The Way We Live | Find an activity
We’ve been testing resources since 2000 and have collected our favorite videos, books, and lesson plans together in one place for you. These activities actually work and are searchable by audience, topic, and more. They’re great for PreK-12 educators, Reclaim Your Holidays leaders, and anyone looking for practical ways to live more intentionally.
If you like quizzes, you might like this one. Be prepared. It's not easy. Another great resource from Climate Lab.
Here’s a great tool for you, your students and other faculty and staff. A service-learning opportunity.
Take the 30-Day Unshopping Challenge. You can create your rules. Will you not buy anything new for 30 days? Will you not buy anything besides food? Will you not purchase any item containing plastic? Seven days, 14 days, 30 days--you choose!
Help your students develop an understanding about the need for waste reduction by collecting their personal "trash" for a consecutive 72-hour period.
View and print the lesson here.
Agatha's Feather Bed, is a book in which Agatha explains that "everything comes from something"- wool from sheep, linen from flax, cotton from cotton bolls. Students explore this concept, as well as learn about community recycling programs and idioms.
Watch a YouTube read-aloud of the book, download the lesson plan, and check out a skit variation of the lesson. Search for videos online that show how things are made, and use these to enhance the lesson.
Related activity: Everything Comes from Something
These handouts are ideal reminders for use at a display or Reclaim Your Holidays event. Front-to-back, quarter-sheet handouts include green gift ideas, green gift wrap, and online resources for each.
Show students that artists can teach others about environmental problems and inspire community engagement.
View the presentation here.
You'll look at your daily activities and how you want to spend your time through this exercise. For one week, write down the activities of each day. Then rate each one based on the meaning you get from the activity, the pleasure, and whether you want to spend more time, less time, or about the same amount of time on the activity. What did you learn? What would you like to do differently? Make a plan to begin!
Find instructions here.
You'll look at your daily finances and what you spend through this exercise. Write down how you spend your money each day for a week, rate those items on the meaning and pleasure you get from them, and consider if you want to spend more, less, or about the same amount of money on each item and why.
These pre/post tests for several grade levels ask students to look at their needs v.s. wants, examine where natural resources come from, and decide if reusing, recycling or reducing is the best practice for the environment.
This DVD allows students to explore the effects of their everyday behavior on the environment, their health and well being.
This 2-minute video uses stop-motion graphics to communicate the need to stop polluting the San Francisco Bay with plastic bags. A teenage girl is the character, so easy for kids to relate to if they have ever been to an ocean.
Watch: The Bay vs. The Bag
If you think children's birthday parties are getting out of control, you've come to the right place. Birthday Parties Without Pressure raises awareness of this problem and offer alternatives for parents and kids who want birthdays without pressure. They are a small group of parents and professionals in St. Paul, MN.
Read some of their action steps on their website.
This list may help you and others simplify life during the holidays. Share it with others at your gatherings!
Download: Book and Resource List (pdf)
This lesson is created for adults to inspire them to create a more meaningful and pleasurable holiday and to gain insight on how to make the holiday season more meaningful and pleasurable.
Some concepts just naturally engage students' curiosity. Consumption - how we "buy, use, and toss" - is one of those. Because consumption is current, relevant, and real, it is an ideal context for teaching core subject matter and 21st century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration. It is available as a digital download for $4.99.
Facing the Future describes their interdisciplinary unit as follows:
Buy, Use, Toss? includes ten fully-planned lessons. This unit is correlated with national science and social studies standards and will lead your students through an exploration of the system of producing and consuming goods that is called the materials economy. Students will learn about the five major steps of the materials economy; Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal. They will also be asked to analyze the sustainability of these steps, determining how consumption can benefit people, economies, and environments.
Subjects: Science, Social Studies
This short article by Sarah Gervais, published in Psychology Today, is a gem of a discussion-starter. It includes some basic principles:
1) Being rich isn't necessarily the path to happiness,
2) Doing makes us happier than having, and
3) Consider spending money on others.
It's a 7th grade reading level, but could be discussed--if not read--by 5th and 6th graders.
Consider reading in conjunction with Money Can't Buy Happiness, by Amy Navotney.
This quiz helps students to learn how they can make changes to help the environment: Zero Footprint Youth Calculator
From the UK branch of the organization, this allows individuals to take the 'challenge' to improve their footprint (after taking an initial quiz): World Wildlife Fund Carbon Calculator
The clutter and chaos of gift exchanges can add to stress during the holidays. Discover some alternative ways to give, and share, without adding to the clutter and waste that the holidays can bring.
This resource includes a host of activities, lessons, handouts and videos for K-12 teachers. One of my favs in an activity, You Are What You Wear. It includes a worksheet, background information and learning outcomes for grades 5-12.
In "Consumerism and its discontents," published by the American Psychological Association, explore what psychologists and other researchers say about materialism. This article addresses materialism and its correlation (and lack thereof) to life satisfaction; materialism and its relationship to financial and emotional insecurity; and materialism and its connection to environmental issues.
Questions to explore:
The article says: "Research suggests that when people grow up in unfortunate social situations--where they're not treated very nicely by their parents or when they experience poverty or even the threat of death," says Kasser, "they become more materialistic as a way to adapt." Teachers in this course have often affirmed this. They have said students in challenging circumstances often don’t relate to this course’s content as well. What might you do with your students to engage these students? In what ways might you frame the content, with this in mind? Why?
An assistant professor of commerce (Burroughs) and professor of psychology (Kasser)/psychotherapist (Kanner) state conflicting views in this article. Burroughs says “materials things are neither bad nor good.” Kasser and Kanner say that there are consequences of materialism that can affect the planet. How does Burroughs’ challenge your beliefs about materials? How do Kasser and Kanner challenge your beliefs about materials? In what ways could you draw on any or all of these views to cultivate critical thinking in your students? In what ways could you draw on any or all of these views to cultivate better student citizens?
Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser talks about intrinsic and extrinsic values. The article also mentions Kasser's “Alternatives to Consumerism” class, where he asks his students to write a “consumerography,” or a biography of their lives as consumers.
"It is really remarkable how many of them see how empty that lifestyle is and how much they really want to figure out a different pattern of life for themselves and their kids one day. I have hope that they can, given how much energy, caring, and intelligence they show."
Students break into five groups and study an issue around "shoes" for about 25 minutes. One group studies life cycles, another does math problems related to how many shoes students own, another looks at economics issues, yet another looks at cultural and global issues. A fifth group looks at the good news that some shoes are reused and recycled. After the small group work, the students learn what the other groups studied. This lesson plan also be developed into separate lessons, either standalone or as part of a unit. Interdisciplinary opportunities abound with these activities.
Download: Consumption and Waste: Shoes lesson plan
(Also check out another "shoe" lesson plan developed by two middle school teachers: In Your Shoes.)
The South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency website includes how-tos for making recycled crafts, including a pdf booklet with patterns for holiday gift bags, ornaments, cards, and other items.
Download: Recycled Holiday Craft Ideas
What would your life be like if you fully lived your best self? (Substitute "enlivened" or "awakened" self if you prefer.) You'll answer that by creating a collage using images from magazines, calendars, and/or the Internet. You'll need the images, scissors, an 8-1/2 x 11 blank piece of paper, glue and/or tape.
