What ties cereal boxes, Trader Joes, the County of San Diego, I Love A Clean San Diego, and 32 elementary school students together? Our new reuse program, brought to you by the County of San Diego.
Last month, my coworker, Monica, and I were taking our break at Trader Joe’s, and as we passed aisles of cookie butter and ginger snaps, we noticed an employee with a dolly-loaded with collapsed boxes. Most people wouldn’t think twice about cardboard boxes, but to an ILACSD educator, those recyclables have endless reuse possibilities. We started a conversation and found that after boxes are emptied, they are crushed and returned to the delivering company, along with pallets and plastic bags, to be recycled. Little did they know that these boxes can be reused prior to recycling! We explained our new reuse program – we educate students about the benefits of reuse and provide them with opportunities to create long lasting toys through objects that are often regarded as waste. After our conversation, and with the store’s approval, Monica and I loaded our arms with our new treasures and trekked back to ILACSD headquarters.
While most of us are knowledgeable of the important role reuse plays in waste reduction, three common reuse items come to mind: bags, mugs, and water bottles. Fewer people realize that most products we use have the potential to have a second, third, or fourth life before they hit the iconic blue bin. Our goal is to change that one time use mindset and our reuse program does exactly that!
Through imagination and cardboard boxes, our reuse program encourages students to rethink the idea of waste. In our first reuse program, students let their imagination run wild for almost two hours and they begged us to stay longer! We were blown away by the students’ creativity. Some of my favorite projects included, a stable, dollhouse, and time machine! Instead of buying a new toy or game, these students were completely captivated by their creations.
The next time you take a box or can to the recycle bin, I challenge you to try to create something new. The possibilities are endless!