A box of old CD-ROMS could be tossed. But because some environmentally conscious person dropped them off at Detroit’s Recycle Here center, a dozen Detroit youth transformed the would-be landfill waste into colorful suncatchers.
Splattering a disc with paint, Yaasameen Watkins, 12, was delighted to “help the environment” and proudly shared that her mother recycles cans.
Fellow campers painting outside suggested other materials she could recycle.
“Paper!” shouted 9-year-old Aureianna Montgomery.
“Aluminum,” added 8-year-old Brooklyn Jones.
Green Living Science’s free Earth Camp was accomplishing its goal to teach Detroiters, ages 8-13, about the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Besides suncatchers, the kids spent a recent morning making paper from recycled scraps, pin wheels from file folder dividers and magnets from old computer keys.
Folding newspapers into a monster-shaped bookmark, Candace Montgomery, 13, underscored why it’s important to recycle.
“With all the environmental problems we have now, instead of contributing to them, we can at least just help lessen it a little bit,” she said.
The nonprofit Green Living Science and coalition Zero Waste Detroit have worked with the city, encouraging Detroiters to recycle since a pilot program launched in 2015. At the time, less than 10 percent of residents were recycling. As of June, 21 percent, or 44,381 residential households, have a recycling cart, either by purchasing it for $25 or receiving one for free at a Green Living Science or Zero Waste Detroit workshop.
An effective way to boost the recycle rate is to target kids, said Rachel Klegon, executive director of Green Living Science, which hosts school assemblies about the three Rs. If students fill out a recycling questionnaire with their parents, then bring it back to school, families can get a free recycling cart.
“I often hear parents say, they’ve never thought about recycling, but their kid learned about it at school, and now they’re here (at Recycle Here) — kind of saying it complaining to me, but with a smile,” Klegon said.
For the first time in 2014, city contracts required waste hauling services to offer curbside recycling for household residents (apartment dwellers were excluded). The opt-in service was a gamechanger for Green Living Science, which sometimes hesitated to do outreach at schools.
“We didn’t want to teach kids that you should recycle, but you can’t do it because your family is unable to drive to Recycle Here,” said Klegon, referencing the drop-off center established at 1331 Holden in 2005.
Now, the challenge is convincing Detroiters a recycling cart is worth $25.
“We’re in a city where a lot of people have not recycled before, so they don’t know why they should pay that $25,” Klegon said.
Residents who can’t afford it can go to the city’s website to play an educational recycling game, where players drag materials such as cardboard, magazines or Better Made Potato Chip bags into a trash or recycling bin. After, players can sign up for a free cart.
Margaret Weber, convener of Zero Waste Detroit, said the city has been “very slow” to inform residents how to access carts and properly recycle.
“We’ve been told for a couple years there would be a media campaign, and to be very honest, we’re still waiting for that media campaign,” said Weber, adding other cities with higher recycling rates have invested in messaging.
Ron Brundidge, director of the Department of Public Works, wrote in an email that “the city is still adapting to its recycling program.”
“In two years, we have implemented outreach efforts that have resulted in a 125 percent increase in the number of households actively participating in recycling, and we definitely view this as progress,” he wrote. “Although we have yet to reach the state’s goal of 40 percent recycling, our internal objective is for all households and residents to recognize the value and long-term benefits of recycling.”
The city did achieve its goal of a 20 percent recycle rate by this August. The next target is 30 percent by August 2018. Yet Weber pointed out that tonnage collected is still low. For example, about 339 tons, or 16 pounds per household, was collected in May.
“When you get up to 150 pounds per household, then you’re really getting there,” she said, explaining: “It’s important for me to recycle, yes, but if I only put in two bottles every week, and I forget to put in my paper and cardboard, we’re not helping to build up the quantity that actually is helpful to move the whole system.”
Which is why Green Living Science is teaching youth to pause before tossing a pop bottle.
“We found that once you educate young people, they become the ambassadors when they go home. So they go home teaching their family how to use (a cart),” said education director Mary Claire Lamm, adding that recycled art projects spread that message, too. “It’s a great way for students to see that you can take trash and make it into something new, but these things have value.”
As Anthony Dent, 9, folded a file into a pinwheel, he admitted his family doesn’t recycle. But that might change.
“I’m going to tell them to,” he said. [detroitnews]
When the future of the planet is tied into decisions the younger generation make today, it’s crucial to have classroom conversations about the environment. But how do we talk about such complex issues, bound up with science and politics, in an engaging way? Books with a green theme can provide a useful starting point in these discussions. Here are some of our favourite options, for children of all ages.