Take 40 to 60 minutes to do this. Then, in small groups, describe your collage and also share what might prevent you from living your best self.
K-8 teachers--Feel free to adapt this activity to suit your students.
In 2006, an astounding $15.8 billion was spent on new decorations. This handout gives ideas on how to reduce your eco-footprint when decorating for the holiday season.
Download: Decorate with Green in Mind
Students determine what positively contributes to their lives, and think about their progress toward a better quality of life. They also consider how their personal consumption enhances or detracts from their quality of life. Because consumption is current, relevant, and real, it is an ideal context for teaching core subject matter and 21st century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration.
Find the Defining Happiness lesson plan (Lesson #7) in the Buy, Use, Toss? curriculum here. (You may need to pay a nominal amount - around $5 - for the 9-12 grade curriculum.)
The Diet that Helps Fight Climate Change, by Climate Lab (5:39)
Does what we eat matter when it comes to global warming? Actually, it does. Food causes about twice as much greenhouse gas pollution compared to all of the cars on the planet. (!!) You’ll discover what foods create more GHGs, and what food choices you can make—even one day per week—to have a positive impact. What I most like is that the video doesn’t shake a finger at me, or tell me I have to give up all meat. See what the good folks at Climate Lab have to say.
This 10-question quiz focuses on our diets. Looking at what we eat and a few of the processes involved in getting it from farm to table is one way to learn the environmental impacts of our food. For example, do you know which foods have the highest carbon footprint? When we know the implications of our food choices, we might reduce the waste associated with food. I love quizzes, and this one by the Climate Lab is full of surprises!
This ad outlines some of the reasons that clothing has a negative impact on the environment. Patagonia, an environmental leader among retailers, has developed this and numerous other environmental initiatives. The ad and related information can help students see some of the environmental efforts of corporations. It's a great tool for discussion.
Take a look: Don't Buy This Jacket advertisement
In this novel, a world exists beneath the sewer grates of New York City. The residents are called "Downsiders," and are prohibited from entering the "Topside." Yet, a young girl and boy, one from the Topside and one from down under, meet and learn about each others' worlds. 1999: Simon and Schuster NY, NY (Fiction)
Check your local library!
Drawdown, the book, can be found here. It's a great resource developed by scientists to outline the 80 most important things that can be done to reverse global warming.
The Solutions by Rank can be found here. Be sure to click on the link found after #10 to see the complete list of solutions. They include #4--A Plant-Rich Diet. #5 is Tropical Forests. Click on the blue-colored solutions to find out more about any solution that interests you. Isn't it interesting that Educating Girls and Family Planning are #6 and #7?
So much can be done--certainly some needs to be done by the manufacturing sector. Some can be done by you and me and our students.
Decorate bags for Earth Day!
Instructions at: Earth Day Groceries Project website
The main objectives for this activity are:
- Identify at least two actions to take to create richer, more meaningful celebrations.
- Commit to taking one action to make a holiday or celebration more meaningful and pleasurable.
- Retrieve additional information about topics such as gift-giving, entertaining, communicating effectively and sustainability
Download the lesson plan: Eight Steps for Creating Richer, More Meaningful Celebrations (pdf)
Oliver and his sister Gabby learn about Oliver's computer game in this 2-minute animated video from Public Broadcasting Service's LOOP SCOOPS. The kids discover that parts in the game device came from 18 different countries and traveled 228,000 miles; the device contains titanium, gold, and mercury; and that often these devices end up in landfills. After learning this, Oliver decides to not get a new game device, but to keep his.
Watch the video: Electronic Gadgets (PBS)
Want to reach new audiences? Learn how other educators use Reclaim Your Holidays materials? This document describes four venues for reaching audiences, from holiday concerts to library story hours.
This website contains information on municipal solid waste (MSW), including facts, information about reducing, reusing and recycling, and state data about MSW
Download this Word document, enter your own information, and email or print to spread the word about your Reclaim Your Holidays event:
Create your own teacher kit to help students learn that the products we use all come from the earth. A sample of possible natural resources and products for an Everything Comes from Something kit is shown plus ideas for student activities.
One way to engage your students is to show wool and ask where it comes from (sheep). Do the same with leather (cow hide). Then, give small groups the following objects (one/group): chocolate, fruit snacks, glass, silk, linen, aluminum, and fruit loops. Ask them to figure out what it "comes from." What is the main ingredient? (Reassure that it's okay if they don't know. If need be, they can research on electronic devices.) Go around the room and ask students to name the product and the resource it comes from.
Next, ask the commonality between all of the materials. (They are all made from natural resources.) Finally, ask why it matters.
An extension: Quote author and farmer Wendell Berry: "Our Western culture is not 'over-materialistic,' but rather not materialistic enough." Ask students why they think he says this. (Materials--the "stuff of creation"--are cheap, and therefore we don't value them, Berry says.) Then ask students to work in small groups to identify examples that support this idea and come up with examples to support why or when it's not true.
This activity helps students figure out that the things people do to live comfortably can affect the world around them. Students also discover that they can make choices to reduce their environmental impact. Students start by figuring out how a fast-food burger wrapper is made. They then learn about product life cycles with a "piggyback" song (a song to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell).
Looking for new audiences for your Reclaim Your Holidays efforts? Our pilot project shows the best new audiences are at Library Story Hours, Holiday Community Concerts, and Wellness Fairs. Story Hours target parents of young children who can set the tone of holiday and environmental learning for years to come. The other two settings target people who interested in what we have to "sell" and who are willing to try new ideas. This resource gives you concrete suggestions to engage these audiences to help them change their behaviors.
Download: Expanding RYH Audiences and Changing Behaviors (doc)
This well-made 1:59 minute video shows the life cycle of strawberries, from extraction to disposal. We recommend stopping the video after 1:43, so the emphasis is on the entire life cycle of strawberries rather than disposal.
Looking for a fun way to bring new people into your facility? Use this Reclaim Your Holidays open house plan from Marshalltown professionals. It includes some Make a Mix recipes.
Download: Fall RYH Open House (pdf)
When you buy from your local farmer's market, you are:
- Strengthening the local economy
- Getting fresh food
- Supporting endangered family farms
This handout gives great gift ideas that you can easily find at the farmers market throughout the year.
Download: Farmers Market Gift Ideas (pdf)
This activity helps participants look at some of the things they do during the winter holidays, reflect on how enjoyable those activities are, and consider reshaping their holidays to create what they want.
A simulation where students populate "continents" drawn to scale in yarn on the classroom floor and discuss how people and resources are distributed worldwide. The World Population Clock updates the world's population in real time.
The activity description states: "This simulation demonstrates the inequitable distribution of population and resources among the different regions of the world, and goes on to study the social effects of these inequities".
Food waste is the world’s dumbest problem, TEDx talk by Climate Lab (9:22)
Discover how one organization uses a food cam to announce “free food to eat.” This simple technology has vastly reduced their food waste. You’ll hear inspiring stories, and get some quick and dirty facts on food waste. (In the U.S., roughly 40% of our food never gets eaten. At the same time, about one of every eight Americans doesn’t have enough to eat. All the while, food creates greenhouse gas emissions through its entire life cycle.
