By Yvette Armendariz

Phoenix mom Carrie Powers sat with her young daughters creating art projects out of recycled materials at the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa earlier this spring. She shared how her home features many cool projects made from scrap paper, old buttons and cardboard containers at home.

“A shoe box often becomes a doll bed or stuffed animal houses,” she says. “Once the brown cardboard material form a Keurig turned into a city.”

Powers takes opportunities where she can to teach her daughters to show some love for planet Earth. She uses art projects to show how some materials can have a second life. She also incorporates teaching her kids to reduce, reuse and recycle in everyday tasks.

Games are the best, though, she says. Her girls were both captivated by a touch-screen game called Recycle Fun while visiting the museum. They took turns grabbing recyclables and trash from a conveyor belt and sorting into the correct blue (recycling), green (organic waste) or black (trash) container. The game tracked how many they got right, then they would play again to beat their score.

“Technology is so engaging if you want them to learn something,” Powers says.

That was the point for creating the game.

“We’re always looking for fun ways to inspire green habits, particularly among our youth,” says Sandy Stechnij, Recycling & Community Outreach Supervisor with Mesa’s Environmental Management & Sustainability Department. The department partnered with the i.d.e.a. Museum to develop an interactive game “to educate families about waste and household recyclables, so they can learn and practice positive recycling habits to sustain a healthy environment.”

Aside from using games, parents also can help their kids learn green habits by modeling behavior, reading stories, incorporating trivia, talking about what they see that helps or hurts the planet, and visiting museums or events that showcase recycled art, products or materials, says i.d.e.a. Museum Curator of Education Dena Milliron.

“Children learn from their parents,” says Milliron. “If you want to teach them to recycle, you need to create opportunities. You need to show them what they can do and talk about consequences of certain behaviors.”

For little ones, she says, start with decorating some bins and ask them to be your helper. Ask them to place used cereal boxes, yogurt cups, shampoo bottles and paper towel rolls in the appropriate bins, and share how important their actions are to helping the Earth stay healthy.

Read age-appropriate books together to start a conversation. Several options focus on recycling, such as A Plastic Bottle’s Journey by Suzanne Slade and Why Should I Recycle? by Jen Green. You can also introduce broader topics, such as environmental conservation through books such as The Lorax by Dr. Seuss or The EARTH Book by Todd Parr.

Another option: make learning about recycling a scavenger hunt. Start by checking out your city’s recycling program website – many offer kid-friendly information. Then look around your home or neighborhood park to see what you can find that’s on your city’s recyclables list.

As your children get older, research facts about the environment together and talk about what you discover. As your children become more informed, start playing true-false or environmental trivia games.

Green Family Tips

Source: City of Mesa Environmental Management & Sustainability Department

  • Give textiles a second chance. For clothes that no longer fit but are in good condition, donate them to a local thrift store. However, if they are no longer useable, put them in the shoe and textile recycling bin.
  • Make recycling easy. Set up a recycle bin inside your house to encourage recycling. Consider putting an extra container in areas where a lot of recyclables are generated.
  • Learn what’s recyclable. Post a recycling flyer near your recycle bin at home so your family knows what can and can’t be recycled.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste the right way. Don’t place household hazardous waste in your trash or recycle barrel. Instead, take it to a household hazardous waste collection event.


Yvette Armendariz is a former reporter and current marketing director of the i.d.e.a. Museum. Her children, 16 and 20, are avid recyclers and love trivia games.




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