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One Can Challenge: Kid bedrooms, playroom & nursery

Enviromomchallenge_2 We're kicking off the One Can A Month Challenge with some easy rooms. Today we'll tackle kid rooms and tomorrow we'll visit the typical adult bedroom. It's a holiday week, some of you might be traveling, so we'll start off nice and easy. There will be a lot of overlap with some of these rooms: chances are, typical waste generated in a preschooler's bedroom will be similar to a playroom. So we'll tackle the bedroom of a potty-trained child and playroom together, and then pay a visit to the nursery.

NOTE: Even though these are relatively easy rooms, this is a very long post. Give yourself ten to fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time (don't laugh) to read through it. Think about it, come back to it and decide which items you want to work on.

Bedroom & Playroom

Here are waste items that are typically generated in a child's bedroom or playroom:

  • Clothing & Accessories: ripped up socks and underwear; stained or ripped clothing; outgrown clothing, shoes and accessories; plastic and wire hangers; paper sales tags; stickers from new clothing and socks; shoe boxes and tissue paper; paper or plastic shopping bags; broken hair barrettes; silica packets from shoe boxes
  • Art & School Supplies: dried-up markers, glue sticks, glue bottles and paints; paper; stickers; broken crayons and pencils; used coloring books; art materials like glitter, feathers, puff balls, cotton balls, foam shapes and plastic eyeballs; dried-up play dough; tape; book club order forms; magazines; school work
  • Toys: broken toys; outgrown toys; paper and plastic packaging from new toys; batteries; balloons
  • Other: used tissues and band-aids

Here are some ways to REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE these items:

Clothing & Accessories:

REDUCE the amount of clothing: Kid's clothes are so darn cute. Oh, those savvy marketers know just how to get a sparkly pink tank top into a 6-year old's death grip. But we all know when our kids have too many clothes because they are usually covering the floor of their bedrooms or filling up the hampers due to multiple wardrobe changes throughout the day. Take inventory often and resist the urge to buy more. And I don't know about you, but my kids look just as cute in second-hand clothing as new.

REDUCE the amount of packaging on clothing: If you buy used or consigned clothing, they generally don't come with sticker tags (which can't be recycled), shoe boxes or tissue. Bring your own shopping bag instead of taking one from the store.

REUSE clothing: Keep clothing in good condition by patching up holes and treating stains immediately. It's really hard to pass along ripped, stained clothing to a younger child! Consignment stores won't take them and thrift stores will probably toss them out or ship them overseas. Can't patch up the pants? Make cut-off shorts! T-shirt is stained? Can you applique a patch over the stain or tie-dye the shirt? What other reuses can you think of for old clothing (besides the rag bag), things like socks and underwear that can't be mended? Dedicate boxes for outgrown clothing: one for consignment; one for hand-me-downs; one for children's charity organizations or thrift stores. See if these stores or organizations will take plastic or wire hangers that you no longer can use.

REUSE clothing packaging: Save shoe boxes for small toy storage; reuse tissue for gifts; reuse plastic and paper bags if you forgot to bring your own.

RECYCLE what you can't reuse: paper sales tags, shoe boxes, tissue paper, wire and plastic hangers; paper and plastic shopping bags

TRASH: stickers from new clothing and socks; silica packets from new shoe boxes

Art & School Supplies

REDUCE paper waste: I don't know about your kids, but mine seldom ever use an entire sheet of 8.5 X 11 inch paper when they draw. They'll draw one tiny person in the middle of the page and call it good. So I cut the paper in half to reduce paper waste. Have an art station for cuttings that can be later used for collages, etc.

REDUCE the amount of art supplies you buy: I went crazy one summer and bought packages of foamy shapes and colored feathers and puff balls and all sorts of stuff like that at Michaels. My kids never really got into it, preferring to draw and paint, and cut and glue paper. I could have saved myself a bundle, not to mention the Michaels-induced headache I always seem to get. (What's the deal with plastic flowers anyway?)

REDUCE your dependency on store-bought play dough: Play dough tends to dry out quickly, plus it comes with lots of packaging. If you make your own (which is super easy) it will last for ages in a plastic bag and you can remoisten it with a little water. 

REUSE paper: Encourage your children to use the backside of paper. (Or use it yourself for a shopping list. Just remember to flip it over at the store or you'll be wondering why you need to buy a dog holding a balloon.)

REUSE art materials: Portland has this awesome art supply reuse store called SCRAP where you can find just about any kind of art material you could want. You can often find stickers and art supplies at thrift stores, garage and rummage sales. Donate any unused or partially-used art supplies you have (like the aforementioned crafty do-dads) so someone else can use them.

