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Mendo Lake Family Life

30 Easy Ways to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

By Katy M. Clark

Every year on April 22 my family celebrates Earth Day along with millions of families around the world. Started in 1970, Earth Day encourages us to appreciate the environment and become more aware of the issues that threaten it.

There are plenty of ways that kids can commemorate the day, no matter how old they are. Check out the 30 ideas below for easy ways that everyone from preschoolers to teenagers can reduce, reuse, and recycle this Earth Day.

Little Ones

1. Teach your kids to turn off the water when brushing their teeth.

2. Recycle! Have young ones place items such as paper and tin cans into dedicated recycling bins rather than the trash.

3. Transform trash into treasure. Preschoolers can create beautiful works of art with repurposed bottles, yogurt cups, leftover fabric scraps, and the like.

4. Demonstrate how closing the drapes, instead of dialing down the air conditioner, cools down the house. 

5. Likewise, bundle up in layers on cooler days rather than turning up the heat.

6. Teach kids to turn off lights when leaving a room.

7. Give kids eco-friendly toys and games, such as wooden puzzles dyed with non-toxic stains or balls that are BPA- and phthalate-free.

8. Make bird feeders out of natural ingredients like pine cones and birdseed.

9. Engage little ones in planting a garden and growing vegetables that your family can eat.

10. Get a houseplant or two and talk about how plants improve the air we breathe.

School-Age Kids

11. Elementary school kids can help with shopping for recyclable products. Have them look for labels that say “recycled content,” “pre-consumer” and “post-consumer.”

12. Kids can place small recycling bins in each bathroom in the house. Bonus points if you can get them to empty them into the curbside recycling bin each week!

13. Use reusable rags instead of paper towels to clean up messes.

14. Create a compost pile, whether on the kitchen counter or in your backyard. Kids can throw in egg shells, coffee grounds, and most food scraps and wait for them to turn into rich soil for use with plants outside and in.

15. Encourage them to volunteer to pick up trash from playgrounds, parks, or beaches.

16. Teach them (again!) to turn off the lights when they leave the room.

17. In every room of the house, place signs that remind family members to turn off the lights.

18. Use reusable water bottles rather than single-use plastic bottles.

19. Plant a tree at school or home.

20. Plant milkweed to help the monarch butterfly population.

Tweens and Teens

21. Nab nice pre-owned clothes at a thrift store.

22. Encourage them to use reusable bags when shopping.

23. Ask them to unplug their electronics and chargers when not in use.

24. They can also turn off their desktop or gaming monitors when they aren’t using them.

25. Ask them to devise ways your house can collect rainwater, for use on houseplants or flowers.

26. Turn off the lights when leaving the room. (Yes, you’ll probably still be working on this one with teens even though you’ve been preaching it since they were little!)

27. Recycle old cell phones. First make sure to take out SIM cards and erase the phones, usually with a factory reset. Teens may also need to remove the battery and research how and where the battery can be properly recycled.

28. Use a timer to make sure showers last no longer than five minutes.

29. Remove makeup with cleanser and a reusable wipe instead of disposable wipes.

30. Host or volunteer at an e-waste collection event.  

Katy M. Clark is a writer who celebrates her imperfections as a mom at