Recycling vs. Reducing

This is a very helpful article that explores the importance of not only recycling, but also really focusing on reusing plastic products instead of purchasing new ones. The article mentions that while recycling certainly has become a popular activity, 9% of plastic products are actually recycled, the rest ends up in landfills or in the Pacific Plastic Vortex. Ideas are given regarding ways that you can teach your children about this reusing plastic products. This article is helping us to narrow down what could go into our activity book, such as coloring activities in which children color in plastic products in a room, listing activities in which they say what they have that is plastic, visuals that show what plastic can be recycled and what can’t be recycled, and a little experiment in which different materials are put in water (plastic and organic) and children watch what materials eventually degrade and what doesn’t.


26 Ways for kids to help the environment

1) Precycle – attempt to reduce waste before it becomes waste. The concept is explained in more detail here:

2) Recycle with purpose! Not all plastics are created equal and recycling takes some degree of effort. The good thing is that if this awareness is created early and turned into a habit, recycling becomes a breeze!

3) Teach your kids how to Conserve existing resources – water and food for example. Remind them to put food back in the refrigerator and close the door. There are numerous creative ways to conserve water.

4) Use paper on both sides and make use of scrap paper. With the abundance of personal printers, this becomes very important. Young kids love to doodle, show them how to do this more effectively by using paper on both sides.

5) Encourage taking shorter showers. Warm water can be so mesmerizing. A water proof shower clock is a great environmentally conscious investment that helps your kids to stop taking 40 minute showers 🙂

6) Use non-toxic cleaners in your house and explain that these are better for the environment. Kids require a lot of cleaning, do your part to help the environment!

7) Use foams and aerosols based on compressed air rather than other propellants.

8) Help your kids learn to turn things off when not in use. This is especially true of personal computers andelectronics, which can consume a lot of energy! With so many things to do, it’s so easy to forget to turn something off.

9) Teach your kids the importance of car maintenance and miles per galon rating. Ask them to work on the car and show them how you dispose of car liquids.

10) Find a way to carpool at least once a week. It’s fun and environmentally friendly!

11) Encourage your kids to get a bike and ride it responsibly. This is a great exercise and saves you some time, because you don’t have to drop your kids off everywhere.

12) Reduce the use of petroleum based products like plastics.

13) Pick up and properly dispose of trash and recyclables, even if they are not yours. This only takes a second and is a great example of a selfless environmentally friendly act.

14) Spread awareness of environmental issues – your kids will have to face these issues during their lifetime!

15) Conserve hot water and reduce the water heater setting by a few degrees during summer months.

16) Show your children how you care for your home, ask them to inform you of leaky faucets and pipes if they see any.

17) Use biodegradable products – plastic bags, dishes, soaps, etc.

18) Preserve your environment. Volunteer with your kids for tree planting programs or creek cleanups. Seeing first hand how much trash is in our rivers sends a powerful message for recycling.

19) Properly dispose of things including hazardous household waste. Find out if your township has a hazardous waste collection program. Properly recycle of used batteries.

20) If you are not already using energy saving light bulbs, try to put them at least in your kids rooms. These are only marginally more expensive than “old school” ones and practically pay for themselves by saving you money on electric bill!

21) Learn to do more with less. This implies enjoying what you already have more, repairing and reusing existing items! This can also teach kids how to be more creative!

22) Talk to your kids about pesticides and other garden chemicals that you may be using presently. A lot of these end up in the oceans.

23) Start a trial compost project in your backyard and get your kids involved.Composting can be done very inexpensively and keeps a lot of waste out of landfills!

24) Explain the importance of house insulation, especially during winter months. Ask your kids to avoid keeping their windows open during the winter. Teach them how to use the thermostat, and explain that setting temperature above a certain point only wastes energy!

25) Use more energy effective appliances and explain their significance to your children.

26) Avoid bulky packaging and opt out for air bags instead of Styrofoam packing peanuts. Styrofoam is virtually indestructible and poisons our oceans. If you receive a package with Styrofoam peanuts, save them and reuse them. Maybe you are looking to sell something on ebay? Now’s the time!

These steps have a significant impact of reducing household waste and hazardous household waste. Water conservation is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the needs of modern farming and cattle breeding, but it is the mindset that counts. Having people who are aware of their impact on the environment will help enact more environmentally friendly regulations!

The Problem of Plastic

To narrow down the focus of our activity kit, we have decided we would have a variety of kits that have different themes. Our primary kit will be plastic focused. It can dive into how to re-use plastic products, reduce the use of plastic products, and how to help clean up / recycle the plastic that will no longer be used. We would also focus a lot on big problem of plastic is, but also really show kids that they can make a big big difference by adding little changes to their lives. The other kits may have the focuses of composting, gardening, and water waste.