In the 1970s, when environmentalism was still a fringe concern, the ever-brilliant Dr Seuss was already preaching a message of sustainability in The Lorax – the rhyming tale of a creature who “speaks for the trees” and warns about the dangers of deforestation.
To get little ones thinking about life beneath the waves, try the colourful Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef. You can also turn their attention towards the wonders of sustainable practices in their own green spaces with Grandpa’s Garden, which explores the seasons, growth and harvesting.
Key Stage 1 (age 5 to 7)
It’s never too early to start developing good habits and 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World introduces children to a series of planet-protecting strategies, such as using both sides of the paper when drawing, and turning off the tap when they brush their teeth.
Nurturing a sense of adventure and wonder in our world can be helped by the child-friendly picture book The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps, a biography that details Goodall’s remarkable life, from her childhood to living among the primates who now find their existence under threat.
There’s also a powerful conservationist message in The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest, in which a man reconsiders cutting down a mighty tree after being visited in a dream by the animals who live in it. To bring environmentalism closer to home, try The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story about Recycling – a diary written from the perspective of a bottle, from its creation to getting a whole new identity, via a recycling plant.
Key Stage 2 (age 8 to 10)
What would happen if fish became extinct? That’s the premise of the beautifully illustrated World Without Fish, which combines fact and fiction to explore what could take place in the underwater world over the next 50 years if we don’t change our behaviour. It also details what we can do to avoid such an ecological disaster, interweaving a short graphic novel about a girl who witnesses the extinction of marine life.
But being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be quite so serious, as Ecowolf and The Three Pigs demonstrates. The classic fairy tale is reworked to present the trio as unscrupulous property developers and the wolf as an eco-warrior who just wants to save the world.
You can also offer young readers a chance to step back to the 1900s with Journey to the River Sea, in which an orphaned girl goes to live in the now-threatened Amazon. Or, take a trip around the world with Stories For a Fragile Planet, which brings together traditional stories from Africa, South America and Ancient Greece.
Key Stage 3 (age 11 to 13)
Sewage may not seem like it has the making of a great caper, but that’s where Flush kicks off. A boy named Noah must save his father from prison by proving that a casino boat is illegally dumping waste into the bay.
The struggle for clean water is also at the centre of the story in A Long Walk to Water, an account of two 11-year-olds in Sudan, 30 years apart. Their interwoven stories – based on real events – highlight the history of the country and the daily struggles faced by its people, past and present.
There’s more true-life wonder in the young readers’ edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the story of a young boy in Malawi who brought clean energy to his village by building his own wind turbine. Or for a return to fiction, try Watership Down, the timeless and horrifying classic about a rabbit community fighting for its life as human development threatens to destroy its habitat.
Key Stage 4 (age 14 and over)
Floodland depicts a scenario in which England is under water, and Norwich is an island. The heroine, Zoe, has been separated from her family and must find a way to survive while avoiding the gangs terrorising the country.
For more dystopian fiction, try The Sandcastle Empire, in which climate change and overpopulation have ruined the planet and a radical group controls the world. If you’re taking a non-fiction look at eco issues, there’s Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines, which teaches young people about the various forces at play in sustainability and how to weigh up information accurately.
Finally, for older readers, there’s The Windup Girl, a science fiction love story set in a future version of Thailand, where oil has run out and people are fighting for survival amid a man-made disaster.
Parents, take note! Children who grow up close to parks and green spaces may develop a better attention span, a study suggests.
Researchers from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain studied data from 1,500 children, collected during 2003-2013. Previous studies have already indicated that green spaces within and surrounding schools could enhance cognitive development in children between seven and 10 years of age.
The study, published in the journal Environment Health Perspectives, analysed residential surrounding greenness – at 100, 300 and 500 metres distance near the homes of children at birth, four to five years old, and seven years old. Researchers performed two types of attention tests at four to five years and seven years of age.
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The team found that children with higher greenness around their homes had better scores in the attention tests. “These results underline the importance of green areas in cities for children’s health and brain development,” said Payam Dadvand, researcher at ISGlobal.
“The possibility that exposure to different types of vegetation might have different impacts on neurodevelopment remains an open question,” said Jordi Sunyer from ISGlobal. Green spaces in cities promote social connections and physical activity and reduce exposure to air pollution and noise, and are therefore essential for the development of the future generations’ brains, researchers said. [ht]
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