Classroom Tips: World Environment Day

World Environment Day – “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it”

For most of us, the 3 R’s of waste management – reduce, reuse, recycle, are one of the first lessons we learn as children. But how many of us really stop to think about where our waste (including our recycling) actually goes?

  • “An estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year. This is the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute.”[1]
  • Statistics show that there will be more plastic in oceans than fish by 2050.[2]

With plastic pollution becoming one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time, reducing our waste consumption is an urgent concern.

As educators, we have a great opportunity to teach students about our environmental impact and why it is so important for us to reduce consumption more than anything. One such opportunity is World Environment Day. Celebrated on June 5th, the United Nations’ uses this day each year to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. This year, the theme is beating plastic pollution.[3]

What Can You Do?

There are a number of different ways you can get your students discussing the importance of reducing plastic consumption and taking action. Below are a few suggestions:

  • Get your school to become a waste free school. You can do this by encouraging your students and faculty to go waste free! Do you sell or offer plastic water bottles or bottled drinks at school? Did you know that bottled water is almost 2,000 times more energy intensive to produce than tap water?[4]
    • Ontario EcoSchools is a program developed by the Toronto District School Board in 2002 created to recognize and celebrate schools for their environmental learning and action. Their mission is to nurture environmental leaders, to help schools reduce their ecological impact and build environmentally responsible school communities. Their website offers resources and instructions on how to get your school to become an ecoschool:
  • Organize a field trip to one of the 32 large landfills found in Ontario as part of a lesson plan and conversation starter on waste management and the impact of our waste:
  • Challenge your students to collect their waste for an entire month.
    • Rob Greenfield created a “Trash Me” 30-day experiment where he wore every single piece of trash that he created while living like “the average American” (who creates 4.5 pounds of garbage each day) to create a visual understanding of his impact. This is a great visual tool to show youth exactly what it was like to go through this process and how much waste one person actually creates. This short video outlines his journey on this challenge.

Other Helpful Resources:
The World Environment Day website has lesson plans and ideas on how to discuss the impact of plastic waste with your students:

This World Environment Day Teacher Toolkit outlines what you can do to get your students organizing and offers some statistics, suggestions and links to other websites and resources – it can also be found on the World Environment Day webpage:

The Earth Day Network is another great resource that offers lesson plans, event ideas and templates to help you plan for your World Environment Day action: