Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about reducing, reusing and recycling. It is designed to complement the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Do you know what can be reduced, reused, or recycled? What is biodegradable? In this movie, you’ll learn how to reduce waste and garbage, and find ways to conserve energy and water. You’ll find out how to reuse items to cut down on garbage that ends up in our oceans or landfills. You’ll understand why it’s better to use reusable items instead of disposable ones. You’ll also learn how to recycle items like cans, glass, plastic, and paper and turn them into new items. Did you know that plastic bottles can be recycled to make playground equipment or even fleece jackets? Watch the movie to explore how we can conserve our natural resources and protect our Earth.

Help your children to understand that the conservation of our natural resources is very important. They should understand how their actions can affect their environment, and the entire planet. By making changes in the way we live, we can help improve and care for our environment. Remind your children about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling and brainstorm different ways they can reduce waste to maintain and improve our Earth. Guide your children to reflect on how their daily activities impact the environment, and help them make choices that are ecologically conscious to instill “green” habits.

Review with your children that waste is anything thrown out or left behind. Waste can be everything from uneaten food and containers to old clothing and electronic equipment. The average American throws away about 4.5 pounds of trash each day. This adds up to about 1,460 pounds per person per year. More than half our waste ends up in landfills, taking up valuable land. Help your children understand that some waste is biodegradable, and able to break down into the environment naturally. Plant waste, such as dead leaves and cut grass, is biodegradable.

Items such as plastic or foam containers eventually break down, but it can take hundreds of years. They are considered non-biodegradable. Americans discard enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. Furthermore, the average plastic utensil is used for less than three minutes before it ultimately finds its way into a landfill. Plastic bags are also non-biodegradable. Light breaks them down into small particles that contaminate soil and water. These particles can be digested by marine animals, and then passed up the food chain to other animals and humans. Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled each year. Garbage in our landfills leaches toxins and releases poisons into our soil, groundwater, and air, posing a huge threat to our environment. However, there are ways that people can be more ecologically conscious and change their daily living habits to lessen waste overall and improve the quality of our environment. Remind your children of the 3 r’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Remind your children that when they reduce, they cut down or make something smaller. We can reduce the amount of waste we produce by using less and using only what we need. A simple phrase they can remember is “take what you need and use what you take.” Natural resources are things of value we get from the environment, such as soil, plants, animals, and water. We can conserve, or save, natural resources by reducing what we use and throw away. We should turn off the faucet when we are not using the water, and shut off lights when we do not need them. We can conserve energy in heating or cooling our homes by wearing warmer clothes indoors or by opening windows instead of turning on energy-draining air conditioners. We can save nearly 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year just by washing our clothes on a warm or cold water setting instead of hot. We can reduce the amount of gas we use by riding bikes, walking, or taking public transportation. We can also reduce the amount of waste we throw away by purchasing items with less packaging and reusing items.

Review with your children that when they reuse, they use something again and again. Plastic utensils are disposable and often used only once. Metal utensils, however, can be used and reused for a lifetime. Help children find disposable items they use everyday and find a reusable alternative. For example, people can use reusable cloth bags (or bags made out of recycled materials) instead of plastic bags at grocery stores. Unwanted items, such as old clothing, toys, or furniture, can be donated to charity or given to others to be reused. Broken toys can be fixed or they can be taken apart and used for other purposes. Re-purposing old items around the house is a great way to reuse and recycle.

Explain to children that when something is recycled, its materials are used to make new items. Steel cans, aluminum cans, glass, plastic bottles, and paper are just a few items that can be recycled. Steel cans may be recycled to provide steel for buildings, bikes, nails and school buses. Aluminum cans and glass containers can be recycled to make more aluminum cans and glass containers. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy required to make the can from its original source. Paper and cardboard can be recycled into pens, paper, and cereal boxes. Plastic bottles can be made into picnic tables, carpet, shoes, clothing or even playground equipment! Rubber tires can be made into bulletin boards or shoe soles. Help your students research on the Internet to learn about different items made from recycled materials. It will surprise everyone!

Guide your children to realize that they have the power to improve the environment and make big changes just by changing their daily habits and being ecologically conscious. Simply making children aware of the recycling options available to them and their families can make a big difference. Encourage them to find other ways they can reduce, reuse, and recycle.