We have begun doing more research regarding the specific problems that the over-use of plastic presents the environment. Below are links that we will reference throughout the project to make sure that we are including all of the information that will be useful and necessary to really make the kit effectively communicate the issue.

Plastic Not-So-Fantastic: How the Versatile Material Harms the Environment and Human Health

This article is hugely informative on the effect plastic has on the human body, wildlife, habitats, water sources, ground water, and energy waste.

Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment

This article focuses on the gigantic waste of plastic water bottles. It talks about the water bottle industry and how silly it is to buy bottled water, because in most cases, it isn’t any cleaner than tap water. In fact, a lot of bottled water is simply tap water with a label on it, and then chemicals are leached from the plastic, making it much more harmful for your body. It also talks about, that while some people do recycle, 80% of the water bottles that we buy still end up in landfills.

Adverse Health Effects of Plastic

This article, once again, talks about how harmful plastic can be to the human body. It also mentions different alternatives people can use instead of plastic.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of litter that spans waters from theWest Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is compromised of the Eastern Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Western Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California. This will be an interesting factual piece to include in the kit because of how insane it is that it exists. Hopefully, this fact will really speak to kids and make them want to help make things like this not happen anymore.

The Effect of Recycling Plastic Water Bottles On the Environment

This article speaks of the positive impact that recycling plastic water bottles has. It mentions waste reduction, resource conservation, energy conservation, green house gas emission reduction, and pollution decreases. When we narrow down what our kit will specifically include, we can reference these issues and decide which ones may be most impactful to present to children.

Rise Above Plastics

This article talks about how harmful and permanent plastic is, especially on the ocean. It talks about how we are surrounded by the material and how, with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form. It also offers “Ten Way to Rise Above Plastic.” These 10 points will be great to incorporate in our kit in some form.

Character exploration

In order for us to begin creating the face of our brand, we wanted to ask some kids who their favorite cartoon characters were and why. Here are the drawings we collected from a 3rd grade class.


Some of their favorite characters/cartoons included:

  • Spongebob
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Ultimate Spiderman
  • Adventure Time
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Wild Krats
  • Frozen
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • PacMan and the ghostly adventures
  • Randy Cunningham 9th grade ninja
  • Arthur

We were able to ask the teacher some questions as well about what they are learning in regards to the environment.

Is sustainability currently a focus at all in your classroom?

“We just had a Duke Energy assembly about natural resources: saving and sustainability.

Are there any inititives in place to promote sustainability? (Such as recycling, turning off lights when leaving the room, no littering rules, etc.)

“We recycle daily. We always turn off the lights when we leave the classroom and talk about ways to be a good citizen. (ie: not littering, recycling, etc.)

Are there any materials that you feel would be beneficial for you to have that would help better educate students on the topic of sustainability?

“Posters, games, assemblies.”

Do you feel like there are particular topics regarding sustainability and general care for the environment that are not being met by the current curriculum?

“I feel like we only touch on it in social studies and science.”

What do your students currently learn in science class?

“Matter, natural resources, animals, seed/plant life cycles, food chain.”

When asked to raise their hands if they learned about the environment and sustainability at home, only one student out of the 22 student classroom raised their hand. I think this backs up our problem statement completely, showing their is a huge lack of communication at home when it comes to taking care of your surroundings. The 3rd grade class seemed to know a bit more about the environment, pollution, littering etc. but still didn’t have the exact knowledge on why they shouldn’t do it and what the effects could be.

School of Creative and Performing Arts

Mrs. Suzcek’s first grade class was asked how they help to take care of the earth. The following drawings are their responsive journal entries.

scpa_art-01While at SCPA, we also had our “teacher questionnaire” filled out:

Is sustainability currently a focus in your classroom?

We recycle and will read books about recycling. At the start of the school year, we will be taking a trip to an apple farm where the students will be learning about plants.

Are there any initiatives in place to promote sustainability? 

recycling, lights off when leaving the room, half lights off during the day, saving paper, using scraps. We will be having someone come in from Ohio Soil and Water to talk to the students.

Are there any materials that you feel would be beneficial for you to have in the classroom to help students better understand sustainability? 

interactive games, games that demonstrate the importance

Do you feel that there are particular topics regarding sustainability and the environment that are not being met by the current curriculum? 

Each grade level has different standards and topics to learn about. First grade focuses more on the scientific process. Next will be the environmental unit.

What do your students currently learn in science class?

Scientific process, observation, prediction, etc. Physical change, properties of water

Do your students already seem to have an interest / knowledge of sustainable living?

Many of the students are knowledgeable about recycling because we do it at school. It seems some families recycle.

