36 Earth Day Crafts and Classroom Activities Using Recycled Materials

Save the earth; make art.


Earth Day is coming! How are you going to celebrate with your class? Buying brand-new craft supplies to celebrate and learn about Earth Day would seem squarely out of sync with the recycle-reuse-renew lessons we are teaching our students, right? So what are your other options? Don’t worry. We’ve got you. Let’s raid your recycling bins for supplies and then try one of these eco-savvy Earth Day crafts that is sure to excite students.

1. Make wildflower seed bombs.

Give back to Mother Earth with these easy-to-make seed bombs. Blend used scraps of construction paper, water and wildflower seeds in a food processor, then form into tiny muffins. Let dry and then toss in the ground. As the seed bombs receive sun and rain, the paper will eventually compost and the seeds will germinate.

2. Engineer a marble run.

Cardboard Tube Marble Run STEM activity

SOURCE: Little Bins for Little Hands

This project is so simple, yet offers so much opportunity for teaching about science and engineering concepts as well as problem solving. Use recycled cardboard rolls and painter’s tape to construct a marble run. (Or if you’re building with younger students, a pom-pom run). Check the link for a full tutorial.

3. Construct a bug hotel.

Simple Bug Hotel - these bug hotels make the perfect Garden Craft for young explorers and scientists this Spring and Summer. Easy to assembly (a great garden craft for toddlers too!) and great for observation and exploration. Get closer to nature this summer, with this wonderful and easy garden craft for kids!! Love Bugs. Love Bug Hotel DIYs!! #bugs #bughotel #spring #garden #crafts #steam

SOURCE: Red Ted Art

Create a cozy place for all the creepy crawlies to hang out. Cut a two liter plastic bottle into two cylinders, then stuff it with sticks, pine cones, bark or any other natural material. Make sure to pack the organic material in tightly. Then loop a piece of twine or yarn around the two cylinders and hang your bug hotel from a tree branch or fence.

4. Create a classroom quilt.

SOURCE: Teach Student Savvy

Textiles make up a huge portion of municipal solid waste—over 16 million tons per year. Teach your students to repurpose old material that would other end up in the landfill by putting together a cozy classroom quilt. Have each student bring in material to share, then cut fabric into squares and stitch together.

5. Fashion colorful bird houses.

Earth Day STEM Challenges Blog IMAGES.003.jpeg

SOURCE: Carly and Adam

Repurpose orange juice or milk cartons into colorful cottages for local birds. Use large craft sticks to add on a colorful roof and front porch. Hang from a branch with sturdy string or wire.

6. Create Earth moss balls.

DIY Earth Day Moss Ball

SOURCE: Mother Natured

Pay tribute to our lovely planet on Earth Day with these fuzzy moss balls. Kids who love getting their hands dirty will particularly love this craft. All you do is squish pre-soaked sphagnum moss into a tight ball, wrap it tightly with blue yarn or strips of discarded t-shirts, layer more moss and more yarn, etc. until you’ve created an Earth-shaped orb. Finish up with a loop of yarn and hang in a sunny window. To keep your moss ball healthy, simply spray with water every couple of days.

7. 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.

8. Upcycle trash into flower art.

recycled garden craft

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.

9. “Grow” an egg carton tree.

recycled egg carton tree craft

SOURCE: Glued to My Crafts

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

10. Create your own flexible seating.

SOURCE: Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey

One of our favorite Earth Day crafts has to be upcycling tires into comfy seating for your reading nook.

11. 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.


13. Chime the wind.

recycled lid wind chime craft

SOURCE: Hands on as We Grow

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.

14. Paint paper bags.

30 Earth Day Crafts With Recycled Materials - WeAreTeachers

SOURCE: Small for Big

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.

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

30 Earth Day Crafts With Recycled Materials - WeAreTeachers

SOURCE: Mollie’s Mum

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 to create environmental change.

16. Use old crayons to make new ones.

30 Earth Day Crafts With Recycled Materials - WeAreTeachers

SOURCE: The Gunny Sack

This isn’t just any recycled crayon. It’s a gorgeous earth crayon! You can make these with your students, using a muffin tin. You just need to sort out the right colors.

17. Use upcycled objects to make mazes.

SOURCE: Hello, Wonderful

STEM and recycling go together wonderfully! Let this idea from Hello, Wonderful be featured in the makerspace or STEM center in your classroom. You can challenge students to make mazes or something else entirely.

18. Feed the birds.

Herald spring with this easy crowd pleaser: the large plastic bottle bird feeder. 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.

19. Get organized with old cans.

SOURCE: Sandy Toes and Popsicles

Tin cans are easy to get your hands on, and they can go a long way in organizing your classroom supplies. Get your students involved by having them help decorate the cans. They’ll really take ownership in this, which will hopefully help them want to keep supplies more organized.

20. Make papier-mâché pots.

SOURCE: Childhood 101

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 papiermâché planters are composed solely of recycled materials.

21. Catch the sun.

earth suncatcher catcher

SOURCE: No Time for Flashcards

All you 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.

22. Make chair fidgets out of old tees.

Give old T-shirts new life with this craft by making chair fidgets in your classroom. This uses a simple braiding technique, and your students will love helping out.

23. Collaborate on an aluminum-can recycling bin.

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

24. Fashion fairy houses.

plastic bottle fairy houses

SOURCE: Crafts by Amanda

Are these the sweetest Earth Day crafts ever? Plastic bottles from home become homes for fairies, thanks to paint, scissors, glue, and real or faux greenery.

25. Create a giant recycled art wall.

30 Earth Day Crafts With Recycled Materials - WeAreTeachers

SOURCE: Art Bar Blog

This is an amazing recycled wall masterpiece. We love the inspiration from blogger Art Bar. You could set it up on a cardboard backing and then let students add to it, paint it, and create with it as there is free time throughout the day.

26. Make your own games.

SOURCE: Reuse Grow Enjoy

Use bottle caps in a game of tic-tac-toe. They can also be turned into checkers. This would be a great makerspace activity. Give your students several upcycled items and challenge them to create games!

27. Turn old magazines into art.

recycled magazine art project

SOURCE: Suzy’s Artsy Craftsy Sitcom

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.

28. Turn a plastic bottle into a trophy.

There’s a plain recycled bottle under all that glitter. It goes to show just how transformative glitter can be. Students will love the opportunity to earn this trophy.

29. Build beautiful terrariums.

SOURCE: Adirondack Girl at Heart

A 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.

30. Set up a self-watering planter.

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


32. Form flowers from water bottles.

SOURCE: Crafty Morning

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

33. Make a snowman that “shreds”.

snowman made of shredded paper and placed on a piece of paper

SOURCE: Baby Center 

So much paper gets recycled in the average classroom! Why not shred some of it up and make these adorable snowmen?

34. Give a hoot about these newspaper owls.

30 Earth Day Crafts With Recycled Materials - WeAreTeachers

SOURCE:  I Heart Crafty Things

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.

35. 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.

36. Create genius ideas out of cardboard.

Earth Day crafts

Cardboard is one of the easiest, least expensive materials you can get your hands on. Grab a ton of it and challenge your students to make awesome creations. You never know what they might come up with.

Join Recycle Rally, and you and your students can win great prizes for increasing recycling at your school. Plus, you’ll find more recycling activities, 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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