The 5Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle

Remember the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle campaign? The new year is a great time to expand your sustainability mindset and move to the 5Rs: Refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle.

The first addition of refuse (just say, “No, thank you.”) can go a long way in preserving the environment. Many teachers and families use the new year to minimize clutter in the classroom and at home, and the first in the 5Rs is a great way to help clear out the clutter. We can opt out of accepting more stuff by simply saying “no, thanks” and refusing some of the many, many items that come into our schools and homes.

For example, when you’re planning a PTA event, consider NOT buying new supplies or only buying items that can be used more than once. When shopping at a store, instead of having your purchases bagged in single-use plastic bags, say “no, thanks” and use your reusable bags. Many times we don’t even need a bag for small purchases, so it’s easy to just say “no thanks” when we have the option.

Consider other points when you have the opportunity to refuse:

  • Say “no, thanks” to the plastic, single-use straws at your favorite restaurant and opt for a reusable straw (available at many retailers)
  • Say “no, thanks” to the piles of paper and opt for online communications instead
  • Say “no, thanks” to the toys that fast-food restaurants pass out with kids’ meals
  • Say “no, thanks” to junk mail by opting out of retailers’ mailings

Repurpose is another addition to the original 3Rs and can be a lot of fun for creative teachers and families. Repurposing takes items that might be manufactured for just one purpose and then finds a new purpose for the same item. For example, when you buy onions, they often come in plastic mesh bags, so when you’ve used all the onions, you can repurpose the mesh bag as a scrub for washing pots and pans.

Packaging and wrapping paper from all those holiday gifts can be repurposed to make cute organizers for our storage needs. Popular organizing methods such as the Marie Kondo movement and Marla Cilley’s (AKA The Flylady) home, health, and life organization approach can provide more tips on organizing and repurposing items to help you stay organized.

Think about how repurposing some so-called disposable items can make for super cool class projects and home crafts. Here are 10 ideas to get you started(including several good Mother’s Day gift projects for teachers to use in the classroom).

Learn more about the the 5Rs from the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center and from the Greening of Westford so you can instill a sustainability mindset in 2019.

End-of-Summer Activities

If you’re hoping to catch the last of summer’s sun and fun, there’s still time to celebrate the season (while avoiding those back-to-school displays at your favorite retailers).

Teachers and parents alike will want to check out the Every Kid in a Park program from the National Park Service.  Every 4thgrader in the United States receives a free parks pass just for completing an online game, and the pass gives that child a free pass into all the national parks, monuments, historic sites, and heritage trails.  The pass is good September 1 of the fourth grade year and runs until August 31st of the following year (just before fifth grade). It’s not too late to get the pass if your child is entering the 5th grade because you’ll still have full use until the end of August.

There are also great resources for teachers to use in the classroom and for field trips. Teachers, parents, and students can use the website to find their nearest national park, and there are parks, monuments, historic sites, and heritage trails scattered all across the state and our boarder states.  Teachers will appreciate the lesson plans and activities, while parents will love the chance to play with their kiddos in the great outdoors.

Richard Louv’s Children & Nature Networkis a worldwide effort to get kids back into nature and avoid what he refers to as “nature deficit disorder.” Cultivating a sustainability mindset in children occurs most often when the adults in their lives model environmental stewardship in big and small ways.  Recycling is one activity to cultivate at home, and taking our children into natural settings is a deeper experience for families.  The Children & Nature Network is made up of many different families who organize regularly scheduled hikes and play dates for families to attend, often at no cost.  Check out the site to find your local events or to start your own!  There are lots of groups around the world. Teachers will also appreciate the Natural Teachers Network resources.

Finally, don’t forget to check in with your local park district in these last weeks of summer. Many offer activities at little to no cost for local residents.  Start your online search for local parks at your city’s website or call your local city hall.

Nurture a Love of Nature and Health with These Resources

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has a website to help nurture your child’s interest in the environment, science, and health. The site, Kids Environment Kids Health, provides resources for parents, teachers, and kids to explore these topics.

Among the topics covered on the site are:

  • Environment & Health
  • Healthy Living
  • Pollution
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Science—How It Works
  • The Natural World

The games section of the website provides brainteasers, puzzles, songs, and riddles, while the activities section includes coloring pages, stories created by kids, and science experiments to do at home. For teachers, there are lessons plans on environmental health topics from kindergarten through high school. The site also provides a section aimed just at little kids, gathering all of the age-appropriate materials in one easy-to-find location.

Illinois PTA Advocacy Day 2017

Today is Illinois PTA Advocacy Day. Even if you can’t join us in Springfield, you can still participate. If you have a few minutes sometime in the next few days, send an e-mail to your legislators. The text is prewritten for you, though you can edit it or add more if you would like to. Then, add your contact information and hit send.

If you have a bit more time, schedule a meeting with your legislators at their district offices. They will be in Springfield this week for the veto session, but will be back in their districts next week. If you’re not sure how to set up a meeting or how to talk to a legislator, be sure to check out our webinar from last year on How to Meet with Legislators.

Illinois PTA is advocating on three key issues this year for Advocacy Day:

  • Education Funding: The new funding formula starts Illinois on a path towards adequate and equitable funding, but without additional funding added to the formula in future years, we will continue to have the most inequitable school funding in the country.
  • Environmental Concerns: Based on our 2017 resolutions on climate change and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), we are asking legislators to support science-based regulations on carbon emissions and fracking operations to protect children’s health and the environment.
  • Justice-Involved Young Adults: Based on our report to the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we are asking lawmakers to consider legislation treating those ages 18 to 24 involved in the justice system differently from those 25 and older, as scientific research indicates that young adults in that age range behave much more like teenagers than adults due to brain development.

If you are unsure what to say about these topics to your legislator, check out our 2017 Hot Topics webinar or contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty, who can provide you with talking points and handouts to share.

Finally, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard on important advocacy issues in the future. Find out about Illinois PTA Calls to Action by signing up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network.