Why Teach About Sustainable Food, Waste Reduction and Recycling?
Today, it is more critical than ever to sustain the ecosystems and natural resources on which we depend. Worldwide per capita consumption of energy and materials is growing six times faster than global population. Sustainability requires that we move away from economic policies and cultural norms that contribute to rapid consumption, inefficient use of resources, including food, and waste. Instilling the importance of responsible use of resources in students will go a long way in shaping the outcome of environmental health and human prosperity as we move into the future.
Sustainable Materials Management in the Classroom Program
School Composting: On-Site — From the Highfields Center for Composting, this webpage provides links to numerous resources to implement an on-site school composting program, a planning checklist, a how-to guide for building the on-site system, maintenance tips, compost recipes, and a sample compost pile monitoring log
Join a loop: Off-Site Composting — HighflHighfields’ Close the Loop! programs are one example of how a food scrap collection program can be easily integrated into a school’s food culture by separate food scraps from recycllables and trash and transporting to nearby off-site composting operations
Solid Waste Activities (Grades 9-12) — Classroom activities on reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and more from the Cornell Waste Management Institute.
A Web of Resources (Grades 9-12) — Touching upon natural resources, their geographic locations, and policy decisions regarding the use of resources, this National Geographic activity helps to improve student's understanding of the complex nature of resources.
Natural Resource Extraction (Grades 9-12) — In this lesson provided by National Geographic students have the opportunity to think about where natural resources come from and to understand the environmental, cultural, and human rights issues that emerge from resource extraction.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Grades 1-2) — By reviewing the concept of "needs vs. wants," students begin to consider their role in using natural resources.
Product Life Cycle (Grades 3-4) — The materials in everyday products come from many different renewable and nonrenewable sources. In this lesson, students apply geographic knowledge and critical thinking skills to consider where materials come from.
Biodegradation (Grades 3-4) — In this lesson, students review the concept that materials in everyday products come from many different renewable and nonrenewable sources and can be classified as "biotic" or "abiotic."
Investigate Micro-invertabrates in Soil (Grades 7-8) - One way to catch soil-dwelling micro-arthropods is to construct a Berlese funnel using a funnel, some screen material, and a dark jar filled with a preservative liquid like ethyl alcohol or antifreeze.
Water Pollution Solution (Grades 3-6) — Although Water Pollution Solution was originally developed for San Francisco area classrooms, the activity can be adapted to demonstrate the types of pollutants that harm any watershed.
Everything Comes From Something (Grades K-2) — This National Geographic activity builds understanding of what a natural resources are by creating a link between man made products and the natural resources used to make those products.
Where Litter Ends Up (K-3) — This activity helps to teach students about solid waste by expressing that there is no 'away' in 'throw it away' and that all waste has a final destination.
Recycled Bottle Cap Art — Activity Idea: Discover how Central Valley Elementary managed to collect and reuse 7,000+ bottle caps and transform them into a work of art in this great example of creative reuse.
The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food - This coalition, which began in 2004, by writing and getting passed a New York State Legislative Resolution - Assembly or Senate - which asked schools to offer plant-based entrees as a healthy option, provide nutrition education that includes information on multi-cultural and plant-based eating patterns, promote farm to school programs, and more.
The Food Studies Institute - The Food Studies Institute (FSI) is devoted to changing the health destinies of children through proper nutrition and education. This is a high quality resource for teachers and shows how to help low-income students learn about food and how to make dishes.
Online Videos & Flash
Please note: All videos linked from Teachers' Domain can be accessed for free upon registering.
The Story of Stuff (Grades 7-12) — A twenty-minute video about our linear materials economy on our finite planet.
Making Recycled Paper (Grades 3-8) — In this 5-minute video segment adapted from ZOOM, cast members demonstrate how something that might otherwise be discarded, such as newspaper, can be recycled to create a functional or even beneficial new product.
Visiting a Recycling Plant (Grades K-8) — In this 4-minute video segment from ZOOM, a cast member visits a material recovery center to watch how materials are cleaned, de-inked, shredded, and blended with other similar material to be converted into new products.
Garbage (Grades 1-4) — In this 2-minute animated video from LOOP SCOOPS, a sphinx gives a boy named Oliver a week's worth of garbage and asks him to make it smaller. Oliver removes glass, cans, paper, and plastic for recycling; food scraps for composting; and clothes and toys for donating.
Juice Boxes (Grades 1-4) — In this animated video from LOOP SCOOPS, a boy named Brad is quizzed about a "secret weapon" that is virtually indestructible and made of a high-tech composite impervious to heat and light. Brad is surprised to learn that the "weapon" is an ordinary juice box. Brad then learns that one billion juice boxes are thrown out every year, which prompts his decision to use a reusable water bottle instead.
Local Matters in Columbus (from the Food is Elementary Program) (Grades K-4) - This video, the Columbus Ohio non-profit Local Matters takes a close look at their "Food Is Elementary" healthy food curriculum being taught at schools and Head Start classrooms around Central Ohio. The film was written, filmed, edited, and produced by Ohio State University student Anne Hu for her honors thesis.
The Tremendous Travels of Trash (Grades 6-8) - This video and follow-up lesson plan ask what pollutants and trash goes down a drain and what happens when water contains pollutants.
Posters / Infographics
OCRRA Recycle This! — What to recycle in Onondaga County from the Onondaga County Resource Recover Agency
Life Cycle of a CD — Diagram from the US EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response showing the various stages and impacts of the "life" of a CD. Stages include raw materials acquisition, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, use, and disposal.
World of 7 Billion - This post gives you a quick timeline of modern history that shows what trends and events have shaped population size.
300,000,000 in the USA - This wall chart, provided by the Population Connection's Education Program,provides a glimpse into our national population history, our diversity as a people, and the challenges we face in creating healthy, sustainable communities.
