THEME: Each of us is responsible for the size and content of the waste stream.

GOAL: Students will examine their own buying habits in terms of solid waste generation.

METHOD: Examining and evaluating products

SUBJECTS: English, home economics, social studies

SKILLS: Communicating, interpreting, recording

MATERIALS: Construction paper; markers

TIME: 15 minutes to discuss assignment; one class period to discuss results

Getting Started

Ask the students what factors influence which products they decide to buy? Do they think about what happens to the solid waste stream when they throw away those items?


  1. Have students ask their families the following questions about their shopping habits.

    Does the ability to recycle a product or its packaging play a part in determining what you buy?

    When shopping, do you think of how easy or difficult it will be to dispose of a product or its packaging?

    Which factors influence your decision to buy a product?

    ____cost per pound
    ____convenience in preparation or use
    ____high nutritional value
    ____lack of artificial coloring or preservatives
    ____trying something
    ____familiarity with the brand
  2. Have the class discuss the results of the survey. What are some of the most common reasons for buying a product? How often was recyclability or packaging taken into account?
  3. As a class, come up with shopping strategies that might help to reduce the waste stream (e.g., using cloth shopping bags instead of choosing paper or plastic; choosing foods that are not excessively packaged or overprocessed). Have students make a "Smart Shoppers Sheet" to hang on their refrigerators at home.

Sources: Adapted from AVR, Teacher's Resource Guide; Washington, A-Way With Waste