RECYCLE broken crayons: Really! If you don't have a recycling option in your area, save up a boxful of broken crayons and mail them to the Crayon Recycle Program.

RECYCLE paint jars and trays, glue sticks and bottles: Rinse them out and find out if you can recycle them in your area. If you can't rinse all the glue out, the bottle should be trashed.

RECYCLE paper: Anything that can't be reused should be recycled. If it has a little bit of tape or a few stickers on it, it's fine. If it's covered with glued-on macaroni or glitter, then it should be trashed or boiled in a pot and served for dinner. Tasty with a side order of sparkles!

TRASH: Broken pencils, dried-up markers, sticker-backs and bits of craft material that can't be reused.


REDUCE your consumption of cheap, plastic or battery-operated toys: These are the types of toys that usually break quickly and guzzle batteries. And, most importantly, they are annoying. Have a family member who loves to buy these toys for your children? Tell them your child is allergic to plastic, or offer them alternatives.

REDUCE toy packaging: Buy used toys or toys that have minimal packaging. Often, well-made toys will come in a simple cardboard box rather than encased in rigid plastic (because they are well-made and don't need so much protection!).

REUSE toys whenever possible: Buy second-hand toys to prolong their usefulness and donate or hand-down toys so other children might enjoy them. Try to fix broken toys. There is nothing sadder than a broken toy. Sniff.

REUSE mylar balloons: Can you refill that deflated mylar balloon (if it doesn't have any holes)? Alternatively, cut it apart and use it as gift wrap.

RECYCLE toy packaging and batteries: Rip the plastic away from the cardboard and recycle each if possible. Radio Shack and most office superstores will recycle household alkaline batteries at no cost (though using rechargeable batteries is better).

RECYCLE mylar balloons: We can in Portland; check your local resources.

TRASH: Broken toys that cannot be fixed; latex balloons. Even in green Portland, plastic toys is one of the few things that can't be recycled. So once again, repeat it with me: REDUCE!


REDUCE facial tissue waste: Use handkerchiefs! You know those super-strong Kirkland baby wipes they sell at Costco? You can put those through the washing machine several times, reusing them over and over again for hankies. Seriously. Read the comments on Renee's handkerchief post. Baby washcloths also work well for small noses.

TRASH: Used band-aids and their wrappers.


Items often found in the trash can in a baby's room are:

Disposable diapers; wipes; plastic packaging from diapers and wipes; tissues; cotton balls; Q-tips; empty lotion tubes; pacifiers.

How to REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE these items:

REDUCE disposable diapers: The alternatives to disposables are cloth and flushable diapers. Ultimately, you have to do what works for your family. I used disposables on my kids, and if I could do it over again I would at least give cloth a try. They have come such a long way since we were babies (no pins!) and they are so darn cute. I know that studies say it's an environmental 'wash' between disposables and the water used to launder cloth diapers. I have a hard time believing that given the amount of chemicals and plastic used in disposable diapers, not to mention the transportation involved by distributors and consumers. Plus, kids in cloth tend to potty train quicker. But again, this is a very personal decision -- do what works for your family.

REDUCE and REUSE baby wipes: You can make your wipes if you're really motivated. You can also wash heavy duty wipes like the Kirkland brand (mentioned above). Laundered wipes are also great substitutes for facial tissues and cotton balls!

RECYCLE plastic packaging: Those plastic diaper and wipe bags are recyclable if facilities exist in your area. Rip off the hard plastic lid on any wipe dispensers.

RECYCLE lotion tubes and bottles: Some diaper ointments come in metal tubes, which can be recycled (without the plastic lid). Rinse out empty plastic bottles for recycling.

TRASH: Facial tissues, Q-tips, cotton balls and pacifiers.

Now stop. Step away from the computer and don't get freaked out by all this information. Go to your children's bedrooms and peer into their trash can. See anything in there that could be REDUCED / REUSED / RECYCLED? Is there a recycling can nearby? If not, you need one so that anything recyclable can go directly into it. Check out these pictures of my kid's (daughter's on left, son's in middle) trash cans and their bedroom/playroom recycling can after one month:

Dscn1017_2 Dscn1020_4 Dscn1019

My daughter's wastebasket has some ripped socks, balloons, a name tag and a couple of tissues. My son's has mostly pull-ups for nighttime (which we reuse if they are dry) and tissues. The recycling can is overflowing (due to a major purge of artwork a couple of weeks ago). We empty their trash cans once a month on garbage night, and the contents are pretty minimal.

Are there any other waste items we didn't cover here? Any special challenges you have in your kid's bedrooms or playroom? Ask away and we'll brainstorm some solutions!


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