Archive for December, 2011

Once you’ve watched a video about how recycling works, you may want some recycling books to use in your classroom. There are tons of titles out there – check these out at your local library to help students investigate recycling in more depth.

For the youngest students, try Don’t Throw That Away! by Lara Bergen. This board book shows creative projects where unwanted items are turned into fun new projects. This book is more about reuse than recycling, and it could get some fun ideas for classroom projects going.

Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel is a rhyming story about fictional Michael Recycle, a superhero who turns one town from gross and garbageful to clean and recycling friendly. There are a number of sequels, including Michael Recycle Meets Litterbug Doug and Michael Recycle Saves Christmas. Michael Recycle is also available in Spanish.

For a narrative that follows a product before and after it is recycled, check out The Story of a Plastic Bottle by Alison Inches. This book shows the journey from raw material to plastic bottle to recycling plant to, finally, a fleece jacket. It is a clear story that will help kids understand that recycling isn’t just about what you do with waste; it’s about what the waste can become. Inches is also the author of The Adventures of an Aluminum Can and I Can Save the Earth!

Of course, there’s The Magic School Bus Gets Recycled, for older readers. The book follows Ms. Frizzle’s class as they hold a recycling drive and then go to the recycling center to see recycling in action.

If you want a non-fiction offering, try Reusing and Recycling by Charlotte Guillain. The reading level is high for early elementary readers, but the vivid photographs offset that somewhat.

These are only a fraction of the reuse and recycling books out there, not to mention all the books on composting and trash. Check back for more books about waste and waste management in 2012!

Read Full Post »

We have talked about reducing your waste, reusing waste, composting and mulching… what’s left?


As we’ve pointed out before, recycling is a sustainable buzzword. But too often kids (and their adults) learn very little about the mechanics of recycling. So that is going to be our focus for the next few days.

If you’re teaching kids about recycling, start with a video. Here in New York City, the Department of Sanitation contracts recycling to certain companies. Pratt Industries is one such company – they buy half of New York City’s paper and take it to a factory on Staten Island, where it is turned into cardboard boxes.

Check out this video from Pratt Industries to see the process in action. The video is hosted on Vimeo, which mean you can watch it in your classroom.

When kids see the process of recycling, they better understand the concept – taking waste and turning into something new. Watching this video will take recycling from a buzzword to a concept that kids can relate to and understand.

Read Full Post »

It’s the time for pine. If you celebrate Christmas or happen to love evergreens, you probably have a fantastic tree in your home right now…  so what do you do when the needles fall off and the whole thing turns brown?

Mulch shredded yard waste

Shredded used wood is called mulch

Mulch it!

Like composting, mulching takes organic waste and turns it into something useful, keeping waste out of the landfill, which is always good.

Every year, New York City collects used Christmas trees and turns them into mulch. Mulch is a layer of protective wood chips placed in garden beds to prevent weeds, keep moisture in the soil, and reduce garden erosion.

Gardenology.org-IMG 2515 ucla09

Mulch helped this plant grow

In other words, your no longer wanted Christmas tree will be turned into a very useful product for gardeners. Mulching your tree is one form of waste management, like reducing, composting, and recycling. Rather than ending up in a landfill, you can turn your tree into mulch.

Join the fun by bringing your tree to a participating location on January 7th or January 8th, 2012. Check out the MulchFest website for a full list of drop-off locations. There are 70 locations throughout the five boroughs. At half of those locations, you can take the mulch home with you for use in your garden!

… and if you’re dropping a tree off at Brower Park, swing by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum next door and say hi!

Read Full Post »

Earlier, we mentioned available grants for watershed education projects. In addition to those, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection is offering grants specifically for watershed forestry bus tours. Grants are available to cover day and overnight programs.

According to their website, grants are available to schools for 4-12th grade student trips, colleges and universities, youth groups, and other organizations within New York City or the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds. Applications are due by January 15, 2012, so if you have an idea, find out more on the DEP’s website.

The after school program here at Brooklyn Children's Museum did a tree survey recently; what would you do with a forest field trip?

Tomorrow, we’re back to the idea of waste management with a post about what do with an extra evergreen tree you may have laying around your house.

Read Full Post »


Back in October, we talked a lot about compost, but since it’s such an important part of waste management, there’s no harm in talking about it again.

Compost makes for happy worms!

Composting is the process of taking unwanted organic material, allowing it to decompose, and then using the decomposed soil as a great fertilizer for your garden or farm.

The idea is to take unwanted items — a rotten tomato, a banana peel — that would otherwise end up in a landfill and put it to productive use. In other words, composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food.

For more information about the science and sustainability of compost and about composting with kids, check out our previous posts on the subject, all tagged as compost.

By the way, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is closed tomorrow (December 25th) but open again on Monday (December 26th). Teach Green in Brooklyn will be back on December 28th with more great information about waste and what to do with it.

Read Full Post »

So, let’s say that you have something that is waste and you can’t reuse it so you want to get rid of it. Most people would just throw that waste in the trash…

What is trash in the image below?

Nothing! None of that should end up in the trash can. The first group shows banana peels, eggshells, and leafy greens being placed in a compost bin. The rest of the items – newspapers and cereal boxes, glass bottles and jars, cans, and plastic bottles – can all be recycled. (Recycling varies from region to region, but these items can certainly all be recycled here in New York City.)

