Trash talk: How waste audits can empower kids to protect the planet

Analyzing your family’s trash might be gross—but it gets kids thinking about what they’re throwing away.

When Jen Farr and her eco-conscious family noticed their bathroom trash was piling up, they decided to investigate the problem. With their two 11- and 13-year-old daughters, the Toronto family used gloved hands to sift through used tissues, cotton balls, and dental floss—then they made a plan.

This review process, called a trash audit, is a way for families to fight back against the mounting problem of waste: The average American creates 4.9 pounds of trash a day, almost double the amount Americans created in 1960. According to one study, all operating U.S. landfills will be full in 62 years if we continue this pace of waste.

It might be difficult at first for your kids to see all the waste that your family has created—they might’ve already forgotten about that toy packaging or half-eaten sandwich they discarded a few days ago. But once kids understand that their trash doesn’t just go away, they can feel empowered to make changes in their behavior that will result in real-life consequences.

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