How to make your playground build environmentally-friendly

Reuse and Recycle

Many of the materials delivered for the build day are wrapped in packaging, which means that Build Day generates a small mountain of materials that can potentially be recycled. As you work on securing a dumpster for the Build Day, try to secure recycling bins as well.

  • Paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, glass and aluminum cans are all recyclable curbside in most communities. Please visit your local government recycling website for details.
  • Pallets and lumber can often be returned to local stores that will reuse them if you arrange it ahead of time. Check with your local Home Depot to see if this is possible in your area.
  • Organic waste from breakfast and lunch can be brought to local composting facilities, or composted on your site for use in a community garden.
  • Unwanted tools and paint can be donated to local nonprofit organizations or tool banks. For example, Habitat for Humanity accepts them at their ReStore locations:

Water for Volunteers

While it's often easier to secure donations of bottled water for your volunteers, that leaves thousands of empty plastic bottles at the end of the day! We have discovered a number of water bottle solutions over the years that will benefit the environment:

  • One plastic water bottle: Each volunteer has one plastic water bottle, labels it with a marker and refills it from large coolers.
  • Paper cups: Water is provided entirely from large coolers throughout the day in and recycled / recyclable paper cups.
  • Nice water bottles: Water is provided entirely from large coolers and volunteers bring water bottles to the build, or these are secured by the community as a gift to the volunteers.
  • Recycle plastic water bottles: If water bottles must be used, these should be recycled throughout the day.
  • Reuse plastic water bottles: If water bottles must be used, another way to reduce environmental impact is to reuse them for various projects.

Tips for the recycling committee and build captains

Appoint a committee to research and organize the environmental initiative, from finding recycling bins to appointing build captains to lead the effort on the build site!

Make it a service learning project: Give it to the kids! Researching, organizing and implementing the recycling and reusing program on the build site is an incredible opportunity for any older kids at your organization to help throughout the day and learn about environmental issues.

Partnering with other local organizations: Organizations such as Keep America Beautiful or city volunteer Clean Teams are often willing to help plan for and oversee the program on Build Day.

Providing encouragement throughout the day: Don't forget to make announcements throughout the day, especially at the kickoff ceremony, about the recycling that will be taking place on site. It's great to encourage the volunteers with statistics on how they're minimizing their environmental impact!

Build green enhancement projects

KABOOM! offers a wide variety of enhancement projects, many of which involve planting trees, flowers and other garden plants. Choose projects that work for your site and benefit the environment! A community garden can also be a great way to teach children lessons about caring for our world.

Rainwater collection systems: If you decide to plant a garden on your playground site, don't forget about using rainwater to keep it green and happy! With just a few common materials, you can add a rainwater collection system to an existing building or shade structure.

Composting: If you decide to plant a garden on your playground site, especially a community garden, a compost bin can help ensure its long-term success. This is also a great way to reuse paper and food waste from your Build Day as you can use these to get your compost started.


  • Recycling Matrix (Excel spreadsheet): This recycling matrix/planning chart can be used for identifying materials that will be left over from the Build Day(s) and how to reuse and recycle them.
  • This is the website of the U.S. Green Building Council, with ideas on why community construction projects should be environmentally friendly as well as resources for how to do achieve this goal.
  • Municipal Recycling Websites: Your local government waste management website will have resources on who to call about recycling materials in your area.
  • The National Recycling Coalition maintains this website with information and resources on recycling.