Homemakers program to show recycling can be fun

March 25, 1999|By Dennis Shaw

Two words I've never thought of putting together before are "recycling" and "fun."

But that has changed, thanks to Helen Clark and the other members of the environment committee of the Washington County Homemakers' Clubs.

[cont. from lifestyle]

These women realized that most people are tired of hearing the same old things about recycling. It's a good thing to do for the environment, but it can be a chore, and it's probably not something you'd do when you're looking to have a good time.

So to generate some enthusiasm, they chose the theme "Recycling is Fun" for their April meeting, and they invited me to help them come up with some ideas. This was a challenge.


I find recycling to be rewarding. When I get discouraged about overwhelming environmental threats like global warming, recycling is a hands-on activity that can make me feel like I'm accomplishing something. Also, as the personality type that likes to sort and organize and find good uses for discarded materials, I find recycling to be satisfying.

But "fun" is something else. I do not generally start off my day by saying to myself, "Oh, boy! Today I get to recycle!"

I quickly decided that for any activity to be really "fun," it had to be something you do with someone else. I figured a family setting would be a good place for recycling, if you could talk the kids - or the adults - into it.

Recycling activities could be turned into games or contests. Each family member could be responsible for a different stage of the recycling process.

Or it could be a group project to clean out a basement or attic, and see who could come up with the most creative ways to reuse or recycle unwanted items.

However, unlike the ladies of the homemakers, I've never raised a family.

They suggested that my ideas might be more likely to succeed in the context of a Scout troop. This also would be a good venue for such activities as collecting aluminum cans or newspapers to raise money for some special project. That could be fun and pay off, too.

The homemakers and I all liked the idea of having a "recycling party," and they decided to try that for their April meeting. So we put our heads together and came up with several ideas for someone wanting to give such a party.

First of all, you could write the invitations on the back of used paper, and mail them in the envelopes that come with junk mail, marking out the printed address and writing over it.

In the invitations, you could explain the theme of the party, and ask each guest to bring a gift made from some item that would otherwise be discarded, for a round-robin exchange.

There could be prizes for the most original ideas.

Guests could exchange favorite tips for reusing and recycling old materials. For instance, Clark covered large oatmeal cartons with wallpaper, which made attractive holders for extra rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom.

You also could play games with a recycling theme. You could use one-liter soda bottles as bowling pins, with a little sand in the bottom of each one. Or you could produce several household items that you retrieved from the trash and see who could come up with the most ideas for using them for something else.

We were convinced that such a party or meeting could be fun. And we had fun coming up with ideas. Which went to prove that recycling CAN be fun.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722, or call 301-842-3863.

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