ISSUE OF THE MONTH: GREEN FUNDRAISING
ISSUE OF THE MONTH:
We all know how desperate our schools are for funds, especially now, but how to raise funds without lowering our environmental standards? Car Wash? There’s a drought in California – not a good idea this year. Bake Sale? A 2000 report from the Centers for Disease Control found bake sales in two-thirds of schools, contributing to obesity rates. Time-strapped parents typically purchase low-nutrition baked goods for the sales, only to send their children to school with money to buy them back. Parents end up paying twice. Candy bars? More sugar! Wrapping paper? More ancient forests destroyed for disposable pleasure and landfill waste.
But let's get to the better, greener options! Many schools continue to rely on, and profit from, well-known efforts that are environmentally friendly:
- Scrip, a gift card for use at local retail stores, can be purchased by schools at a discount and sold at a profit. Many grocery chains have programs that disburse a percentage of a shopper's purchases to a school they specify. And now there is e-Scrip through on-line retailers like Amazon.
- Walk-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, and other sports-related fundraisers promote physical activity for students and can be lucrative for schools.
- Book fairs promote literacy while raising funds.
- One school’s annual auction includes fun experiences with teachers. Parents bid on a hike and picnic for 6 kids with their beloved 3rd grade teacher; or a middle school teacher who doubles as a gourmet cook offers dinner for 6 cooked in the bidder’s home.
School fundraising can also focus on some less well-known activities that promote better environmental stewardship, like recycling, or green products or services. And there are multiple companies ready to help us more easily meet our twin “green” goals: raising cash while protecting the environment.
Given our nation’s economic situation, consider something that doesn’t cost parents any money: recycling. Each year more than 350 million printer cartridges are thrown away and 35 million cell phones are replaced and discarded. Recycling companies can help your community reduce the volume of waste in landfills while benefiting your school. There are several groups that recycle used printer cartridge, cell phone and other e-waste for cash. Cartridges for Kids is a recycling program that pays schools and non-profit organizations cash for empty laser and inkjet cartridges, used cell phones, laptops, PDAs, GPS systems and iPods. Similar e-waste recycling fundraising programs are at Earthtone Solutions and Funding Factory.
Terracycle encourages students and schools to collect various kinds of juicepaks and wrappers and get paid for them! The company makes bags, pencil boxes, and other items out of this packaging, which is not generally accepted in standard recycling programs. We spotlighted Terracycle in our May 2008 focus on reducing waste.
Having an expert to guide you through the process always helps. Look into the following companies and non-profit organizations, all of which will assist you in selling eco-friendly products that help reduce our carbon footprint, while earning money for your school. Some, like Equal Exchange, even offer curriculum resources so kids (and parents and teachers) can learn about the positive ripple effects of their fundraising efforts. Products include compact fluorescent light bulbs, which save money and energy; reusable water bottles like the stainless steel Klean Kanteen; recycled office supplies like pencils made from recycled newspapers; fair trade coffee, nuts, and chocolate; organic cotton clothing, tote bags with your school’s logo, and much more. Participation is usually free, and most companies will accept unsold inventory so you’re not stuck with leftovers; frequently there are no up-front costs to the school.
If recycling and sales arren’t your bag, consider something really simple: the EcoMetro guide, a savings book with nearly 300 coupons for organic food and dining, local arts and culture, green home, gardening, travel, and recreation. EcoMetro Guide users can save money while exploring their community and supporting local, sustainable businesses.
EcoMetro Guide fundraisers are easy to manage. Their staff provides you with the books, promotional materials, and support before and throughout your fundraiser. There are no up-front costs – you just return what you don't sell. The retail price of the book is $20 and your school keeps 35-50% depending on the total quantity of books sold.
The EcoMetro Guide is currently available for the following metropolitan areas: Portland and Eugene, Oregon; the East Bay in Northern California; Seattle, Washington, and the Twin Cities. To check out their program or to receive alerts as they expand to additional metropolitan areas go to:
So take heart and give it a try! Explore a few of these options and discover what works best for your school fundraising efforts. Your whole school community will benefit -- along with the environment beyond.
For a comprehensive directory of recycling and other fundraising opportunities go to:
The following websites offer a good overview of the issues surrounding school fundraising, and provide examples of what other schools have done: