Sustainability Project Ideas

Instructor: Leah Salyer
Sustainability is an important concept to teach to students of all ages. Children learn best when they participate in activities or projects that require them to demonstrate ways in which they can practice sustainability in their daily lives. Read on for sustainability project ideas you can use in your own classroom.

Trade Your Toys

One way for young students to practice sustainability is to swap their old toys for new ones! Have each student bring in a toy that is in good condition. You can draw two names from a hat at a time to decide who will trade with whom. Students trade until everyone has a different toy than the one they brought in. This teaches students that they can get something new without having to buy it. Explain to your students that these toys are now being used by someone else rather than being thrown away and taken to a landfill.

You can supplement your project with this lesson on landfills. Help your students understand where garbage ends up, examine the problems associated with landfills and explore other types of behaviors that can help reduce waste.

Recycled Journal

Students can create journals from recycled paper. Simply have your students neatly tear pages out of any old notebooks that have extra pages. Students can use notebooks that are already in the classroom as well as any notebooks they bring from home. Have students stack all of their paper and make sure that it's lined up properly and turned around the right way. They can then position a piece of card stock on the top and bottom of each stack of paper. After checking again to see that the pages are all lined up, have them staple down the left side of the paper to create a binding. Once the books are created, students can draw a design on the front or back covers. Encourage them to draw things that relate to sustainability, like plants, animals, trees or other naturally occurring organisms.

While your students are working on this activity, use this recycling lesson to help them explore additional types of materials that can be recycled and learn why recycling is important.

Help the Community

As a whole class project, have your students take part in cleaning up their community. Choose a specific area on the school grounds to work on or take your students to a local park. Have your students pick up trash, tend to any gardens or plants around the area and even assist with planting new plants if possible. This teaches your students to take pride in their environment and brings awareness to an area they likely see every day and take for granted.

You can supplement your community project by using this lesson to introduce students to the various ways humans impact the environment.


Upcycling is the act of taking something old and turning it into something new and usable again. As a home project, have your students choose an item to upcycle. Examples include turning a milk jug into a bird house or sewing old clothes to create tote bags and backpacks. Students could also take old glass jars and decorate them to become vases or small storage containers.

This lesson on How to Recycle can help students learn about the importance of reducing consumption and reusing items. They'll also get tips for recycling at home and on the go.

Nature Hike

Plan to take your students on a nature hike. This could be a simple walk around the outside of the school, or you could take it a step further and make a field trip out of it by taking them to a local park. Ask them to create a list of plants or other organisms that you think you'll see on your nature walk and check them off as you find them. Once the nature walk is over, you can have students write in their recycled journals about the trip.

You might also use this lesson on sustainability to help your students understand the importance of sustainable living when it comes to preserving the natural resources they observed on their hike.

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