Step 8: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Teach students to reduce, reuse and recycle in a Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard. This step addresses two similar ideas: recycling nature-made materials and turning them into garden compost or mulch, and reusing and repurposing human-made materials and turning them into functional furniture or beautiful art in the garden.
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 nature-made materials and repurposing human-made materials are two ways 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.
Most human-made items can’t be recycled like nature’s leaves, and they end up in the landfill where they will sit for thousands of years to come. In order to slow consumption and waste, we can repurpose used items to create functional and beautiful objects in the garden. Visit Step 8: Reduce Reuse Recycle on the Jersey-Friendly Yards website for more tips, tools and resources.
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 Recycler’s 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)
Resources about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Ready to Submit Step 8?
Upload the Required Documentation to Your Custom Link.
When you enrolled, you received a custom link from us for your action item uploads.