21 Earth Day Crafts and Classroom Activities Using Recycled Materials

Save the earth, make art.

Buying brand new craft supplies to celebrate and learn about Earth Day? That seems squarely out of sync with the recycle-reuse-renew lessons we are teaching our students. Instead, let’s raid your recycling bins for craft supplies and then try one of these eco-savvy, hands-on activities that are sure to excite students.

1. Create a hanging garden.

Large plastic bottles become beautiful hanging planters in this green-living and green-thumb project. You can send the planters home with students, or hang them on campus for a gorgeous hanging garden to promote the Recycle Rally program at your school. The video below will show you exactly how to make these planters.

2. Upcycle trash into flower art.

Scraps of paper are the only supplies you need for this recycled flower garden activity and lesson. The measurement and math element is an added bonus.

recycled garden craft

3. Grow an egg carton tree.

Have students bring in their used cardboard egg cartons from home and make these recycled egg carton trees.

recycled egg carton tree craft
Credit: Glued to My Crafts

4. Fashion a pop top bracelet.

Aluminum beverage pop tops become wearable jewelry, thanks to some ribbon ninja work. Put this video onto your interactive whiteboard to give your students the full 411 and then get crafting.

5. Chime the wind.

Go outside for a nature walk and gather sticks, weeds and pickable blooms, and then bring the treasures inside to be showcased in recycled jar lids. With some wax paper and string your students can craft this surprisingly beautiful recycled wind chime.

recycled lid wind chime craft
Credit: Hands on as We Grow

6. Paint paper bags.

Brown paper bags become eco-canvases for student work, and a perfect way to adorn school hallways for Earth Day. Bonus points if you can source handled bags because the handles serve as built-in artwork hangers.

paper bag painting craft
Credit: Small for Big

7. Raise a rainbow made of drink tops and bottle lids.

Recruit your students’ families to collect  plastic bottle and jar lids and then collaborate in crafting a large-scale colorful recycled rainbow mosaic. This all-hands classroom project showcases how many people need to work together for environmental change.

recycled drink top rainbow project
Credit: Mollie’s Mum

8. Feed the birds.

Herald spring with this easy crowd pleaser: the large plastic bottle birdfeeder. Reach out to local stores or nature centers for bird seed donations, have your students bring in bottles and then show the class this short video to get them started constructing their feeders.

9. Make papier mâché pots.

Cut off the bottoms of beverage bottles or reuse food containers and jazz them up with brightly colored paper scraps. Except for the glue, these papier mâché planters are composed solely of recycled materials.

Credit: Childhood 101

10. Catch the sun.

All your need is school glue, glitter and recycled plastic lids to craft these Earth Day suncatchers. It is a two-day craft, and peeling Earth off the lid on day two is half the fun.

earth suncatcher catcher
Credit: No Time for Flashcards

11. Collaborate on an aluminum can recycling bin.

Students can work together create an aluminum can recycling center for the cafeteria or other school common area (like the teacher lounge!). Watch the video below to get the simple instructions, and learn how your classroom and school can make recycling fun and rewarding with Recycle Rally.

12. Fashion Fairy Houses.

Plastic bottles from home become homes for fairies, thanks to paint, scissors, glue and real or faux greenery. Recycled paper and classroom craft scraps, combined with imagination, can easily be transformed into flowers and fairies, too.

plastic bottle fairy houses

Credit: Crafts by Amanda

13. Generate jellyfish.

Cardboard bowls and recycled bubble wrap combine for the coolest sea-creature craft seen on land. Hang these recycled jellyfish crafts from your classroom ceiling for inspiring eco-décor.

recycled materials jellyfish craft
Credit: Kids Activities Blog

14. Turn old magazines into art.

We love how this recycled magazine cut-paper art project can be modified for primary students or used to inspire sophisticated art by high school students.

recycled magazine art project
Credit: Suzy’s Artsy Craftsy Sitcom

15. Build beautiful terrariums.

A drink bottle gets a second life as a museum-worthy terrarium, as well as a home for an environmental science project. Be sure to add the activated charcoal and moss for plastic bottle terrariums that flourish.

recycled soda bottle terrarium
Credit: Crafting a Green World

16. Set up a self-watering planter.

Your classroom studies of plant life, photosynthesis and water conservation will get a hand with this hands-on crafting of a self-watering planter. The base? A good ol’ recycled large plastic bottle, as shown by this video by Recycle Rally.

17. Make plastic lid monsters.

Everything is better with googly eyes and imaginative expressions, including recycled drink and container lids. Transform yours into plastic lid monsters with your students, a whimsical way to make recycled art.

recycled bottle top monsters craft
Credit: Crafts by Amanda

18. Form flowers from water bottles.

Recycled water bottle flowers are an easy craft that can be sourced directly from your classroom recycling bin, with the help of some paint.

Credit: Crafty Morning

19. Create CD case photo frames.

Every person who was alive in the 90s probably has a zillion CD jewel cases collecting dust somewhere in the house. Put them to re-use as recycled photo frames.

recycled CD case photo frame craft
Credit: Time with Thea

20. Give a hoot about these newspaper owls.

Old newspapers find their spirit animal when they become recycled newspaper owls. All you need are markers, watercolors and paper scraps to make them come alive.

recycled newspaper owl craft
Credit:  I Heart Crafty Things

21. Construct a classroom plastic-bottle recycling bin.

Water bottles come together, as do your students, to make this water bottle recycling center for the classroom. This project combines teamwork with respect for our environment, a double win.

Join Recycle Rally and you and your students can win great prizes for increasing recycling at your school. Plus, you’ll find lesson plans, downloadable posters and more!

Posted by Jessica McFadden

Jessica McFadden is a writer, blogger and parent living in the Washington, DC suburbs. A daughter of a teacher and a member of a family of teachers, she is happily at home interviewing teachers, principals and education specialists.

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