From Teachers Try Science comes a great lesson where students analyze the life cycles of products. It’s called life cycle assessment, and it helps students consider the environmental impact of products. Students compare life cycles of living things to those of products. It’s hands-on, as students disassemble products. Targeted to 7th grade biology, earth science and computer science, it includes engineering concepts. This could be adapted for other grade levels and subjects.
Want to know why consuming less and consuming differently are so important?
David Allaway, policy analyst, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, lays out some of the reasons - as well as what Oregon is doing to address these important environmental issues - in this PowerPoint presentation.
Download the PowerPoint presentation: From 'Managing Waste' to 'Managing Materials'
This document helps you and your students figure out how much food you are wasting at home and/or at school. It also challenges you to record you food waste so you waste less. A possible service-learning project.
Drawn in cartoon style, McDonnell sketches Mooch, a cat, and Earl, a dog. Mooch wants to get the perfect gift for Earl, who already has everything. So he searches high and low for “nothing.” Yet, he can’t find “nothing” in the stores or on TV or in the other places he searches. Mooch resolves the problem and at the same time reminds people of all ages that the greatest gift is friendship, not things. Expect clever wordplay and lovable characters in this charming 56-page book. Here is a youtube read-aloud of the book.
Check your library or store for this book! 2005: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 978-0316114882 (56 pgs. Illustrated picture book)
Creating experiences as a gift, instead of just giving 'stuff', is not just better for the environment, but creates memories that will last a lifetime. This handout shares gift-giving ideas for family and friends.
An article written by Erin Kurt, sharing her findings about what children really want their parents to do with them. These alternative 'gift' ideas will help strengthen relationships, build family harmony, and reduce 'stuff'.
Check your library or store for this resource.
Geraldine is a goat and Glenmae, a Navajo weaver. This is a story about the time Glenmae decided to weave Geraldine’s coat into a rug.
1990: Aladdin Paperbacks, NY, NY 978-0-689-71418-4 (Illustrated picture book)
"The Good Life" takes you to a chance meeting between an MBA and a fisherman on a small island. As the MBA tries to teach the fisherman about business, the fisherman teaches him about life.
Check your library or store for this resource.
A 227-page, first-person narrative from a 17-year boy's perspective. "Larry" wants to make a positive difference in the world, and he uses tools such as the web to accomplish his mission.
2001: Henry Holt & Co. (227 pgs. Fiction )
Not the same as a “thank you note,” gratitude letters give you an opportunity to examine and share meaning you get from a relationship with another person who has positively impacted your life. Show your thanks or teach your students how to show and share their gratitude. Being grateful enhances well-being and deepens your sense of meaning. Consider writing one or two gratitude letters each month. It’s not only a gift to the recipient… it’s a gift to yourself to mull over the good things in the relationship.
This lesson plan will help participants to be able to name factors that they believe essential to a good quality of life as well as be able to identify actions that will create richer, more meaningful celebrations. After your session, participants will have committeed to taking action to make a holiday (or celebration) more meaningful and pleasurable, as well as having retrieved additional information about topics such as gift-giving, entertaining, communicating effectively and sustainability.
Grist writer David Roberts talks about how, once basic needs are met, happiness comes from social connections, personal autonomy and recognition. Article includes links to other articles about happiness research.
This light, humorous, and inspiring 2:49 minute video shows how to transform a home to reduce ecological footprint.
Halloween Costume Swaps occurred in two Iowa communities in 2013 --Iowa City/Coralville and Cedar Rapids. Here you’ll find Iowa City/Coralville meeting agendas and minutes, as well as draft news releases and a draft email sent to second-hand shops to request costume donations.
Check your library or store for this resource.
192 page book by Tal Ben-Shahar with three parts: What is Happiness, Happiness Applied, and Meditations on Happiness.
Does lots of stuff equal happiness? This two-minute video from Public Broadcasting Service Kids gets kids (and people of all ages) to think about happiness as it relates to stuff. The moral: "One small thing you love can make you happier than a ton of stuff."
Appropriate for 1st-3rd grades (and possibly any age!). Show the video during a Reclaim Your Holidays presentation or simply share the link in an email, on Facebook, or through a blog.
We love stuff, but most of us love family & friends, experiences and skill-building more. In a fun and non-threatening way, these graphics remind us of this. These are great for use in handouts, presentations, and posters.
Check your library or store for this resource.
For complementary activities and a lesson plan, See To Squish or Not: Everyday Decisions That Make a Difference Lesson Plan Here.
Readers look at life from an insect's point of view in this story. A boy talks with an ant he wants to squish, and the ant pleads for his life, saying "You are very much like me." To learn one way to use this in the classroom, check out the activity, To Squish or Not.
1998: Tricycle Press 1883672546 (Illustrated picture book, 28 pgs.)
Choose your favorite holiday tips from this handout that includes dozens of ideas on reclaiming your own holidays to share with your family, friends and community. Copy and paste the ideas you want to share and make a poster/display or share online through Facebook, Twitter, email or a blog. Or, print your favorite ideas and tape them to exercise equipment, restroom stalls, or on a bulletin board. The possibilities are endless!
Annie Leonard is a guru of "stuff." In the video, Story of Stuff, which she created in 2007 using cartoon images, she illustrates some of the problems with "stuff." It's a left-leaning video, but the references are solid. She's onto different things now, but has focused much of her work on "stuff." This short interview with her by Public Broadcasting is worth the read.
In this video, learn about Cam Pascual, who first took leftover pizza from her college dining hall and donated it to a hunger-fighting non-profit. Eventually, she recruited others to help her and they created the Food Recovery Network. About three years later, the Food Recovery Network grew to 150 chapters at colleges across the country. At that time, they had collectively recovered and donated over 1 million pounds of food.
This talented columnist, also known as "Ask Umbra," writes a short manifesto (10 tips) encouraging Americans to take back their identities, asking "Ever wonder when We the People stopped being called citizens and started being called consumers?" Her tips range from "prioritizing" and "voting," to "enjoying what you have."
Check your library or store for this resource.
In this 66-page nonfiction book is the science behind headlines about climate change, and what actions youth can take.
2008: Dawn Publications 1584691034 (66 pgs., Nonfiction)
How Your Diet Affects Climate Change, by Julie Cohen
What’s good for our health is usually good for the planet’s health.
This short reading is accessible for free from Population Education, affiliated with Population Connection. Population Education provides great teacher resources. This reading connects population and consumption with biodiversity. Though not focused on wildlife, as soil, minerals, timber and other resources are used to create consumer goods, land for wildlife is diminished.
This lesson gives students an opportunity to watch 5-minute videos, respond to these by answering a few questions on a worksheet, and then work with a group to refine their answers. The questions focus on human impact on wildlife and effective mitigation techniques.
This online activity asks questions about life satisfaction to determine your top 10 personal values. After you discover your top values, then consider how you spend your time and on a daily or weekly basis. Do those activities match your values?
Explore: What Are Your Values
If you find your activities do not match your values, begin thinking of changes to make and who can help you better align your values and time.
