5 Ways Your Family Can Help the Earth

One innovative company is turning jeans into insulation

By Kara Murphy, Macaroni KID April 10, 2023

We all want to teach our children to be responsible and mindful of the world around them. A way to show children that in a way they will understand? Reducing waste and upcycling items in our homes. 

Not only are taking mindful steps like reducing waste and upcycling environmentally friendly, but they can also save money! Here are five easy ways to get started on an eco-friendly journey with your family:

1. Find innovative ways to upcycle

Upcycling not only reduces waste but also saves money on buying new items. One excellent example of recycling and making something new? Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program collects old denim (made from cotton) to transform it into something new.

Since 2006, Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program has collected unwanted old denim from individuals, businesses, and organizations across the country to divert it from landfills. Working with Bonded Logic, Inc., the denim is turned into natural cotton fiber insulation used in various applications.  

Thanks to the renewable quality of denim made from cotton, it's easy to recycle your old jeans, jackets, and more to give them new life. From housing insulation to thermal insulating liners for sustainable food packaging to pet bed inserts and beyond, Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ makes it easy to keep denim in the loop and out of landfills! 

Learn how to get involved at

What other companies can help your family find that innovatively upcycle items no longer of use to you?

Blue Jeans Go Green™ is a trademark of Cotton Incorporated

2. Encourage kids to create art out of throwaway items

Reduce your family's waste by using everyday items such as cardboard, bottle caps, and paper for arts and crafts projects along with your leftover craft supplies. After all, you don't need to spend more money at the craft store when, with a little creativity and ingenuity, you can use throwaway items around the house for that purpose instead! 

Kids can paint the pages of old magazines, make school projects out of things found in the recycling bin, and turn empty tin cans or glass jars into useful supply organizers or fun one-of-a-kind vases for flowers.

I love this: As a way to keep her daughter engaged, my friend Essy Chen gives her daughter a "mystery bag" full of odds and ends she finds around her house and lets her create whatever her daughter can dream up! You could easily do this with recyclables or other items that are just going in your trashcan — just clean them well and then let kids create! I'm always happily surprised by where my kids' imaginations take them when I give them open-ended projects.


♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

3. Use your town's free marketplace

Most towns have a free marketplace where you can get or give away items for free. Just in the past few months, I've given away a dresser my son has outgrown to a family expecting a new baby, and an old chair used by our cat as a scratching post to a woman who had plans to reupholster it. They were thrilled with the finds, and I was thrilled to clear out the space in my house!

Fred Froese | Canva

This vertical garden is made from recycled pallets.

4. Meal plan

Did you know the average family throws out $1,500 in wasted food annually? Simple steps like meal planning, storing food properly, and using leftovers can help your family reduce food waste. 

I have found meal planning helps me shop smarter, avoid impulse buys, and make the most out of fresh ingredients — we're using up those veggies before they go bad! I involve my family in the planning process by letting each member pick a different meal each week. 

For me, planning a week at a time is about all I can handle, but if you're more organized? Here's how to create a monthly meal plan that works, with free printables!

Bondarillia | Canva

5. Clean up your neighborhood

Whether it's an organized community event or just your family, head to a local park, nature area, or shoreline to pick up trash. Don't forget to bring work gloves! Cleaning up not only helps keep things looking nice, but it also is a great way to show your kids the impacts of littering. 

Our state park holds a cleanup each year and has volunteers detail the trash they pick up — cigarette butts and plastic bottles always rank among the highest on the list. Participating was an eye-opening experience for my kids.

Yulkapopkova | Canva

Upcycling and reducing waste doesn't have to be a chore! We can make a positive impact on our world while also teaching our children valuable life lessons about the environment and that every little effort counts.