Can you reduce, reuse or recycle a banana?

In October, Spence Farm Foundation hosted Prairie Central and over 60 students at the Spence Farm to learn about sustainability in a way not possible in the classroom.  The students were able to have hands-on opportunities to  interact with the prairie, become an 1860’s student and relate to resource consumption.  One of the activities, the program on resource consumption, is featured below.

Students were asked to sort “trash” including metal, glass, paper, cardboard, clothes, shoes, food and a number of other items into “like” piles.  Some students chose to sort by color, shape, use or even if the items had words written on them.  Each group had ideas of their own.

Reducing, reusing and recycling were then discussed.  The bags of “trash” were then resorted by the students into piles of materials which can be used less (reduced), can be used over (reused) and/or can be recycled.  One aspect of recycling that is often overlooked for food is composting.  It’s a way to recycle food waste and reuse material that would otherwise go to the landfill.  Some students even related that their families used this method for resource management, which was interesting to the whole group.  So, even bananas can be recycled!

Trying to sort the items the second time was more difficult for the students than you may have thought.  Some items fit into more than one category.  Recognizing that was great: it got the students thinking about different ways to use resources wisely.  Also, not one way is the “right” way to manage resources.  How each individual approaches resource management is their personal choice.  Considering your resource use and thinking about how you feel about reducing, reusing and recycling is a good first step in the process of using resources wisely.

Not all 5th graders can influence their families to recycle, especially where recycling is not available near where they live, as is the case in some of the areas where these students live.  However, practical steps students can act on to reduce consumption and reuse items were offered.

Chores were discussed.  Paper products are often used in homes where students may not have the chore of dish washing.  The students were asked: are you willing to put the effort forward to wash dishes to reduce the consumption of paper products? Some said yes, some said no. Having a willingness consume fewer products and go to the effort of taking care of the products you have is essential to reducing and reusing.

Another aspect of this was discussed: saving money.  Reusing dishes is often less expensive than buying paper products over and over again.  Using refillable cups to get drinks at the convenience store is also cheaper than buying a new cup and drink each time.  Buying “nearly new” clothes at resale shops or garage sale finds are other ways people can save money, reduce consumption and reuse a variety of products.

Both the students and presenters enjoyed the day and the foundation looks forward to hosting schools again in the future.  Call Carolynne to discuss your school visit to the Spence Farm: 815-992-3296.