Start by completing this assessment: Assessing Your Daily Activities
Another resource asks you to identify six things in your life that are most important to you right now. Next, you'll look at how you actually spend your time during a given day. Consider inserting a blank circle into this activity and dividing it according to the amount of time you "want" to spend on each item that is important to you.
Download: Values Circle Chart
Check your library or store for this resource.
This book describes what the US would look like if its population of 306 million were represented as a village of 100. Fascinating statistics such as 5 people (1 person represents 3 million people) have more than half of US wealth, US owns more cars than any other county, is 50% larger than in 1950, and 82 of 100 Americans consider themselves Christian. Great with Food for Thought activity.
2009: Kids Can Press, Tonawanda , NY 978-1-55453-344-2 (Illustrated picture book)
Check your library or store for this resource.
If 6 billion people on the planet were a village of 100, what would it look like? The book explains whom lives in the village, where they live, how fast the village is growing, what languages are spoken, what religions are practiced and more. Great with Food for Thought lesson plan.
2002: Kids Can Press, Tonawanda , NY 1-55074-779-7 (Illustrated picture book )
The participants' main objectives of this activity are to be able to:
- Name at least one thing during last year’s holiday season that gave me both meaning and pleasure.
- Name at least one thing during last year’s holiday season that didn’t give me much meaning or pleasure.
- Commit to an action to make change for the coming holiday season.
- Retrieve additional information about topics such as gift-giving, entertaining, communicating effectively and sustainability.
Bale of straw? A bat house? When people are asked about their winter holiday celebrations, there’s an explosion of responses. This handout shares innovative gift ideas that have been gathered by Iowans.
See It's the LittleThings Video Here
Through this fun, animated video, check out the lives of common products such as flat-screen TVs and cell phones. They tell their stories of mistreatment and neglect, because they were discarded while young and they believe they still have much life left! This 5-minute video calls for smarter designs that reduce waste and save energy.
Produced by Eco-Innovators.
John McCutcheon is a master in the folk music world. Here are lyrics to several of his songs about community building and the idea that "what one can't do, we'll try two" or more people working together for change.
The USDA offers a Food Waste Challenge to schools and you can register your school as a participant. Schools can choose such activities as: 1) Recovering food from breakfasts and/or lunches to donate to feed people in need; 2) Recovering food waste from breakfast and/or lunches to feed to animals or for composting; or 3) Other activities to reduce food waste.
Check your library or store for this resource.
Joseph had an overcoat, it gets old and shabby, but he keeps re-making some-thing of it until he has nothing. Then he even makes something out of that.
1999: Viking, NY , NY 0-670-87855-3 (Illustrated picture book )
by Public Broadcasting System
In this 2.5 minute video, a boy named Brad is quizzed about a "secret weapon" that is virtually indestructible and made of a high-tech composite impervious to heat and light. Brad is surprised to learn that the "weapon" is an ordinary juice box. Brad then learns that one billion juice boxes are thrown out every year, which prompts his decision to use a reusable water bottle instead.
In this interdisciplinary lesson, students learn about the life cycle of shoes and calculate the quantity of shoes discarded. They learn that the earth is a closed system and that there is no “away.” Math exercises can be designed for almost any grade level, such as Math Exercises for Grades 1-6.
What teachers say:
See Keep Swimming video here.
This 3-minute video depicts the power of working together to make things happen.
This video is short and, well, pithy, considering it's for a young audience. Try it with 2nd-7th graders. Young kids share how advertisers target youth, why consumerism is a problem, and what we can do about it. Good discussion questions are included at the end.
This video is a great example of kids (probably middle school aged) using technology, science, interviewing and speaking skills to learn about food waste. Honestly, if you show this to your students, just skip the first 30 seconds.
This lesson was developed for ages 9-14, but would be excellent for 15 to 85 year olds! It could be adapted for younger audiences. The Values Circle Chart is an easy-to-do activity for ages 9 through adults. Consider inserting a blank circle into this activity and ask students to divide it according to the amount of time they would like to spend on each item that is important to them.
Students learn about the limited supply of natural resources in the world and, by role-playing, begin to understand some of the equity issues related to the use of those resources.
The objectives of this lesson are:
- Students will learn about the world's supply of resources
- Students will compare lifestyles and consumption habits of rich, middle and poor people throughout the globe
Don’t forget to draw on local experts. Many areas of the state have solid waste educators who can give you a tour of a nearby landfill or come to your class and give a presentation. If you can’t find a listing for your local contact, call your county’s courthouse (start with the Auditor’s office) and ask.
Most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to the environment. But things aren’t as simple as opting for the paper bag, says sustainability strategist Leyla Acaroglu. A bold call for us to let go of tightly-held green myths and think bigger in order to create systems and products that ease strain on the planet. (Video description thanks to TED Talks.)
This lesson helps students understand the complex and invisible chain of production that occurs to get a common, everyday product to us. Its kinesthetic component is great for most learners, but especially for movement-oriented students.
- Students will demonstrate awareness of the chain of environmental impacts caused by the creation of a product
- Students will be able to explain what portion of a product's life cycle is household wasted
- Students will be able to name a minimum of two stages of a product's life
You'll need to download and print the following sets of cards for the activity:
- Light Blue Activity Cards #1
- Light Blue Activity Cards #2
- Blue Activity Cards #1
- Blue Activity Cards # 2
- Green Activity Cards #1
- Green Activity Cards #2
- Yellow Activity Cards #1
- Yellow Activity Cards #2
- Red Activity Cards #1
- Red Activity Cards #2
- Teacher Key and Reference Sheet
- Accompanying PowerPoint presentation.
The CEEE's NEW graphics and lesson plan ideas will help students of all grade levels better understand where the things that we use daily come from -- what processes are needed to get them to the Use stage. The graphics in the link below can be cut apart to allow users to come up with alternatives to various processes and find more sustainable approaches.
It feels good to get new things. Yet, consuming those goods packs an environmental wallop. We all need to work together to find solutions to this paradox. Below are some questions you might ask your students to help them explore solutions to this dilemma. We encourage you to adapt the questions to your grade level, but the initial ones are designed for younger audiences and the latter ones for high school and college students.
National Public Radio’s Planet Money’s Life of a T-shirt Five short videos (approx. 1:30 min. to 6:22 min.) comprise this excellent series developed by NPR's Planet Money team. The chapters address cotton, machines, people (workers in factories), boxes and us. Readings are available with each of the chapters. (Grades 7-12 and adults) This series addresses complex issues, such as child labor and worker rights.
Other resources, good for younger audiences as well, include this reading and a graphic by Evergreen Design Company depicting the life of a t-shirt. Consider copying this graphic multiple times, then cutting apart the elements. The arrows aren't necessary, nor is the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle element. Have students work in groups to put the elements in the correct order. (Some stages occur multiple times in the life of a product, such as transportation. The students could draw more symbols for those, if you wish.) We recommend that you ask the students to put these in the correct order, linearly. (Until we make significant changes in the way we produce products, most do end, rather than continue in a cycle.)
After the students finish, then give them blank sheets of paper in a similar size of the elements they've already placed. Ask them to think of ways to reduce environmental impact along the chain of production/life of a product. Encourage creativity! Solar-powered manufacturing, hybrid tractors (similar to hybrid cars), and--best of all--buying only the number of t-shirts you need and really want.