Designing for Children

We are in the very early phases of developing our brand / packaging for this project, so now is a good time to really start considering the most appropriate ways to design for our audience. We are currently looking at designing for children ages 6-9, but are considering tightening up the gap a little.


Type Choice:

Our age group spans a variety of reading levels, so it is important that we are aware of this fact while we develop our content and decide on the best ways to present it. The following information was found in an article titled “Typography for Children” written by Ilene Strizver:

Most children learn to read going letter-by-letter, learning which sounds go with which shapes until they can blend the sounds together to form words. This is why new readers proceed slowly and sometimes struggle with pronunciation and syllable stress.

When selecting a typeface for a children’s text, look for a warm, friendly design with simple, generous letter shapes. The counters (the enclosed shapes within characters) should be rounded and open, not angular or rectangular. Avoid non-traditional letterforms.

Typefaces with larger x-heights are generally easier to read than those with short x-heights, and this is especially true for children. For very young readers, select designs with one-story ‘a’s and ‘g’s (also called infant characters), since these are the lowercase shapes preschool and school-age children learn to write. Save the two-story versions for more experienced readers.

Either sans or serif designs can be used as long as they avoid any extremes that could impair readability. For example:

• Don’t use condensed or expanded typefaces, which make character recognition more difficult.

• Select a book or medium weight; stay away from hairline or very bold weights.

• If you plan to use italics, make sure they too are easy-to-read, and not overly condensed or stylized.
Making the Text Readable

New readers have to learn to follow words from left to right and “jump” their eyes from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. To make this easier, set the text large (14 to 24 point depending on the typeface and age of the reader) and with very generous leading (4 to 6 points).

Make sure there is ample contrast between the type and the background. This is especially true when setting light type against a dark background, as is common in heavily illustrated children’s books. When setting more than one paragraph on a page, consider using line-spaces instead of indents to separate paragraphs. This gives the text and the reader a visual break.

Headlines and Titles

Headline or title type gives you the opportunity to be more playful in style, color and layout, since there are fewer words to read. Decorated typestyles, lots of color, and curved and jumping baselines can all be used to attract and entertain the young reader. Keeping it light and fun is the key to keeping a young reader interested and turning pages.

Design Considerations:

The following information was provided by Gerry Gaffney and James Hunter

Early Primary Years

  • Use text redundantly with images so that pre-literate users can access your product.
  • Use simple text.
  • Use fonts that approximate how children learn to write. For example, many fonts use “a” and “q” in variants that do not match how some children are taught to write those letters.
  • Do not use dialog boxes.
  • Don’t require explicit “save” operations. Save work automatically.
  • Exclude extraneous content.
  • Provide highly interactive and engaging applications.
  • Avoid visually noisy interfaces – they are distracting.
  • Provide large target areas.
  • Allow children to personalise.
  • If applications will be used on a smartboard, do not use a footer that can be accidentally activated by children leaning against the surface.
  • Avoid errors.
  • Support cooperative use, with two or more children using your product at the same time.
  • Design to support teachers and parents or guardians, who are likely to be assisting or supervising usage.

Later Primary Years

  • Use simple text.
  • Provide content that appears more “grown up” than that for early primary years.
  • Provide time-saving shortcuts.
  • Leverage knowledge children may have from social media and popular games.
  • Avoid appearing to patronise.
  • Apply sensible defaults.


Sarah (8 years old)

Sarah is an 8 year old girl. She is in second grade at Guardian Angels School. Sarah’s typical day begins around 6:50, when her mom wakes her up. She walks downstairs and watches some morning cartoons while her mother makes her breakfast for her. After eating, she finishes up any homework that she may have forgotten to do the night before, puts on her school uniform, brushes her teeth, and heads out the door to get to her bus stop.

Once at school, Sarah puts her lunch in her cubby (her mother always packs her lunch), and sits in her homeroom desk. The second graders at her school stay in their homeroom for all of their core classes and their homeroom teacher teaches them all of the main school subjects- except for their “specials,” such as music, gym, and art, which take place once a week in different areas of the building. Right now, during the science portion of her day, Sarah is learning about the different types of animals, such as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

At recess, Sarah enjoys playing with her friends. She likes tag and make believe games the most. She also really enjoys drawing and board / card games such as chess, tick-tack-toe, Uno, Amazing Labyrinth, and Guess Who. When Sarah is at home, she loves to play on the Wii. In general, she is very savvy with electronic games, similar to many other kids in her class.

Sarah enjoys playing in the woods, on jungle gyms, and climbing trees; however, after school, if she is at home with no other kids to play with, she is more likely to play a video game. Video games provide her with interactive fun and activities and are easy to understand because they are created to explain to rules and guide their users; this makes them easy to enjoy if there is no one around to play with.

