Anitra Redlefsen
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home > Learning Activities and Art Projects > Earth Week Learning Activities and Art Projects > Projects


Upper Elementary, Middle and High School

These are some projects that can be done in the classroom or at home and Earth Week is a perfect time to do them! Students can work individually or in groups, and findings can be shared with the entire class to heighten awareness for recycling and preserving natural resources. Information can then be shared at home to highlight the importance of recycle, reduce and reuse.


  1. Research and understand how your community handles MSW (Municipal Solid Waste). Do you have:

    • A Centralized Processing Facility that extracts most recyclable materials from your refuse?
    • Curb side pickup of recyclable items?

  2. Research your community’s requirements for sorting recyclable items.

  3. Find out where to drop off recyclable items in your neighborhood or community.

  4. Help your family to keep recyclable items sorted and out of regular waste containers.

  5. With your family, make a list of things that require special recycling (i.e., batteries, pesticides, paints, etc.) and determine drop off locations for these items.

  6. Research the three ways MSW can be disposed of (landfills, combustion, and recycling). Make a list of “pros” and “cons” for each.

  7. Search the library or internet for information of how to make compost; consider a compost pile as a family project this summer.

  8. Research the number 1-7 recycle indicators on plastic containers and explain their significance. At home and with your family, locate various types of plastic containers and their recycle numbers.

  9. Research the connections among recycling (i.e., plastics, glass, aluminum, steel and paper), conservation of energy and natural resources, and pollution. You might get a really BIG “extra credit” for this one!


  1. With your family, brainstorm a list of items that can be reused over and over again. See how many things that you can come up with!


  1. Reduction is also waste prevention; with your family, brainstorm ways that you can reduce your usage of items that would later be thrown away or that can conserve energy and natural resources. Be creative and see what might be possible for your family! Hint: Read information from your computer screen versus printing it out and reading it! Saves paper!


Think Outside of the Box!

Think of a product and its packaging and how you might either re-design the packaging (to reduce waste) or how to encourage consumers to recycle and reuse the packaging. For example:

  • consumers purchase eggs in cardboard boxes (vs. Styrofoam, which is not recyclable) and bring them back when they purchase more eggs

  • redesign of plastic bottles to be made out of less plastic
Thoughtful Problem

Consider the following: Drinking water can be obtained from companies that deliver water in 5 gallon glass or plastic containers. The “basic” water, in a 5 gallon plastic container is $7.50 and an “upgraded” water in a 5 gallon glass container costs $14.25. A mid-priced grocery store water in 24 oz. plastic containers, pack of 6 bottles, costs $3.99 without tax. Which of the three is a “better deal” and why?


  1. According to the EPA, Americans produced about 243 million tons of MSW, or, about 4.3 pounds of waste per person, per day in 2009.

  2. View the chart below to see the MSW generated in 2009. What is the biggest percentage of MSW? Why do you think this is so?

  3. Recycling:

    One aluminum beverage can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours and a TV for 2 hours.

    125 aluminum cans saves enough energy to power one home for 1 day.

    One ton of aluminum cans saves 37 barrels of oil.

    It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill.

    Glass never wears out; it can be recycled forever (Note: not so for plastics). Americans use over 67,000 tons of paper each year, or, 600 pounds per person.

    Every day, Americans buy 62 million newspapers and throw out 44 million; that is the equivalent of dumping 500,000 trees into a landfill every week.

    If everyone in the U.S. recycled just 1/10th of their newsprint, we would save about 25 million trees per year.

    Plastics require 100 to 400 years to break down in a landfill.

    Recycling 1 ton of plastic can save 1 to 2 thousand gallons of gas.

    The nearly 1.5 million tons of steel recovered through recycling packaging in 2001 would yield enough steel to build 185,000 steel framed homes.

    Every ton of steel recycled saves 2,500 tons of iron ore, 1,400 tons of coal and 120 lbs. of limestone.

    Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply Los Angeles with electricity for almost 10 years.

    Recycling and composting prevented 82 million tons of material away from being disposed of in 2009; this prevented the release of approximately 178 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the air, like, taking 33 million cars off the road for one year.

Source: EPA and Headwaters Cooperative Recycling, Inc.


Combustion: of MSW is done to reduce the amount of landfill space needed and to generate electricity; one of three ways to dispose of MSW

Compost: involves collecting organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, and storing it under conditions designed to help it break down naturally. The resulting compost can then be used as a natural fertilizer.

Conserve: to use or manage (natural resources) wisely; preserve; save

Deplete: to decrease seriously or exhaust the abundance or supply of

Ecosystem: A place having unique physical features—including air, water, and land—that supports plant and animal life. In fact, the rainforest, the ocean, and your backyard are all ecosystems

Landfills: engineered areas where waste is placed into the land; landfills usually have liner systems and other safeguards to prevent pollution of groundwater; one of three ways to dispose of MSW

MSW: Municipal Solid Waste

Natural resources: the natural wealth of a country, consisting of land, forests, mineral deposits, water, etc.

Pollute: to make foul or unclean, especially with harmful chemical or waste products

Resources: a source of supply, support, or aid, especially one that can be readily drawn upon when needed

Recycle: to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse

Recycle symbol: three arrows that create an endless loop; indicates a product or its packaging that are recyclable; if the arrows are shown inside a circle that mean the product itself was made from recycled material

Sustainability: As defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

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