In this 2:42 minute video, a teacher shares her off-the-top-of-her-head story of the life of corn chips. See if you think she got it right.
Janesville Middle School teachers Liz Foelske and Emily Stenslund attended the professional development workshop titled "Helping Students Protect the Environment and Living Well." As part of the workshop they developed and taught a mini-unit to middle school students in Janesville, IA. Watch how their students leaped into the book Material World, directed a 48-Hours of Trash event at the school, and took their own community service action on the school grounds.
Get started now making choices that are kinder on the environment. This set of actions is tailored to adults, but we'd love to have teachers challenge their students to create age-appropriate handouts similar to this that we can share here for use by other students! When you open this Live Gently Plan, save it to your computer, then fill it out and follow the instructions for helping contribute to a healthier planet and a healthier you!
Ways to Encourage Students to Take Action! Just knowing more about “stuff,” doesn't mean any of us do something as a result of this knowledge! These well-established strategies will help teachers help students take actions and change their behaviors.
Check your library or store for this resource.
The Lorax shares a powerful message about the environment in this classic. Brilliant and whimsical rhymes and delightful creatures tell the story that "UNLESS someone like you...cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better...It's not."
1971: Random House Books for Young Readers 0-39482-337-0 ( 72 pgs. Illustrated picture book)
See PBS Magazines Video Here (youtube video)
This 2:30 second video is a great tool for inspiring students to research and create second lives for products that would otherwise be thrown away. Created by Public Broadcasting Service.
Guests at RYH events will enjoy making their own gifts in a jar to share with others for many holidays. It's a fun activity for intergenerational groups!
This activity invites people to review their 5-Minute Assessment and pick three tasks that they want to change for their holidays this year to decrease some activities or increase others. The table helps participants consider who could help them make the changes, what barriers beed to be overcome and other ways to make a plan and have it happen.
Modified for RYH by Lilly Jensen, Winneshiek County Conservation.
It's easy to have dreams of reclaiming your holidays, and not so easy to actually do so. Making a plan will give you concrete ideas and actions to maximize meaning and minimize stress over the holidays. Use this tool to get started.
See Material World Lesson Plan Here (PDF). Check your library or store for the accompanying book.
The activity is based on a 255-page photographic look at 30 families, their homes and their possessions. The families represent 30 United Nations countries. Beautiful photos, and brief but compelling narratives and fascinating statistics about the countries, the energy they use, population per capita, etc. Though an older book (1994), it continues to be an excellent classroom resource when current statistics from the World Population Reference Bureau are used. This web site provides updated photos of numerous countries in the Material World book plus a link to poster sets and curriculum ghuides with powerpoint presentations from the Social Studies School Services.
Here is a Worksheet/Handout to use in conjunction with the book/activity.
Availability of Material World books: Several Iowa Area Education Agency libraries have multiple copies of Material World, and they are available through interlibrary loan. The following, at a minimum, should be available: Grant Wood: 15 books in one set; Area 267: 6 sets of 5; Heartland AEA: 3 copies
1994: Sierra Club, San Francisco , CA 0-87156-437-8 (255 pgs. Nonfiction)
Through the process of making double bar and circle graphs, the students develop an understanding of how the United States compares to other countries with respect to years of school, income, and other factors. The World Population Clock may be a useful tool to discuss this book.
“Materialism and Living Well,” by Tim Kasser, is a research paper. Skim it but be sure to read the section called “Interventions to Decrease Materialism,” pages 7-8.
Measuring Consumption in a Smarter Lunchroom: Tray Waste
Measuring food waste at school isn’t an easy job, which makes it a great challenge for middle and high school students. The team at Smarter Lunchroom’s has developed what they call “Here are the Easy Steps to Measure Plate Waste.” It’s a great tool and is best for Grades 6 and above, but portions of it can be adapted for younger grades. The Smarter Lunchroom organization is housed at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics, and is funded in part by the USDA.
Read past articles to get ideas for ways you might share your efforts with the media.
"Reclaim Your Holidays to Reduce Stress, Waste" (PDF) by Des Moines Register
"Red and Green: UNI Initiative Aims to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Christmas" (PDF) by Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
"I'm Dreaming of a 'Green' Christmas (PDF) - Johnson County Conservation Board Newsletter
"Making an Annual Holiday Office Party Green" (PDF) by Des Moines Business Journal
"How to Have Happier and Greener Holidays" (PDF) by Cedar Rapids Gazette
The following media releases are available for your use! Feel free to copy and modify to promote your own Reclaim Your Holidays effort.
- Communication is Key to Holiday Sanity (PDF) (DOC) -- How to set gift-giving limits and preserve relationships
- Introduction to Reclaim Your Holidays/CEEE's RYH Initiative (PDF) -- How to minimize stress and maximize the meaning of holidays (DOC)
- Give Gifts of Experience to Satisfy Friends and Family (PDF)
- Delectable Goodies at Local Farmer's Markets Make Great Gifts -- Strengthen your local economy by buying local products (PDF)
- How to Reclaim Your Holidays - the Fundamentals! (PDF)
- County Conservation Board Newsletter - "I'm Dreaming of a 'Green' Christmas" - A Naturalist's Perspective on the Holidays (PDF) (DOC)
- Two Minute Reminder of What Really Makes Us Happy (DOC)
- Two Tools to Tame the Holiday Turmoil (PDF)
- Workshop Series for Holiday Presentations (DOC)
- Reclaim Your Holiday -- and Save Energy, Too (Utility Company Newsletter) (PDF)
- Buying Used (PDF)
Your community public access television channel or local radio station are always looking for good news stories and features - giving you one more opportunity to get the word out about RYH. This handout will give you some tools to help you talk with your local media.
This short article by Amy Novotney could lead to some compelling discussions in middle and high school. Researchers asked people with a net worth of $25 million the following questions:
What is the greatest aspiration for your life?
What's your greatest aspiration for your children?
What's your greatest aspiration for the world?
And, after each of the major questions the researchers asked, "How does your money help you with your greatest aspiration?" and, "How does your money get in the way?"
See also Can Money Buy Happiness?
Similar to Musical Chairs, in this activity chairs represent natural resources. As they are depleted, chairs are removed but people remain and more people are added to represent a growing population. Participants share chairs and balance on laps to demonstrate depletion of resources. This activity has been reprinted with permission from the Iowa Department of Education from their 1991 publication, Clean Sweep.
Interested in exploring the potential of design/engineering with your students? Want to help them become passionate about environmental issues? Here's a great place to start.
The National Sword podcast and transcript can be listened to/read in parts. The first 24:27 minutes includes information about our current problems with recycling. We've lost our market to China, and that has presented tremendous problems to America's recycling collectors. The podcast introduces listeners/readers to Material Recovery Facilities (which sort our recyclables), and discusses the importance of design of products so we reduce or eliminate waste.
My favorite section starts at minute 15:55. It's about the history of the end of the refillable container. Think: The beginning of single use containers. It also discloses how the term litterbug became popularized.
Content is great background information for teachers, and could be adapted for 3-5 grades.
Taking The Secret Lives of "Stuff" course? Here's a video that will help you navigate the course.
