At the end of each tour, chaperones will often come up to me and tell me how educational the tour has been, not only for the students, but for themselves!
The secret is: our program is also meant for the adult chaperones and teachers that attend. When hosting tours, we have the attention of about 30 students, 1 teacher, and between 3-7 adult chaperones, mostly parents. When you do the math for the 260 tours given this year, that's about 7,800 students, and over 1,500 adults who have received an in depth program on responsible recycling practices. In the program, we add adult information such as where to bring HHW and E-Waste, or where to put your used coffee filters. One can say that our tours are like a good Pixar movie: directed towards kids, but humor and content for adults as well.
I have found through my previous experiences as a Recycling Coordinator, that although it is important to speak to residents and businesses about recycling, it can be extremely effective to educate our youth, who will not only become our adult population in the near future, but who are also very good at teaching their parents!
Recycling is about creating behavioral changes, which is often easier for students, as adults are used to behaviors that they have been practicing for years. Considering our program is a full two hours of in-depth information, we are not only giving our student and adult leaders the correct "insider" information, but also translating the information in an easily digestible way, and can therefore be easily executed.
Our student and chaperone participants are from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds, socio-economic levels, and access to programs. They might already be recycling savvy, or perhaps they have never learned about recycling before. Our hope is that all of our participants, whether students or chaperones, will have the information they need to improve their recycling not only at home, but also at school or work.
At the end of the day, I am happy to have taught my class of students, but also know in the back of my mind that I made an impact on the adults too. Behavioral change happens on many fronts, from receiving that flier from a public event, to seeing that billboard in the Bart station, or that neighbor who religiously sets out their 96gal recycling each week with only a 20gal garbage can. I know that after our participants have been through our two-hour program, they will be one step closer to championing behavior practices that will be passed on for generations to come. One thing we teach our students that hits home even for our adults is that our non-renewable resources won't come back once we use them all. The 4 R's might seem pretty simple, but they speak loudly and clearly to everyone.
**For any of your recycling questions, please visit our Alameda County Recycling Guide at www.stopwaste.org