With our knowledge of the waste problems our world is facing, we have the power to help make a difference and it all starts in our own homes. Going zero waste is a big lifestyle change—but by involving the whole family it can become a creative and educational learning experience.
There is little hope for our planet if we don’t start teaching our children the importance of living the zero waste life. As the old song goes “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
If you loved #PlasticFreeJuly then you're going to love Zero Waste October, created by Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste and middle school teacher Rebecca Newburn.
The idea was to create a 31-day challenge designed specifically for kids!
For schools' morning announcements and daily bulletin blurbs get the guide here.
Also, if you're reading this long after October has passed you can do it with your child anytime!
DAY 1: Say No to Straws
500 million plastic straws are used in the US each day.
Here’s the challenge: Next time you’re at a restaurant, order your drink without a straw. You could say. “I would like a soda without a straw. Thank you.”
DAY 2: Reusable Water Bottle
60 million water bottles are landfilled each day and only 9% of that 60 million is actually recycled.
Here is the challenge: Before you leave your house, make sure you have a reusable bottle with you. Don’t forget!
DAY 3: Zero Waste Snack
Most snacks come with a lot of packaging. Think about how all of those tiny packages add up.
Here’s the challenge: Instead of buying a prepackaged snack try to make one yourself. For example, You can make homemade trail mix, stove popped popcorn, apple slices and peanut butter, etc.
DAY 4: Save Water
The average American home uses 400 gallons of water a day.
Here’s the Challenge: Pick two new ideas to implement at home.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
- Take shorter showers or only fill the bathtub halfway
- Help wash produce in a large bowl instead of understand running water
- Fill up the sink to wash the dishes instead of under running water
DAY 5: Get outside
Nature is a beautiful thing. It is easy to get caught up inside watching TV, playing video games, or doing too much homework. Getting outside is a great reminder for why you’re trying to save the world!
Here’s the challenge: Get outside! Spend 15-30 minutes each day outside and observe the beautiful natural wonders of nature.
DAY 6: Pick up Litter
When you are walking around the schoolyard or around your neighbourhood, do you see trash on the street or anywhere else.
Here’s the challenge: If you see litter, pick it up and put it in the proper bin whether it be recycling or trash. Look for the main culprits: plastic bottles, straws, fast food cups, coffee cups, and plastic grocery bags.
DAY 7: Bring Home Leftovers
Did you know 40% of all the food in America goes to waste?
Here’s the challenge: After you finish your lunch, make sure you pack up any food you have leftover. Put it in your lunch box. You can eat it as a snack when you get home or eat it tomorrow.
DAY 8: Declutter
We are currently consuming two Earths worth of resources each year. Recently, the US has only 3% of all the children in the world but own 40% of all toys.
Here’s the challenge: Go through the toys in your room this weekend and make a pile of toys in good condition that you can donate.
DAY 9: Compost
Composting returns natural items like food scraps and paper back to the soil where it will break down.
Here’s the challenge: Locate your nearest compost facility and use it. Does your school offer composting? Do you have a local community garden where you could compost? Could you use you backyard?
DAY 10: DIY
A lot of products you buy in packaging in the store are very easy to make.
Here’s the challenge: Find one packaged product to replace. Let’s use Lip Balm for example! (With the help of a parent of guardian) Use a microwave combine one part olive oil to three parts cocoa butter. Pour it into small tin or jar and use it as lotion and lip balm.
DAY 11: Line Dry
Line Drying do not only save energy, but it is a natural wrinkle releaser, and the sun is a natural bleach.
Here’s the challenge: Next time you do the laundry, hang it up outside. You can tie a rope between two trees or you can use a collapsible drying rack.
DAY 12: Keep it Real
Disposable products use a lot of resources and are only used for a short period of time. Did you know it takes 8 gallons or water just to make one paper plate?!
Here’s the challenge: Refuse disposable items this week and opt. For reusables instead! You’ve already started this practice with water bottles. Keep it going, why not use real flatware in your lunch box, use cloth napkins, or bring your own cup for a refill at the soda fountain?
DAY 13: Repair
Just because something is broken, doesn’t mean it’s time to just get something new. Many times these items can be fixed with just a little bit of effort or know how.
Here’s the challenge: If you’ve lost a button on a shirt or have a toy with a broken part, don’t toss it! Repair it. With a few simple tools, it can be good as new.
DAY 14: Walk or Bike
Gas is a fossil fuel and one of the main contributors to climate change. You can help by walking or biking short distances instead of driving.
Here’s the challenge: Rethink your commute this week! Can you walk or bike to the book? To school? To the library? Find a place you can walk or bike instead of driving.
DAY 15: Halloween Prep
A lot of those treats have a lot of trashy packaging and a lot of the costumes are poorly made and fall apart quickly.
Here’s the challenge: Get involved with a costume/treat swap! Borrow a cool costume or buy costumes second hand. Host a treat swap with friends so you can make your own spooky treats with less packaging waste.
DAY 16: Reusable Bag
A plastic bag is often unnecessary, and it’s not good for the environment. Plastic bags are so light they often blow into storm drains and eventually into the ocean.
Here’s the challenge: Practice keeping a reusable bag on you! WHen you’re anywhere whether in be the hardware store, grocery store, or the pet store use you own bag. If you forget it, try and carry the items without a bag or ask for a box from the stockroom. Just remember to recycle the box!
DAY 17: School Supplies
School Supplies can be full of disposable plastic items. Before you shop for new items, make sure to check your house. The thrift shop is also a great place to find school supplies.