This organization's mission is to empower individuals, communities and organizations to transform their consumption habits to improve well-being for people and the planet. They focus primarily on Kids and Commercialism, So Kind (an alternative gift registry) and Simplify Your Holidays.
New Rule: All Purchases Subject to a 7-Day Mental Quarantine is a short article that's great for adult audiences, but also good for 9-12 grade students. It will help them assess their purchases, and is a great discussion tool.
November 2016 -- #BeingNotBuying; Find the joy!
October 2016 --
November/December 2013 -- Create memories with gifts of experience; Why consume less?; Discover ready-to-go news releases (PDF)
October 2013 -- Practice holiday communication; find quality not quantity in Happiness video; develop book display (PDF)
August 2013--Articles for reprint: Alternative gifts & Farmer's Market gifts, Learner-center activities, Sign up for webinar series (PDF)
This curriculum, as well as the No Impact Man documentary and book, help students explore the effects their everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being. It will also challenges students to think about how the systems in society influence lifestyle choices in ways that often are not good for environment. Finally, it guides students to take action both individually and with others to bring about positive change.
Lesson Plan Summary:
- Consumption: Examine how advertising affects our consumption habits and consider how we can get what we need in ways that do less harm to the environment. Create an alternative gift registry with items that are non-material, secondhand, homemade, service-oriented, experiential, ro that come from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
- Energy: Take a look at our current system for supplying energy to our homes. Find out how to reduce our daily energy consumption and speak out on the need to have long-term, sustainable energy solutions.
- Food: Explore how food choices affect the environment and our quality of life. Develop a plan for one meal that includes only food that is seasonal, local, and unpackaged.
- Transportation: Study how improved street design could encourage more students to use active forms of transportation like walking or biking to get to school.
- Water: Learn way to conserve water and minimize the amount of chemicals that we put in our drains.
Check your library or store for this resource.
An old red rocking chair gets tossed on the curb because it has no value to the owner. But, in an interesting turn of events, after about six other owners find good uses for the chair, it comes back to the original owner as a prized possession.
1992: Arcade Publishing 978-1559700634 (32 pgs. Nonfiction)
By interviewing people at least 45 years older than themselves, students discover history of Americans' lifestyles and consumption patterns.
This links you to an Environmental Protection Agency page of information about waste-free lunches, including how to order a free poster on waste-free lunches, a letter to send to parents, and tips for a waste-free lunch. Click here for information about an Iowa County Conservation Board's Smart Lunch Program [Note: the handout begins with a field trip checklist and reminders. Page 3 gives specific information about the Huntsville Smart Lunch Activity]
Students are introduced to the functions of packaging, and its environmental impacts. They then compare the cost per ounce of a cereal and make a correlation between cost per ounce and amount of packaging.
This links you to instructions to create a folder using a paper grocery sack.
Scientists call them "materials." Here we call all of the things we buy and use "stuff." Learn more about what constitutes "stuff," and it's impact on greenhouse gas emissions. (2:34 min. video)
This 13:54 minute video features several charts and graphs that show the environmental impact of our "stuff.
Our "stuff"--the products individuals, businesses and governments use daily--are the single largest source of GHG emissions in the U.S. This 3:58 minute video gives a look into why this is so.
If you have not seen a PBS Kids Loop Scoops video, or other Loop Scoops content, you are in for a treat. At least if you teach K-4 grades. Many of these videos work for many age levels, including adults. The content director for all of this great stuff is Annie Leonard. Annie says she loves her stuff. She says: "I'm pro-stuff. And one of the reasons that I have so much reverence for my stuff is that I have seen where it comes from and where it goes." The information at this link introduces us to Annie, shares her ideas about what parents can do to help their children think in new ways about stuff. AND, she offers her ideas for what teachers can do to help kids think in new ways:
I think it's important for parents and teachers to get kids thinking more critically in a couple of different ways. One is about the quality of the stuff we're consuming. Is it toxic? Is it loaded with pesticides? Where did it come from? Was it made with child labor? This is how we can get people to buy less toxic, organic, the safer, least exploitative products. But it's also important to get kids thinking about the quantity. Even if we all bought green organic, we are still using too much stuff. So if we can get kids to critically develop that lens: What is this material?, Is it something I want in my household?, Is it something that I want to hold in my hands? Am I using too much? Do I really need this? Could I get this from the library instead? Could I borrow this from a friend? (From PBS Kids Meet Annie Leonard)
In case you missed it, here's how to access this good stuff.
These surveys for various age groups ask participants to choose which options are the most essential for a good quality of life. Educators are encouraged to adapt any of these surveys to the grade level that they teach.
Get started now making choices that are kinder on the environment. This set of actions is tailored to adults, but we'd love to have teachers challenge their students to create an age-appropriate document similar to this that we can post here, too! When you open this Live Gently Plan, save it to your computer, then fill it out and follow the instructions for helping contribute to a healthier planet and a healthier you!
Want to help students (or others) follow-through on their actions to live differently? These well-established strategies offer ways to encourage students to take action and change their behaviors.
Download and print these pledge cards to engage RYH participants in making a pledge: “What one thing will you do to make your holiday more meaningful or greener?” A public pledge is one sure way to help people make a desired change.
Printing Tip: For best results, in the Print Setup/Page Setup window uncheck "scale to fit printer margins/shrink to printable area" or choose "none" before printing. This will ensure that your pledge cards print correctly so you can trim them to a uniform size.
Take action toward a richer, more meaningful future! Download and print these tips for success to carry with you and to give to your audiences as a daily reminder. Different print shops may find it easiest to print using the One Card PDF or the Six Card PDF. Ask your local printer which set-up they prefer. You may also print the guide on standard paper for yourself.
For nearly forty years, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth) has been educating young people with its award-winning Population Education program and advocating for progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources.
On this website you will see curriculum and professional development created to teach about human population trends and their effects on the environment and society.
Reclaim your holidays this year by giving gifts that reflect your values. If one of those values is ecological concern, give gifts of green. They do good things for the earth, send a message about your values, and may even shrink your family’s and friends’ carbon footprints for years to come.
Download and print the gift certificates you'd like to try and/or share with your audiences. Colorful and inexpensive envelopes add a nice touch (standard A2 envelopes available at local print shops and art supply stores).
- “I made a charitable donation in your name to _______________.” Charitable Donation Certificate (PDF)
- “This certificate is good for _______________.” Good For Certificate (Fill in the Blank) (PDF)
- A Gift from Me to You certificate - Pamper a mom with this selection. Gift for Mom Certificate (PDF)
- Blank gift certificate - fill in your own gift ideas and let your gift recipient choose! Blank Certificate (PDF)
See Product Life Cycle Lesson Plan Here. (You may be required to create an account or log in to access the resource at PBS LearningMedia).
Students examine products to learn their "life stories," acquiring critical thinking skills as they learn where materials come from. This PBS Learning Media activity also uses two, approx. two-minute videos, Electronic Gadgets and Orange Juice. You may need to create a free account at PBS to use these resources, but they are well-worth your time. This handout, Tell a Product's Life Story, is adapted from the handout created by PBS and focuses on extraction and production. Another lesson plan that complements this lesson/concept is the Life of a Hamburger Lesson Plan.
