The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 18, 2014

For Earth Day, parents' excitement about recycling can spread to kids

JOPLIN, Mo. — Karen Staggs was excited about a recent find. The mother of four found about a half dozen large, blue, glass bottles and several classic Coca-Cola bottles. She already had a project in mind for them and was at the Joplin Recycling Center Tuesday to look for more.

"These, I can turn into bird feeders," Staggs said. "Or I can just let the light shine through them."

As Earth Day approaches, parents can work with kids, teaching them how to save energy and recycle. But as most parents know, actitivies like that go from being fun to being chores pretty quickly.

There are ways to keep kids excited, but one of the best involves a maxim that affects so many areas of child raising: If parents are excited about it, kids likely will be too.

Staggs, a mother of four, said that she is passionate about recycling and repurposing things. And there's never been a better time for it, she said.

Social networks such as Pinterest feature plenty of "upcycling" projects Ñ ways to change something discardable into a must-have piece of decor.

"Upcycling is so big on Pintrest right now," Staggs said. "We're even talking about wedding decorations where people take old wine bottles, wrap twine around them and place a flower."

Staggs said her kids have long known the recycling routines around the house. In addition, she volunteers for an afterschool program with Neighborhood Life House, where she leads activities that transform recyclable materials into art projects.

"We have bins outside our house, and we can turn a lot of those things into other things. We just think hard about what we can do with something before we throw it away."

Cash still king

Sometimes cash makes a good motivator, said Mary Anne Phillips, recycling coordinator for the city of Joplin. Whether it's for themselves or their school, some recycling opportunities come with built-in rewards.

"A lot of kids are very aware of the Paper Pals sites in town," Phillips said. "They understand that the more paper goes in, the more money their schools make."

Visualization also helps, Phillips said. Collecting cans is one of the easiest recycling activites to do because it's easy to rinse them out and take them to a redemption cener. In efforts to collect cans to take to redemption sites around the area, she said 30 cans weighs a pound.

"That's easy for them to visualize," Phillips said. "And that's real money."

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