During the instructional planning stages, the teacher may wish to read About the Watershed: Instructional Framework, especially parts VI. Conservation, Restoration, and Stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and VII. Chesapeake Bay Watershed Issues and Trends: Alternatives and Consequences.
Understanding the Basics
Precyclers do not have to throw away or recycle as much because they create less trash. Becoming an active precycler means considering purchases carefully. It means making choices between brands or sizes for environmental reasons, instead of buying the most popular or least expensive product. For example, a precycler might choose to buy one 20-ounce box of cereal instead of two 10-ounce boxes. Instead of two boxes to throw away, there will only be one. Some products have recyclable packaging. This can be as simple as checking for a recyclable symbol on each plastic container before buying peanut butter or soda. Some people choose to use china dishes and cloth napkins instead of paper plates and paper napkins.
These appear to be easy choices, but they involve many considerations. Cloth napkins can be washed and reused many times, but paper napkins are thrown away at the end of each meal. Suppose a cloth napkin lasts for 5 years. At the end of 5 years, one napkin would be discarded, or it could be reused as a dishrag or as stuffing for a pillow. (See Recycling to Protect the Watershed for more ideas about reusing.) If a person used paper napkins at every meal for 5 years, he or she would throw away 5,475 napkins. That seems like a lot of trash! But who is going to wash the cloth napkin? How much water must be used? How much soap? Suddenly the decision is not so easy.
Surveying Buying Habits
Precycling often includes making individual choices. How might this lead to a project for your class or school? First you need to investigate and practice precycling. Next, you can inform others about precycling. You might start by finding out why people do or do not precycle. People often have good reasons for making the choices they make. For example, they consider convenience and cost. One project idea is to survey people's buying habits. You could ask people what they buy and why they buy it. You should keep your survey (and survey questions) short and simple. You could design questions such as the following:
- Do you buy products with little or no disposable packaging?
- Do you buy products in reusable or recyclable packages? Why or why not?
- Do you buy economy sizes or bulk products? Why or why not?
Students could target various groups such as classmates, parents, teachers, or others in your community for your survey.
You may find that the survey group is already making the choice to precycle. If so, they deserve recognition. The conclusion of the project might be to award or publicize precyclers. See "Obtaining project recognition through awards and contests" (p. 42) for ideas about setting up an environmental awards program.
If the results of the survey show that people are not choosing to precycle, a project might be to try to encourage precycling. One approach might be to start an advertising campaign. You could design a series of posters for the hallways in your school or write a series of articles or advertisements for the school or local paper. See Obtaining Project Recognition through Promotion. Also see Writing Publications to Promote a Project and Preparing a Press Release.
Inventing a Recyclable Product
Another project might be to invent a product people could use and reuse, such as a cloth lunch sack, instead of something they now use and throwaway. Think of other items thrown away after each use. Then create a durable and reusable substitute for the item.