This one-page guide gives examples of research-based ways to change attitudes and behaviors. It's a great tool for middle and high school language arts educators to use when studying persuasive writing.
Using the delightful children's picture book, The Quiltmaker's Gift, about a quiltmaker and a rich king, all audiences are reminded that giving is much more satisfying than receiving. The quiltmaker inspires the king to give up all of his possessions, and during the process the kin discovers joy in giving. Students are encouraged to explore ideas for themselves. Great resource for use near holiday seasons and before celebrations. Check your local library or store for the book. 2000: Scholastic Press, NY, NY 0-439-30910-7 (Illustrated picture book)
Third-grade level vocabulary words from The Quiltmaker's Gift (ppt)
Video reading (YouTube)
Real Hourly Wage and The Fulfillment Curve (doc) (Excel file)
In thinking about how we impact the environment with the products we buy, it can also be helpful to think about how we impact our quality of life through how we spend money. This activity helps students learn how to calculate their real hourly wage. For example, say they make $10/hour in a job. After taxes, transportation and clothing expenses and other related expenses, the hourly rate may be closer to $7. If a shirt they want to buy costs $50, how many hours of their life do they need to spend working to pay for that shirt?
POSTER: This poster will help you begin Reclaim Your Holidays conversations. Print the full-color poster yourself at smaller sizes, or share this link with your local printer who can download and print the full-size poster for you (original poster size: 20” w x 30” h).
Download: Reclaim Your Holiday Display Poster (printable pdf)
DISPLAY PANELS: Use our full, three-panel display to help educate your audiences! Download these full-color display panels to print yourself in smaller sizes to post on a bulletin board, or share the links to the pdf files with your local printer who can download the files to create a full-size table top display (original size of each panel: 22” w x 34” h).
Download the printable pdfs: Left panel / Center panel / Right panel
This google map shows locations and contact information for educators who are either trained in using RYH materials or interested in RYH. Find others near you to share ideas and develop partnerships.
These resources can be downloaded and used in connection with RYH activities, displays, or events.
This 15-slide PowerPoint gives definitions of three waste management strategies.
This fun activity uses last year's colorful wall calendar to create flashy gift bags for any time of the year! Detailed step by step instructions with photos are easy to follow. Perfect for a Reclaim Your Holidays intergenerational activity for many ages.
This short video, appropriate for grades 2-5, helps students understand the problem of food waste problem and adopt new behaviors.
This five-minute video depicts the life cycle of a cell phone...highlighting mining and transportation issues, as well as the short lifespan of a cell phone in the 21st century. This resource, and nearly 120 more, can be found at The Way We Live, a complementary site to Reclaim Your Holidays.
This approximately 5 minute video, is produced by INFORM, Inc., an environmental organization based in New York.
INFORM, Inc says, "Where does paper go when you recycle it? Why should you change your paper habits? What can you do to reduce your paper footprint? How do I recycle paper?"
This short article, which scores a 10.98 on the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level Analysis, contains content understandable for all grade levels. It describes some of the secrets to happiness from country to country and culture to culture. Includes a bibliography.
From Edutopia, learn about Montpelier (Vermont) High School's service-learning projects. This school is ranked #2 high school in Vermont and has received a School of Success award from the National Center for Learning and Citizenship. Students grow greens for the school, and do other related service-projects for their school. See also Real-World Problem-Solving: Finding Solutions through Projects (5:23), featuring Crellin Elementary, Oakland, Maryland, a top-performing elementary school. Learn about the students' design of a playground for goats at their school.
Assign students to take an inventory of the stuff in their rooms, or the stuff they've acquired over the past six months. Then, with list in hand, ask them to identify whether each item is still in use and/or still important to them. What items would they would have been happy to share with friends, or get from the library, instead? Discuss.
Other questions to consider include: What is this product made from? Where did the materials come from? Is it something I want to hold in my hands and why or why not? What role does gratitude play in this analysis?
Options include writing persuasive letters or articles about what they discovered and/or calculating how much money they would have saved if they didn't get those items in the first place.
This website has a wealth of great information. Much of it focuses on students eating healthier foods, but it has some information specifically about food waste. Also, getting students to eat foods is closely tied to food waste. One idea I love is targeted to elementary students. It’s based on research that says that naming foods to make them more appealing and fun to eat gets more students to consume those foods. Think “emerald dragon bites” instead of green beans.
This nearly wordless pdf uses graphics to show the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, as identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. When the EPA uses broad economic systems to classify GHG emissions, they have found some surprising things. The four categories of Infrastructure, Use of Appliances and Devices, Personal Transportation, and Heating and Cooling all totaled contribute 58% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.
The single largest contributor, however, is Materials-what we know of as the "stuff of life."
Slides 1-19 explain with pictures these facts. Slides 20-38 then explain--with graphics--why "stuff" generates so many GHG emissions. What you'll discover may surprise you!
Children benefit from relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended family members. These relatives can express love in many ways. These handouts - one aimed at advising parents and the other at the loving family members - help family members find ways to set limits, preserve relationships, and find meaningful gifts to give.
See CEEE's Step by Step: Building a Better Future PowerPoint here. (Please be patient. This file may take a few minutes to download.)
This 21-slide PowerPoint focuses on research that sheds light on Americans' views related to consumption and what they want for the future. It also includes eight examples of collective actions that are currently building a better future.
This 8:04 minute video explains the concept of “manufactured demand” for a product, and outlines the differences between bottled and tap water. Instructor tip: A handout in the Buy, Use, Toss Activity, Analyzing the Message (lesson 10), helps students think critically about biases in messages, and is a worthwhile tool to adapt and use with this video.
See The Story of Change Video Here. Why citizens (not shoppers) hold the key to a better world.
This 6:29 minute video explains that big ideas, working together, and action help change to occur. It also asks viewers to think about what kind of change-maker they are, and provides a quiz to take on the subject. Many other resources are available at this site.
This 7:47 minute video explains ‘planned obsolescence’— design for replacement—and the costs.
This website, The Story of Stuff Project, includes 20-minute on-line video that takes viewers through the extraction through sale, use and disposal of products. As its website homepage says, "The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between... environmental and social issues." A wealth of resources--including videos, discussion questions and group activities--are available at the site.
See Stuff the Bus video here (5:30 minutes)
After learning how to help students protect the environment and live well during a teacher professional development class, Denver High School's Penny St. John taught her Language Arts students in grades 9-10 the curriculum and then challenged them to organize a community service project. The high school class set out to stuff a school bus with the unused and unneeded things from their own homes and other homes in the Denver, IA, community. Watch how their project unfolded, what they learned, and their community action!
Check your library or store for this resource.
The book describes the life cycle of common products such as t-shirts, cola and French fries. The curriculum offers many activities.
1997: Northwest Environment Watch, Seattle , WA 1-886093-04-0 (86 pgs., Nonfiction)
Check your library or store for this resource.
A girl feels her family doesn't have enough money. As the family discusses this issue at their worn-out table, they determine there is much value in the non-tangibles of their lives--the sunsets, the stars, the wind. The girl decides her family may indeed be rich after all.
