I went into the big house just this afternoon to use the restroom. Why not use the toilet in the bungalow? Well, I was going in there anyway to drop something off and I need to use the restroom. So? I did! While I was, um, standing there I noticed a cardboard toilet paper roll staring up at me from the cartoon-themed trashcan. I quickly (or as quick as my bladder would allow) reached down, picked it up, and headed toward the recycling bin with it. Yes, you heard me. The recycling bin.

Rewind about 7 months ago when Crystal and I established together with our big house family our goals and practices for recycling. They were on board immediately and we purchased some trashcans assigned for plastic, cardboard, and general garbage. A few months in things were going great and I have to admit I took great pride in the fact that we had influenced another family to recycle. But clearly my restroom experience proved that not all plans are perfect all the time. Someone had either gotten lazy, didn’t care, or simply forgot, that we are A RECYCLING COMMUNITY (imagine that being said with a cavernous echo!) A few minutes later it dawned on me that not everyone has made the sustainability discover that Crystal and I have and not everyone is so certain of all this “going green” mumbo jumbo. As with most things, we have to be taught. That led me to think about Tilly Madison and how we will teach her from day 1 to reuse, reduce, and recycle!

I think it is quite fair to say the best way to teach our kids how to recycle is to set the example for them to follow. Kids are exploratory by nature and always want to learn so childhood is a perfect time to teach them how to recycle. We need to all teach our children proper stewardship and that the earth is our home and must be nurtured and treated with respect.

To that end I have come up with a few tips to help teach kids the 3 R’s of waste management; Reuse, Reduce & Recycle.


  • Start out with a tagline. In our house we use, “Easy in. Easy out.” Just as easy as it was for us to buy it and bring it in we can take it out and take it out correctly. No extra energy needed.
  • Consider packaging. All kids love “their own.” But do you really need to buy individual packages of snacks? Could you not buy a bulk container and then put it in a container? The container gets washed and reused.
  • Just say NO! Nancy Reagan may have been referring to drugs but these days we are referring to plastic bags. They are simply unnecessary and other than becoming bathroom trash bags, they server no real purpose beyond the 7-minute trip home from the store. Let your kids have their own reusable grocery bag that you can fill with “their” snacks and such at the grocery.
  • Grow your own food!  This is fairly self explanatory. Growing a garden means NO packaging and when you do so organically you can enjoy food straight from the ground. It is like living in a concession stand.


  • Trash = Treasure. Remember the old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, it doesn’t have to be old. Let’s teach our children that we can use what others consider waste. Perhaps you can think of a craft or an art project using discarded items. Maybe this will help.
  • Your nose won’t know. Why not try using cloth napkins instead of paper tissues. Or what about handkerchiefs instead of disposable kleenex?
  • Donate. Twice a year help your child go through his/her clothes and toys to see what he/she no longer wants/needs and encourage them to donate it reminding them that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”
  • Go with a nappy. Buy cloth diapers instead of disposable ones as they are better for the baby’s health as well as the environment.


  • Waste not, want not. Designate cans for recycling and for normal garbage. Teach your kids what is recyclable and where to put it for recycling.
  • Money makes the world go ’round. Have your child separate recyclables and put them in the appropriate receptacles. If they do a good job reward them with a treat or a few quarters. Remember, money is a motivator!
  • Earth Day, every day! Even though we should make every day Earth Day try to remember the date and plan an activity or participate in a community-wide celebration with your family.

No one is perfect. We all have to focus on being better stewards or our planet. What are some tips you use as a parent to reinforce the message of reduce, reuse, and recycle? And as always, if you like this article please consider sharing it on Facebook, posting the link on Twitter, or giving it a 1+ on Google+.