Recycling as a Spiritual Practice

Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to combine my love for crafting and creativity with my interests in spirituality. My inspiration began with a couple kid projects that I put together for my grandchildren as well as a class I taught over the Summer.

This evolved into a number of things, but I’ll start with this one. If you teach in a church or center and want a lesson with meaningful activity – here you go (fresh off my keyboard and craft table)!  Please feel free to use and modify to fit your supplies and age groups. I’d love to hear from you (& see your photos), so send me an email!

I call this lesson: Recycling: a spiritual practice

Learning objective: to teach children how responsible use, reuse and recycling help to create a world that works for everyone, which means it works for them and the people they love, too.

Did you know?

  1. The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
  2. Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year, enough to fill a football stadium from top to bottom twice a day.
  3. The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.
  4. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to watch ~7 to 8 YouTube videos on your iPad. Recycling 100 cans could light your bedroom for two whole weeks.
  5. The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) estimates that the 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million.
  6. Americans throw away about 28 billion bottles and jars every year.
  7. In 2009, Americans threw away almost 9 million tons of glass. That could fill enough tractor trailers to stretch from NYC to LA (and back!).
  8. A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as few as 30 days.
  9. The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle is enough to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
  10. It takes 95% less energy to make aluminum cans from recycled cans than to make them from raw ore.
  11. If every household in the USA replaced 1 roll of unrecycled paper towels with 100% recycled paper towels, it would save 544,000 trees


Why is it important to recycle?

The United States of America makes up a little more than 4% of the world’s population, but we regularly consume (use up) more than 30% of the world’s annual resources (we also account for 22% of global emissions).

According to economists, a child born in the U.S. will consume three times more than an Italian child, but leave 280 times more trash than a Rwandan child in a lifetime.

In a “world that works for everyone” we recognize our role in being fair with our use of the world’s resources. Reusing and recycling save resources which make them more available for others.

Discussion points (vary with ages in your group)

  1. Discuss the sheer VOLUME of some of the statistics from the “Did You Know?” section, relating it to things that your group will understand.
  2. Talk about the recycling efforts the children and their families are already participating in.
  3. Introduce the concept that they are participating in healing the world each time they reuse something instead of buying a new one or recycle something instead of throwing it away
  4. Encourage them to think about how they can expand their current efforts of reducing, recycling and reusing the following items: toys, clothes, paper towels, batteries, books, food, other items
  5. Discuss a project that you can do as a class/church/center that supports reusing and recycling in your community. Choose one where the kids can have a meaningful role in the project so that they can feel their connection to contributing to a world that works for everyone.




Create an item to use or share from leftover or recycled items that would generally end up in the trash.  Basic complexity can be altered to accommodate increasing ages and abilities in children.

These examples used leftover cans, newspaper, yarn, and glue.

The samples (shown above) are small, cat-food cans – that’s what I had on hand when I got this idea – but you can use any can for this project and get unlimited uses and results!

Prep work: The cans should be washed thoroughly with paper wrapping removed. Instructors will want to insure that cans have no sharp edges. Use pliers to push any edges flat to the inside of the can.

Step 1: trace the bottom of can onto a piece of paper or cardboard. This will be used for a pattern to make a felt or paper “bottom” once the rest of the work is done.

Step 2: select your “wrapping” of choice. If it’s newspaper, trim the portion to fit around the can with a little left over at the bottom (this will fold under and be glued between the bottom of the can and a felt or cardboard circle).

Step 3: using a foam applicator or paint brush, apply a thin layer of glue around the outside of the can.

Step 4: apply your wrapping of choice (this will be messy – even for “big” kids! Keep wet towels close by)

For the YARN wrapped can, start wrapping from the top or the bottom of the can, and     leave a “tail” of about 6 inches that is unwrapped (loose). For thinner cords (as pictured)   wrap twice, bringing final wrap into alignment with the original unwrapped “tail” so you can tie off. This not only adds a decorative touch, but helps to secure the wrapped yarn.

Step 5: let it sit for a little while so the glue can dry

Step 6: glue felt or cardboard circle to bottom of can as a base and fill with items as needed

Reinforce the VALUE of the recycled items by having the kids make some for use around your church or center. The small cat-food cans (pictured in the example) make great individual crayon holders for kids working on a coloring project. Taller cans can be utilized as pencil holders, tithe collection jars or anything else that you find they can hold.


None of us creates in a vacuum. I would like to acknowledge the following websites as sources of inspiration and information in this project!



One thought on “Recycling as a Spiritual Practice

  1. Pingback: Let it Shine! | A Practitioner's Path

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