Interactions with Nature

The following except was taken from the book Communicating Nature: How We Create and Understand Environmental Messages written by Julia B. Corbett:

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.44.16 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.46.45 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.48.18 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.50.04 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.50.19 AM


We hope to target this issue with our solution. While we can’t exactly orchestrate “direct” experiences for children due to their spontaneous and undirected nature, we can help to promote a mix of “direct” and “indirect” experiences by promoting and providing activities that get children outdoors and interacting with the real world. By providing them materials to plant seeds or make a homemade terrarium, we could tap into guided indirect experiences. An aim of ours is the step away from “vicarious” or “symbolic” experiences but making interactive materials as opposed to flat resources. 

Litter Bugs

Information from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful “Litter Prevention Facts” page.

Littering is a habit and prevention starts with you. Research and experience have shown that litter is the result of individual behavior—choosing to litter or being careless in the handling of waste. Once litter is on the ground, it attracts more litter. A clean community, by contrast, can discourage littering and improve community appearance and quality of life.

You have a role to play in preventing litter. It only takes one person, one school, one business, one organization to positively impact the behavior of others in their community.

Here’s what you need to know:

The cost of littering:

Over 51 billion pieces of litter land on U.S. roadways each year.Most of it, 46.6 billion pieces, is less than four inches, according to KAB’s 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study. That’s 6,729 items per mile. While visible roadside litter has decreased by about 61% since 1969, litter is still a persistent problem. Consider these facts:

  • Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, with businesses paying $9.1 billion. Governments, schools, and other organizations pick up the remainder.
  • Community economy and quality of life suffer. The presence of litter in a community takes a toll on quality of life, property values, and housing prices. KAB’s 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that litter in a community decreases property values 7%.
  • Litter has environmental consequences. Wind and weather, traffic, and animals move litter into gutters, lawns and landscaped areas, alleyways, and parking structures. Debris may be carried by storm drains into local waterways, with potential for serious environmental contamination.

Who Litters and Why:

Along roadways, motorists (52%) and pedestrians (23%) are the biggest contributors to litter. Research also shows that individuals under 30 are more likely to litter than those who are older. In fact, age, and not gender, is a significant predictor of littering behavior. So why do people litter? Here’s what KAB’s 2009 Littering Behavior in America research found:

  • Personal choice. Nearly one in five individuals, or 17% of all disposals observed in public spaces, littered, while 83% disposed of litter properly. And 81% of littering was intentional, e.g., flicking, flinging, or dropping. On the other hand, individuals who hold the belief that littering is wrong, and consequently feel a personal obligation not to litter, are less likely to do so.
  • Litter begets litter. Individuals are much more likely to litter into a littered environment. And once there, it attracts more litter. By contrast, a clean community discourages littering and improves overall community quality of life. Availability and proximity to trash and recycling receptacles also impact whether someone chooses to litter.
  • It’s “not my responsibility”. Some people feel no sense of ownership for parks, walkways, beaches, and other public spaces. They believe someone else will pick up after them; that it’s not their responsibility.

How to Put a Stop to Litter:

To eliminate litter, KAB research shows we have to address littering behavior and change the environment. According to KAB’s 2009 Littering Behavior in America study:

  • About 85% of littering is the result of individual attitudes. Changing individual behavior is key to preventing litter.
  • Nearly one in five, or 17%, of all disposals observed in public spaces were littering. The remainder (83%) was properly discarded in a trash or recycling receptacle.
  • A strong contributor to littering is the prevalence of existing litter. About 15% of littering is affected by the environment. Litter on the ground begets more litter.

KAB’s “Pressure Points” for Behavior Change

Traditional approaches to litter, most particularly cleanup projects, work only to remove the litter and do little to prevent its recurrence. KAB attempts to deal with the root cause of the problem—littering behavior. Changing attitudes and influencing behavior are brought about most effectively using a combination of methods:

Education – Education and awareness are bedrock tools of behavior change. Think broadly in your approach. Consider tie-ins with public education conducted through youth programs, civic clubs, Chambers of Commerce, businesses, and government agencies.

Ordinances – Changing public policy through codes, laws, or ordinances is one way to change behaviors around quality of life and environmental issues.

Enforcement – Consistent and effective enforcement of existing codes, laws, and ordinances helps change behavior and reinforce the commitment to a cleaner, greener community. Work closely with local law enforcement, and be sure citizens are aware of the laws.

Tools and Resources – This can include such tangible things as a litter pick up tools, sanitation collection vehicles, graffiti removal equipment, litter or ash receptacles, recycling bins, or a pocket ashtray. It also includes strategies that encourage individuals to make different long-term choices, blending knowledge from social marketing with behavior change tools.