Between school, clubs, and sports teams, I’m often inundated with offers to participate in different fundraisers. I certainly don’t mind doing my part, but I don’t like it when the fundraisers undermine my efforts to be environmentally responsible. Selling mass-market candies, gift-wrap made from virgin paper, and heavily scented candles is just not my thing!
I started to wonder if it’s even possible to fundraise while also being mindful of wasting resources and materials. Good news — it is! ! I’ve done a little research into how my kids’ schools and organizations can green their traditional fundraisers, as well as tap into fundraising programs that are specifically designed to be environmentally responsible.
If you share my eco-friendly mindset, consider joining your school or club’s fundraising committee and encouraging it to be a little greener with these tips.
1. A waste-free bake sale: I love a good bake sale, and am always one of the first to sign up to bake treats! (As well as first in line to buy them!) But, I hate having to individually wrap my goodies in plastic and twist ties. Next time I help organize a bake sale, I’m going to suggest that we set everything out unwrapped while also being mindful of food safety. If the event is outside, you could buy or borrow mesh bug tents to keep the goodies dry. Or, if you’re worried about germs or allergies, use cake domes to keep foods separated and fresh. Use tongs to pass treats to shoppers, and offer a recycled-paper napkin to catch crumbs.
2. Host a yard sale: The biggest fundraiser of the year at my daughters’ school is the annual yard sale. Although it takes lots of planning, it’s a great example of an environmentally responsible event, as it focuses on one of the big Rs of sustainability: Reuse. People bring their used household goods, books, furniture, toys, clothing, and more, and these donated treasures extend their life by finding a new home. At the end of the event, leftover goods are contributed to a charity resale shop.
3. Plan a clothing swap: A gymnastics studio near my house raised money for its team by hosting a clothing swap. Here’s how it worked: Each girl bought a ticket to come to the swap, and also brought 10 items of clothing. Volunteers set up the clothes as if they were in a store, organized and displayed by category and size, while the girls got to enjoy other activities provided by local business sponsors. Once the “shop” was set up, the girls got to pick out as many clothes as they wanted. Like the yard sale, this event encouraged recycling and reusing clothes rather than buying new ones. The items of clothing that didn’t make it to a new closet didn’t go to waste either. The organizer used old T-shirts to make shopping bags and one of the group activities was making necklaces out of the T-shirt sleeves.
4. Host an e-waste collection: Through Planet Green Recycle, a school or organization can earn funds by collecting e-waste like printer cartridges, cell phones, calculators, MP3 players, video game consoles, and more. Planet Green Recycle pays for shipping and your organization can earn cash — from $0.10 for a spent ink cartridge to up to $200 for an iPhone (the full list is on the company’s website). The company remanufactures the e-waste it receives, or, if the item is beyond repair or reuse, they recycle it responsibly. This is a great program to implement throughout the whole school year, sending in full boxes periodically. Make sure to occasionally remind students, families, and faculty members about it.
5. Participate in an eco-friendly fundraising sale program: There are plenty of different fundraising sale programs, so why not choose one that’s environmentally responsible? Nature’s Vision is one such option, with a catalog full of bamboo products, recycled material mugs, reusable sport bottles, tote bags, solar lights, and more, and the company donates a portion of their profits to environmental organizations.
6. Plan a sustainable car wash: Car washes are a favorite among sports teams, and for good reason — they’re fun and active, meet a need, and don’t require much in the way of materials. But runoff from toxic materials and waste from paper towers can make this type of fundraiser more harmful than helpful. I like these tips from the Maryland Department of the Environment, which caution planners to be mindful of where their runoff will go, and recommends using biodegradable detergents. Participants can also conserve water by keeping soapy water and rags in buckets and only running the hoses when absolutely necessary.