In 4-H, youth can learn to appreciate and become better stewards of their environment through various projects that explore the beauty and importance of our natural world. One of the great ways that you can help improve the environment, regardless of your age, is to recycle and reuse items you would normally discard. Friday is America Recycles Day and is a great opportunity to introduce young people to these important concepts.
Food waste, including uneaten food and food scraps, was the single largest component of municipal solid waste in landfills in 2010. Food waste makes an even bigger environmental impact when you consider the soil, nutrients, water and energy required to produce, process and transport that discarded food. This waste is not only hard on the environment but also on our wallets.
Help your 4-H’er understand the impact of food waste and encourage them to play an active role on reducing your family’s food waste. Set aside a time when family members can plan out their meals for the week. This can help you better develop a shopping list and allow family members to become more active participants in meal planning. Before going to the grocery store, shop your pantry and use up items you already have first. Once at the store, purchase only the items you need. Save leftovers for lunch the next day or start a leftover night when your family can eat food leftover from the week.
Build a compost bin with your 4-H’er to make better use of food scraps. Many food scraps including fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells can be composted. Composting not only reduces the amount of wastes dumped into landfills, but it lessens the amount of chemical fertilizers needed in home gardens as it provides nutrients to the soil. It improves soil drainage and helps hold soil together.
Compost bins are fairly inexpensive and simple to build, and you can make them from materials including chicken wire, wooden boards or wood pallets. A metal garbage can with a lid or a 55-gallon barrel also make great composting bins, but be sure they were not previously used for toxic materials. More information on different types of bins is available at http://www.ca.uky.edu/enri/compost.php.
More information on environmental topics is available at the Bell County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.
Brandy Calvert is the 4-H Agent for Youth Development for the Bell County UK Cooperative Extension Service. Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.