Here’s the challenge: Next time you need a new school supply, try and find a product that can be used for a really long time. Instead of plastic folder opt. For one that can be composted and is made of plain kraft paper. Think through the whole lifecycle of the item. When you’re done with it, is it trash? Or can it be used again? Of course, don’t forget to check the thrift store too!
DAY 18: Farmers Market.
Food can travel a long way before it gets to your plate and sometimes you don’t know how it was grown. At the farmer's market, you know your food is local and you can ask the farmer how it is grown!
Here’s the challenge: Locate a farmers market near you and plan a family trip to visit. Look at all the beautiful and seasonal produce. Chat with the farmers about how the food is grown. If you’re feeling extra adventurous purchase a new or beautiful looking fruit or vegetable and learn to make a new meal!
DAY 19: Produce Bags
Produce bags at the grocery store and even the farmers market are usually plastic. So why not make you’re own! These can easily be made, purchased, or you can use something already around you house like an extra pillow case!
Here’s the challenge: Next time you are buying groceries, don't bag the produce if it’s not necessary. A lot of time it’s not. For what is necessary, like large groups of items, use a reusable produce bag.
DAY 20: Scope out the Bulk Bins
You can buy meat and cheese in your own containers from the butcher or deli. You can even buy snacks, grains, baking staples, and candy from the bulk bins without ANY packaging.
Here’s the challenge: Scope out some local grocery stores to see what you can get package free! Any bulk bis? What about a butcher counter? Deli counter? Olive bar? Salad bar? These are all places you can get food to-go without packaging. Make a list and ask your parents if you can help them buy some of their groceries package free!
DAY 21: Recycling
Recycling is great, but it should be viewed as a last resort instead of first defence. We should refuse unnecessary waste, then reduce what we need, ruse what we have then and only then should we recycle. But, it’s important to know what’s actually recyclable.
Here’s the challenge: Go online to your local waste management plants website and figure out what you can recycle. Can you recycle plastic number 5? Learn what each of those are and make a list. Make sure you and your family are recycling.
DAY 22: Cloth Napkins
Paper is great because it’s compostable, but it still takes a lot of trees to supply everyone with paper napkins.
Here’s the challenge: When packing your lunch, make sure to include a cloth napkin. Pack the cloth napkin back into your lunch box with your leftovers. When you get home, if your napkin is dirty, add it to your laundry hamper.
DAY 23: Toothbrush
Did you know every piece of plastic ever created still exists? There are thousands of toothbrushes washed up each each year on beaches across the globe. Don’t let your toothbrush be apart of the problem.
Here’s the challenge: When it’s time for a toothbrush change, switch to a compostable bamboo toothbrush. You can compost the handles or you can also use the bodies for kindling in a backyard fire. You can even upcycle them and turn them into cool craft projects.
DAY 24: Upcycle Craft
When you turn a waste item into a useful item it’s called upcycling. Before you put anything in the recycling bin, you should ask yourself, what can I make with this?
Here’s the challenge: This week make a craft with something upcycled. Cardboard boxes can be turned into tiny villages or storage boxes. Paper printed only on one side can become a new colouring page or folded into a unique fun shape.
DAY 25: Toilet Paper
Did you know it takes 37 gallons of water to make one roll of toilet paper? Americans use 8 million tins of toilet paper a year. If every US household used just one roll of 100% post consumer recycled TP a year, it would save 423,900 trees.
Here’s the challenge: When you run out of TP look for TP with 100% recycled content. Even better, ask your parents about installing a bidet attachment. They’re relatively cheap and will pay for themselves within a couple of months.
DAY 26: To-Go Containers
To-Go containers make up a large part of trash in households. Even the ones that look like cardboard are lined with plastic.
Here’s the challenge: Next time you go out to eat, bring along a container. You can take any of the leftover food home to eat later.
DAY 27: Wash the Dishes
When washing the dishes you can help save lots of water. You can also ditch the plastic scrubbies and sponges by switching to compostable dish scrubs.
Here’s the challenge: When your dish scrubs come to the end of their life look at some compostable dish scrubs. They last A LOT longer, on average a year and can be composted when their lifespan is over.
DAY 28: Food Scraps
Before you take any food to your compost bin, ask yourself can you eat that? Many times you can!
Here’s the challenge: Rethink your food scraps and make a new recipe with your parents.
- Leftover onion skins, carrot peelings, and celery top make a delicious vegetable broth in the crockpot.
- You can turn carrot tops into a delicious and spicy pesto.
- Strawberry tops can be infused into a delicious and refreshing flavoured water.
- You can easily turn bruised apples into applesauce.
DAY 29: Green Clean
Composting is super important! If you can’t finish all of your food you should compost it. Composting returns natural items like food scraps and paper back into the soil where it will break down.
Here’s the challenge: Locate your nearest compost facility and use it. Does your school offer composting? Do you have a local community garden where you could compost? Could you use your backyard?
DAY 30: Visit a Thrift Store
BY shopping second hand you keep new resources from being used for new items. Shopping second hand allows us to utilise good resources already in the waste stream.
Here’s the challenge: Take a trip to your local thrift store. Whenever you need to purchase something, it’s worth looking at the thrift store first. Whether that’s a new piece of clothing, a toy, book, or even craft supplies!
DAY 31: Now that you’re personally saving the world, it’s time to take things one step further.
Here’s the challenge: Work on organising an event this year. There are so many awesome things that can happen through groups acting together. Some examples of thing you can do are…
- Organise a beach clean-up day
- Talk with your city council about environmentally friendly projects, maybe propose one of your own like a plastic straw ban or styrofoam ban.
- Teach others how to buy food the zero waste way.
- Help others learn new DIY skills.