Recycling Games (Grades K-3) — Developed by Will County in Indiana, these recycling games will help young students learn how to properly sort recyclable materials and trash.
The Adventures of Vermi the Worm (Grades K-4) — The Adventures of Vermi the Worm is an animated, interactive game from CalRecycle that teaches the basics of vermicomposting and its benefits, plus other waste management strategies like the — 3Rs reduce, reuse and recycle.
Gapminder (Grades 9-12) - On this site, students construct and interpret dynamic graphs and discuss differences in life expectancy, fertility rates, health, economics, and total population among several different countries.
Waste Assessments and Waste Audits — An instructional tip sheet from Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), which compares a school waste assessment to a school waste audit. Having students assist in the audit or view the audit in progress is a great learning opportunity.
School Waste Assessment Form — Provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), a form to be completed at the time of school waste assessment.
Waste Audit Sheets — Provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), a waste audit sort sheet which inventories waste from all materials within a school. It may work best to complete one waste audit composition form per department, section, or floor.
School Reuse Tips — This tip sheet, provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), lists useful information to include school reuse in the cafeteria, the classroom, desk and locker cleanout, student exchanges, and school supply exchanges.
Paper Use Reduction In Schools — This tip sheet, provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), offers suggestions and guidance for reducing paper use in both the classroom and teacher/office work areas. Also included are a method for measurements of success, a sample paper reduction memo, and a sample signage for posting by copy machines and printers.
School Cafeteria Waste Reduction — Through implementation of waste minimization practices, school district food service managers can lower overhead expenses and reduce disposal costs while still providing for the nutritional needs of students. This tip sheet, provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), provides suggestions and guidance for cafeteria waste audits, waste tracking, offer versus serve, zero waste lunches, and more.
Rural School Recycling Success — This Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) tip sheet focuses on the options, which are available for rural schools to achieve successful recycling. Specific steps are outlined to help schools reach this goal.
School Composting Options — Every school day each student generates about two pounds or more of compostable materials, such as food scraps and soiled paper. Composting these materials can help schools significantly reduce their waste. This Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) tip sheet outlines the steps of start-up, collection of food waste, on-site composting of food waste, worm composting, and commercial in-vessel composting units.
Composting at School Presentation — This presentation provides detailed information about how to establish a food waste diversion & composting program in schools. There are notes with substantive information associated with many of the slides. Designed as a supplement to the above document and provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Fundraising With Recycling — This tip sheet, provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), offers general fundraising tips, tips for a recycling fundraiser drive, and various other reuse and recycling fundraiser ideas.
Basic School Composting Recipe — Provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), this one page "recipe" outlines the ingredients to make perfect compost, as well as instructions on how to start and maintain a compost pile.
Sustainable Recycling for Schools — A presentation for schools interested in building or re-building self-sustaining school recycling programs. Provided by Northeast Resource Recovery Association and Association of Vermont Recyclers.
Rural School Recycling Success — A highlight of rural schools nationwide, which have successfully implemented waste reduction programs, provided by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC). Contact information for each school is included.
Academy of the Holy Family — Located in Baltic, Connecticut, this school formed a student-lead Environmental Club, an annual campus Environmental Day, and a school-wide Recycling Program. Provided by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Eldred School District — Located in New York State, this school has implemented a school-wide Recycling Program as well as a paper use reduction campaign. Provided by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
John M. Clayton Elementary School — Located in Delaware, this school achieved significant reductions in paper usage through a number of new efforts, including discontinuing the printing of weekly spelling lists and having students use white boards for copying the spelling list. Provided by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Liberty School District — Located in Liberty, New York, this district is committed to reducing its environmental impact and helping to instill in its students a greater environmental awareness. In addition to recycling and reuse, worm composting has been implemented and cafeteria food scrap composting is beginning. Provided by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Pencader Charter High School — Located in New Castle City, Delaware, this school is committed to cost-effective recycling that has allowed the school to divert a significant portion of its waste and has reduced solid waste expenses by more than $200 per month. Provided by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Sayles School — Recycling programs have helped the Sayles School in Baltic, Connecticut comply with the State of Connecticut’s mandatory recycling requirements and saved money through reducing waste. The Sayles Showcase provided a visual venue for students to combine reuse and art. Provided by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Food Education at the Stadium School, Baltimore, MD (Grades 5-12) - This video, provided by the Food Studies Institue, as part of the "Food is Elementary" curriculum, demonstrates how a middle school teacher conducts her Food Studies class. Students do hands-on cooking and study the culture, geography, and nutrition of different foods.
School Web Resources — A list of waste reduction, recycling, and composting web resources for students and teachers, compiled by Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
Composting in the Home Garden — In-depth information explanining what composting is, which foodstuffs can be used for composting, and solutions to common composting problems.
Project Compost — Frequently asked questions to help troubleshoot any composting issues that may arise, complied by the Associated Students of the Univeristy of California, Davis.
Cornell Composting—Answers to a range of composting questions, including common dilemmas with pests and odor, how to tell when it is finished, and how long composting takes.
University of Georgia: Composting and Mulching—Compiled by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, this guide provides in-depth information about what composting is, how it works, and how to get started, including diagrams.
Composting with Willie the Worm—This easy-to-understand guide provides a kid-friendly introduction to composting, complete with pictures, simple langauge, and easy to follow instructions for getting started.
Composting For Kids—This site has compiled pages of information about recylcing and composting, written in a kid-friendly way. It includes the basics of recycling, composting, conservation, sustainability, and more.
Composting at Home With Tumblers and Worm Bins — A Prezi presentation on composting at home by the SyracuseCoE Center for Sustainable Community Solutions. (See below.)