'A footprint means pressing down and global means world, so 'global footprint' means pressing down on the world and we don't want to press too hard' (child's definition of a Global Footprint)
what is Global Learning? CoreKnowledge Key Skills Values and Attitudes what is sustainability? what about climate change?
what about climate change?

Putting your foot down

The four ‘R’s’: reduce, reuse, repair, recycle*

The order of the ‘4 R’s is quite deliberate. Sometimes this is referred to as the ‘waste hierarchy’.

To reduce the amount of waste created in the first place is probably the best way of reducing the waste footprint. Reducing waste saves energy, reduces the waste that ends up in landfill or incinerators and saves valuable resources and raw materials.

Reusing items rather than throwing them away and buying new keeps them out of the waste stream. Reusable bags for shopping, and buying clothes from charity shops are examples of reuse.

Our throw-away culture is one in which it is often cheaper to buy new items rather than have old ones repaired. But this is of course very wasteful. There are numerous items that can be repaired rather than thrown out: TVs, bicycles, shoes, clothes and furniture are just a few examples.
Finally, there are many resources that can be recycled. Materials like glass, metal, plastics and paper can all be processed into new materials or products. Recycling reduces pollution and saves energy while slowing down the rate at which non-renewable resources are depleted.

* The ‘4R’s’ are often referred to as the ‘3R’s’ where 'repair' is considered part of 'reuse'.

The fifth R
There is a fifth R that could also be used to shrink our waste footprint still further: refuse. This is a step beyond reduce. Rather than consuming less, this involves cutting it out all together! Examples might include refusing to take plastic bags offered in shops, refusing free newspapers and magazines, refusing to buy foods wrapped in masses of packaging and refusing to buy a new mobile phone when your current one is absolutely fine!

Are you a precycler?!

is reducing waste by trying to avoid creating it in the first place. So, if you are a precycler you think carefully about how to refuse and reduce (see above). Precyclers try to cut out as much packaging as possible; they think ahead and shop locally, buying things loose and bringing their own bags and containers. The benefits are many: saving money, creating less landfill, reducing
food miles and conserving natural resources.

How about designing a ‘precyler badge’?
Think about what logo would be suitable and what simple message or slogan you could use.

For an article about precycling click here


Learn more

  • For more information about the waste footprint download our Global Footprints leaflet click here (link to pdf download)
  • See more about the 4 Rs in 'waste: the 4 Rs' on this site



Global Action Plan – runs an Action at School programme to help schools save resources and money.

Recycle more – facts, activities and games on waste and recycling for pupils and teachers

Recycle for London – provides details on what materials can be recycled in London, what services are available in your area and why it is important to recycle more.

Recycle zone – a site for schools, children and teachers on the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle.

Waste Watch – run a series of education programmes in schools across the country.