by starting simply and buying apples at the grocery store without giving them a separate plastic sleeve. Before recycling paper turn one-sided-used sheets for scrap paper and note taking. It’s not difficult to put intention into our use of man-made products and resources if we are educated on HOW some would say.

What if an individual or an entire group of people have great intentions in their efforts to be more environmentally-friendly and their actions are incongruent with the mission? Middle school students are encouraged to recycle and compost at lunch time but sometimes they make mistakes like forgetting to empty their milk carton before recycling it or they mistake the compost bin for a recycling container. How do we reward individuals for forming great habits and catch them when they do it incorrectly? How do we educate our youth and older adults on how to contribute to environment-protecting efforts properly?

We need input and support from all involved groups: parents, staff and faculty, students, mentors and more. Students could teach students and monitor the sorting process. Faculty and staff could remind their students of what is recyclable each day with a simple announcement. The more exposure students have the more likely it’ll stick.

Let’s all make a habit out of spreading our knowledge and passion with one another. Let’s educate one another and soon we all will feel engaged and empathetic.


Lunch items are sorted here in these containers at Clarke Middle School. Students have guides on how to use bins properly (see signs in this photograph) and containers are of different color and size.