Step 8: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Teach students to reduce, reuse and recycle in a Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard. This step addresses two similar ideas: recycling natural materials and turning them into garden compost or mulch. Visit Step 8: Reduce Reuse Recycle on the Jersey-Friendly Yards website for tips, tools and resources.
Why It’s Important
Current estimates show that we need one and a half planet Earths to support the growing human population of consumers. We will never have another planet to rely on, so we all need to realize that our actions matter. Recycling natural materials is one way that students can learn to slow down consumption and tread more lightly on our planet.
When we think of recycling, plastic bottles and aluminum cans come to mind. Recycling used materials is important and we can take our cue from nature. Nature recycles too. When a tree completes a season of growth, it sheds its leaves. This organic matter is broken down by decomposing organisms and turned back into soil. The soil holds the nutrients once held by the tree’s leaves. The tree takes in those nutrients from the soil to grow new leaves. Year after year, the cycle continues.
8A: Learn how nature recycles.
Provide a lesson about nature’s recycling system. Teach your students how nothing is wasted in nature through the process of decomposition.
Resources for Lessons about Nature’s Recycling System and Decomposition
- Nature’s Recyclers Activity Guide – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (AG)
- Nature Recycles Too! (LE-MS)
- Dirty Decomposers! (LE-MS)
- Science Sparks! – Decomposition Experiment (LE, UE)
- Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies: Decomposition – Who Decomposed Our Leaves? (MS, HS)
8B: Learn how to compost.
Provide a lesson about composting. Teach your students how to create a compost bin to recycle organic matter. This “black gold” can be used to enrich the soil in your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden!
Resources for Lessons about Composting
- Ocean County Department of Solid Waste Management – Composting
- PBS Learning Media : Recycling and Composting (PKK-UE)
- How to Make a Classroom Worm Bin (PKK-UE)
- Worm Composting in the Classroom – a Curriculum Guide from the Kitchen Community (PKK-UE)
- EPA – How to Create and Maintain an Indoor Worm Bin (AG)
- A Guide to Start a Composting Program in Your School (AG)
- Making the Most of Composting (AG)
- On-site Composting at Schools (AG)
- Rutgers NJAES: Composting Fact Sheets & Bulletins (AG)
- Home Composting Fact Sheet (AG)
- School Compost Programs – Pathways to Success (AG)
- 6 Steps to Starting an Organic Compost Program at Your School (AG)