1994: Aladdin Paperbacks/Simon & Schuster, NY , NY 0-689-82008-9 (Illustrated picture book )
This handout gives some suggestions for how to simplify holiday finances. By using these ideas, you can help to prevent the holidays from being all about spending money and increasing debt.
From establishing a planning committee to writing a news story afterwards, here is a great tool to keep you on track as you plan your next Reclaim Your Holiday event.
Teaching Kids to Waste Less Food, by Elise Warner and Jonathan Bloom from Food Waste: An Educator’s Guide.
If we teach our kids to waste minimal food, it could have lasting impacts on their pocketbooks and on the environment. This article provides discussion questions for all grade levels, such as:
- “When you buy lunch at school, why do you think you have to take certain items?
- What do “Best By” dates mean? Have you ever eaten anything after it is past that date?
- If the average food item has to travel 1500 miles, what are some of the benefits of growing your own food? Who has grown some of your own food or bought items at the farmers market?”
This is a short and compelling op-ed piece that's great for discussion and critical thinking. It summarizes research on happiness, including the fact that money does not increase happiness beyond what is required for modest comfort. Gould also shares the author John Irving's writing technique - to start his novels by creating the last sentence. Every word of Irving's novels leads to that last sentence.
Extension: Explain Irving's writing technique and ask students, "If your life was framed in a similar manner, what would your last sentence be? How would that reshape the way you see your life and treat the world today?" (Credit: Dave Gould, Life Design, University of Iowa.)
Read the article: The economics of happiness
Visit this link to learn about the 'Secret Life of Things', and to see fun and engaging resources that communicate sustainability, life-cycle thinking, and eco-design. Created by Eco-Innovators.
Tim Kasser on Circumplexes includes two videos (Part I is 2:50 minutes and Part II is 2:52 minutes). They are "off-the-cuff" videos in which he discusses intrinsic and extrinsic values and related research. These are great background information for teachers motivated to help their students prioritize their intrinsic values. Research shows when we do this, we are happier, better citizens, and more environmentally responsible.
Using Phillip and Hanna Hoose's book, Hey, Little Ant, students are challenged to make decisions that reduce waste.
10-minute Presentation on Understanding the Reasons to Reclaim Your Holidays (PDF)
This activity is for children ages 5-11 with adults (parents, grandparents, etc.). It is great as a library or nature center program, or as a school activity just prior to Mother's or Father's Day, Valentine's Day or other holidays. Also a great activity for a holiday arts and crafts fair, or congregational fairs. The objective for each participant is to learn how to give a gift of their time to nurture relationships and make holidays more meaningful . There is also an extension activity where participants will make a gift bag from used materials (increases activity time to approx. 50 minutes)
Using Toolkit Ideas to Reduce Household Food Waste, by Nancy Lo
Includes five activities. Some are labeled as for adult audiences, but can be adapted and used for most grade levels.
From collecting the garbage in the neighborhoods of Alachua County, FL, to taking the garbage to the transfer station, and finally dumping the garbage in the landfill, watch what happens to the 5 pounds of garbage each person throws away each day on average.
This less-than-5-minute video gives viewers a vision for a new economy that would be good for people and good for the environment.
Check your library or store for this resource.
Wartville is buried in trash. Then an old man realizes he can clean up Wartville, but perpetrators of litter (i.e., “slobs”) pay a price. They get angry with the old man-turned-wizard, but eventually compromise so that Wartville is litter-free. Google for accompanying activities.
1986: Aladdin Paperbacks 0-7857-0925-8 (Illustrated picture book )
By conducting investigations, students will determine specific amounts of waste generated by students and/or school policies regarding the use of the cafeteria.
This short webpage article explains why waste reduction is preferred over recycling and reusing.
Here are nine vocabulary words high school students should know.
This activity combines the fun of carving pumpkins with support for local farmers and builds new memories of a family tradition.
Participants will understand what composting is and why it is important. They will also learn where the composting facility is located for the event.
Good activity for all ages!
The Way We Live, another part of the UNI CEEE website, features resources targeted primarily to PreK-12 teachers, but numerous resources and information may be used by non-formal educators interested in helping their audiences learn to protect the environment and live well. The Way We Live database includes more than 130 resources.
We love "stuff" graphics can be used in the classroom to acknowledge that the environmental issues around our "stuff" are complex. Many of us love to consume, yet we also recognize it's hard on the environment. This graphic can be printed off and placed on a bulletin board. Then students can cross out "stuff" and handwrite in what they really love. Other graphics can be used when you do community engagement projects, write e-newsletters for parents, or in other creative ways! Consider using one of these graphics especially around the winter holidays to help remind your students and anyone who walks into your school what matters most.
Check your library or store for this resource.
The 35-page nonfiction makes connections between natural resources and the products made from them. Hands-on activities are included.
2007: Barron’s Educational Series 0-7641-3651-8 (35 pgs. Nonfiction)
This video by Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, focuses on lessons Harvard researchers have discovered during a 75-year study on happiness.
What You Need to Know about Food Waste and Climate Change, by Andy Murdock
This article discusses the environmental and hunger-related problems of food waste, what foods have the largest environmental footprint, and what we can do about food waste. Another great piece from the Climate Lab.
This website contains a variety of activities and lesson plans for grades from 3 through 8. Who Polluted the Potomac uses an interactive story to help students learn how our rivers have been affected by our growing population. This includes the impact of toxic materials on the environment.
As the lesson's website says, Grades 1 and 2 "students participate in an interactive story and learn how, as human populations have increased and land uses have changed, many of our rivers have become polluted. This example demonstrates that just as we each contribute to the problem, we can also each be part of the solution."
The Part I, 7-slide PowerPoint gives the definitions of three waste management strategies (recycling, reusing and reducing), and explains why reduction is the most preferred strategy.
The Part II, 8-slide PowerPoint shows the impacts of "stuff" on the environment, specifically in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. It also emphasizes the importance of looking at the full life cycle of products, not just looking at waste and disposal. Educator Susan Salterberg also concedes that she loves to buy, like most Americans. She is working to reconcile her desire to consume with her desire for a healthy environment. Susan shares the "fulfillment curve" concept as one approach to inspire smart shopping.
In this video (7:56 min.) we see M. Sanjayan’s drawer full of old phones and kindles. M. Sanjayan describes in a friendly, honest and humorous way some of the problems that arise in the manufacturing of cell phones. A visiting researcher at UCLA, M. Sanjayan says that about 85% of the greenhouse gas emissions of smartphones occur before the phone reaches our hands. He explores solutions as well. (I love these Climate Lab videos!)
Google "How do I choose a more climate-friendly phone?" and "Smartphone Repairability Scores" for other great resources.
This seven minute film depicts the history of human population growth and distribution from 1 AD through the present, then projects future growth to the year 2030.
Want to inspire youth through the acts of other youth? Learn about college students and recent grads who are shaking up the system with their innovations. Think: Food waste diverted to meet needs of the hungry. (Another great Climate Lab piece.)
Your Smartphone's Hidden History, by Julien Huguet.
This article is about the journey of a cell phone. The smartphone and its components travel about 160,000 miles to get to us, the users. Another work of the awesome Climate Lab.