Waste is something that you no longer want or you can no longer use. Trash is something useless that will end up in a landfill.

Not all waste is trash. In fact, many of the things we throw away are not trash and should be composted or recycled instead. So that’s what we’re going to talk about for the next few days… because it’s awesome to have smaller landfills and more productive uses for our waste.

Read Full Post »

If you reuse something you no longer wants, it ceases to be waste! You can reuse by repairing a broken toy, sewing a ripped pair of pants, or turning last year’s calendar into wall art.

Even better, for kids with growing bodies and changing tastes, you can arrange to trade unwanted items with another kid. Swap books you’ve already read and get a brand new reading experience, for free!

In My Green Community, our teacher’s guide, we suggest organizing a toy or book swap in your classroom. Full instructions are in that downloadable guide.

Vieux livres 20050512Another option is to partner with a local organization like GrowNYC to take part in a bigger swap. GrowNYC handles all kinds of sustainability projects, including their frequent Stop ‘N’ Swaps. On periodic weekends throughout the year in all five boroughs, they organize a space where people can show up. You can bring your unwanted items (or not) and take other’s unwanted items, with no restrictions on what or how much you take. Items include clothes, shoes, books, toys, household items, and more. The leftovers at the end of the event get reused or recycled or taken to a swap at a later date.

Last year, three Stop ‘N’Swaps were hosted here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and we hope to hold more here in the future!

For more information, check out GrowNYC’s website. There are no remaining swaps in 2011, but look for one near you in 2012.

Read Full Post »

What’s the best way to deal with waste? Not create waste at all! If you can avoid buying things you don’t need, you save money and avoid generating waste. Here’s a suggestion to practice at home and with your students…

This is the time of year when lots of people exchange gifts. Wrapping paper is quite pretty, but expensive and generates a lot of waste at the end of the day.

Coloured gift paperHow does my family react? We have two simple strategies:

1. Unwrap carefully. This one is hard for little kids, but once you’re past the age of 8, everyone in my family unwraps carefully because we know that all leftover paper will go in a box in my grandmother’s attic to be reused for future presents. I don’t think we’ve bought a roll of wrapping paper in more than 15 years. (Full disclosure – I bought tissue paper this year, to put in reused gift bags.) Each year, we cut off any ripped edges and we use the paper again and again until it disintegrates. The ripped and crumbling bits all get recycled. It’s actually a fun game at my family’s holiday gatherings to try to remember who used which paper first!

Danny DreamerIf you don’t have a stockpile of paper yet, or you have little kids who will rip through it, try strategy #2:

2. Use the funny pages. If you still get the newspaper, the comics page makes for fun wrapping. I always love re-reading the comics before unwrapping my birthday present. The Sunday comics make for great wrapping, because they’re so colorful!

Next step: Practice these strategies with your students. Have student make a winter present for their parents (maybe a fancy snowflake or a cotton ball snowman) and then help them “wrap” it in newsprint.

And don’t get me wrong – I tend to use brand new wrapping paper for wedding gifts and other important presents; but inside my family we know, it’s the thought that counts, not the wrapping paper!

For more sustainable ideas for the holidays and beyond, check out the students blog from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Read Full Post »

You’re finished with something. It has served it’s use. You don’t want it anymore. What do you do next?

Today, we’re going to identify 4 places waste can go and 1 way to prevent waste from happening at all, and then we’ll go into those in more depth over the next week plus. These are kid-friendly definitions to use with individuals of all ages.

With waste, you can:

Composting takes food waste, turns it into soil, and then you can grow new food, like tomatoes!

Reuse: It is great to be able to reuse items; unlike recycling, reusing allows you to give things a second or third life without having to make any changes. Consider trading an old book with a friend – you each get something new to read.

Compost: Composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food. This blog already has LOTS of information about composting if you want to learn more about that.

Recycle: Recycling helps turn unwanted materials into something new and wanted. However, recycling requires energy and is therefore not quite as sustainable as reusing or composting.

Landfill compactor

Landfills are gross. By reusing, composting, recycling, and reducing, we prevent waste from ending up in one.

Trash:Everything that cannot be reused, recycled, or composted – plastic utensils, cellophane wrappers, Styrofoam trays – is trash.  It will be thrown away and end up in a landfill, which is gross. Reducing the amount of trash keeps landfills from getting out of control!

Reduce: Before you generate waste, you can prevent it. Think before you buy and you will have less waste, which is great.

For the next few entries, we are going to give you more information about reusing, recycling, reducing, and just how icky landfills are!!

Read Full Post »

You may have noticed that with the exception of a very brief post on America Recycles Day, we here at Teach Green in Brooklyn haven’t written much about recycling. That’s not an oversight on our part. On the contrary, it’s a deliberate choice – we wanted to make it clear that there is more to “green” than only recycling. But recycling is important and now is the time to talk about why

Is this garbage? What should I do with it?

“You should recycle” is the one sustainable message kids hear early and often. But the message usually stops there.Kids learn to place empty plastic bottles in the blue bin, but they don’t learn what happens to the items in the bin nor do they often learn ways to prevent things from ending up in the blue bin.

So, for the next few days, we’re going to be talking about all the great ideas that exist for reducing the amount of waste you generate and then what to do with any necessary waste, beyond just “you should recycle.”

Are you excited yet? We are!!!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »