kidrecycle.jpg As summer winds down, a new season of possibilities is upon us – a season that is, of course, marked by the sound of school bells ringing. If you are an eco-minded person, it might be easy to create an environment where recycling is the norm in your home. But what about school? While technology is growing rapidly in the classroom, the reality is schools still use quite a few consumables – paper obviously topping the list – that should wind up in the recycling, rather than the trash, bin. As with many facets of school life – including your child’s lunch menu choices – it can be challenging to keep tabs on what is taking place outside the walls of your own home. There is hope, though, and the best time to instill a love of recycling in your child is … now! Since it is difficult to reverse any habit midstream, including a mindset devoted to recycling, it is best to establish a pattern from the get-go. Below are eight tips to help your kids start off the school year the right way – one that is eco-friendly:

1. Set an example at home.

At the risk of stating the obvious, children emulate what they see. If you want your child to be a responsible recycler at school, foster a disciplined environment at home so good habits are engrained at a very young age. Lead by example by recycling such items as aluminum and steel cans, cardboard, glass, newspapers and plastic bottles. When your child has consumed their beloved beverage, direct them to place it in the designated recycling container. The website Love to Know also encourages parents to set up composting gardens at home. This fun, easy-to-visualize activity can spark a sense of enthusiasm in budding eco-friendly children. Another way to set a good example is at the grocery store. As you have your kids in tow, purchase products with responsible, sustainable packaging and bring your reusable shopping bag so you can gleefully say “no” to that age old “paper or plastic?” question.

2. Take an active role in your child’s school culture.

As this piece in the Providence Journal points out, you have the right to assess the layout of your child’s school. “Ask your children if there are recycling bins at school, and where,” Providence Journal correspondent Krystal Noiseux writes. “Are they in their classroom? Every classroom? The cafeteria? Take a peek for yourself and note the kind of signage and how clean the recyclables appear. Is there trash in the bins?”

3. Establish a rapport with school administrators.

Having a good relationship with the key decision-makers at your child’s school can prove beneficial in so many ways. If you have suggestions about enhancing your child’s school’s recycling efforts, this relationship will only yield positive results.

4. Take an active role in having a waste audit conducted.

One of the greatest steps you can take in helping foster your child’s recycling efforts is to request a waste audit be conducted. A number of organizations, including the nonprofit Recycle Works, conduct these audits by examining a school’s waste composition and volume of materials. The audit includes a look at what can be recycled, re-used, reduced and eliminated. Additionally, Recycle Works and other organizations will make recommendations of materials that can be substituted for non-recyclable materials in use at schools.

5. Think about how you’re packing their lunches.

If you choose to go the cold lunch route – you know, preparing a meal at home, as opposed to purchasing a hot lunch served at the school – encourage your children to reuse as much of the packaging as possible. Consider alternatives to plastic sandwich bags, which all too often wind up in the trashcan. Also, resist the temptation to put lunches in those disposable paper bags that also wind up in the trashcan.

6. Encourage school staff to clearly designate which receptacles are for recyclables and which are for trash.

This is especially important for the younger grades, as students might not know exactly what item should go in a respective container. As this article on the website Plastics Make It Possible points out, visual depictions of what can be recycled are sometimes helpful. “Adding pictures of recyclables – plastic bottles, paper, aluminum cans – on or near the recycling containers helps everyone identify the right place for the right recyclables,” the Plastics Make It Possible article states.

7. When purchasing supplies, go the recycled route.

Retailers began trotting out their back-to-school sales in early July. It’s an annual ritual, of course, and shopping with your child can be a fun right of passage to help usher in a new year. It might be tempting to buy new, shiny supplies – from pads of paper to pants to pencils. As you make purchasing decisions for this new school year, consider how you can support eco-friendly causes. Instead of purchasing a traditional spiral-bound notebook, for example, see if you can purchase one made of recycled paper.

8. Play the role of an educator

Depending upon the age of your child, try to explain why recycling is important. If a child does not understand why they are recycling, there will be a disconnect over time, and the likelihood of your youngster carrying the practice on, year after year, dwindles. “Teaching your kids about recycling can be difficult,” blogger Amy Whittle writes on the’s website Home Guides. “The concept is often fairly abstract for younger children.” One suggestion, Whittle says, is to discuss how much energy is saved through recycling. One factoid Whittle shares in her write-up will be eye-opening to children – and, in all likelihood, adults as well (I found it rather interesting!). “You might tell your child that the energy saved by recycling a single aluminum can is enough to light a 100-watt light bulb for 20 hours,” Whittle says.