Due to our history of local control over school districts and the anti-tax attitude rampant in our country, schools are always strapped for cash. It seems the spring school fundraiser is here to stay, but how can we avoid having to buy and sell wrapping paper or plastic-wrapped sugary snacks to support our schools? Done well, a fundraiser can provide an important service to the community, help educate kids and families about sustainable living, and earn money for the school. Here are 5 kinds your PTA may want to consider:
Fundraiser #1: Plant Sale!
Whether they’re annual veggie starts or native perennials, plants are easy to propagate with the right tools and a little know-how. Schools should teach resilience skills such as gardening, and those that do have an easy fundraiser within reach. Any school that has gardens or urban farms can cheaply turn their knowledge into cash. Home gardeners who lack greenhouses or seed-starting set-ups are happy to pay for tomatoes and other plants that are better started indoors, or they may just be curious to see what those school gardeners are up to! Several schools in Seattle do this – Nathan Hale High School in Northeast Seattle has a plant sale going on now through Saturday at 1pm.
Fundraiser #2: E-Waste Recycling Drive
The idea here is that a recycling company pays you to collect recyclable items that will be valuable to them. Part of what makes recycling difficult is the task of separating a certain type of item from the larger waste stream. Schools, as tight-knit local communities, have a unique lever for motivating a local community to separate something out of its waste stream pro-actively. Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood, WA is collecting used electronic equipment (including printers, computers, CD players, etc.) to raise funds for its Music Program this Saturday, 5/7 from 10-3. The company running their event is SBK Green Century Electronic Recycle, which usually offers free pickup to businesses but charger $50 for residential pick-ups. Thus the fundraiser offers people a valuable service, as it can be difficult or expensive to recycle e-waste otherwise.
Fundraiser #3: Used Clothing Drive
This is another type of recycling drive, where a textile recycling company pays a school to collect worn-out or unwanted clothing and other textiles. Your school contributes to waste management, reducing the amount of clothing and old curtains going to landfills, while also sending clothes to developing countries and providing recycled material for rags that can replace paper towels. Many companies offer this service. USAgain offers lesson plans and a useful general fact sheet about textile recycling to go with its “greenraiser.” Clothes for the Cause offers a bonus during spring cleaning time of year. Another take on this kind of fundraiser is to have a permanent bin on the school property to collect donations instead of just having a spring collection drive. An industry association called SMART has educational materials and links to help you find recyclers in your area.
Fundraiser #4: Fall Coupon Books
Too late to organize anything this spring? Chinook Book – a certified B corporation – offers a great Fall Fundraising opportunity. The green coupon book features hundreds of products and merchants that meet various sustainability criteria and is full of tips for greening your home, garden and diet. It is available in print or online versions in five markets: San Francisco Bay Area, Denver & Boulder, Portland Oregon, Seattle & Puget Sound, and Minneapolis & St. Paul. Schools keep 50% of the price of each book and can return extras at no cost. When I first moved to Seattle, using the Chinook Book was a great way for me to get to know the city and its best shops for all things organic, local & otherwise green.
Fundraiser #5: Reusable Bags
Finally, one of my favorite fundraisers ever is the ChicoBag! These pretty, collapsible bags are great to keep in your purse or pack to whip out any time you stop at the market on your way home and want to avoid using another single-use paper or plastic bag. Available in a variety of sizes, they come with their own little stuff-sacks and can also be imprinted with a school name or logo. Some styles, called rePETe, are even made of recycled PET plastic. If your city is considering a plastic bag ban, this couldn’t be more fitting. You could also design your own print for a canvas bag and have some printed up by a local company. Combining a reusable bag sale with education about disposables and the #ZeroWaste lifestyle could be a winning combo if it reduces the amount of lunch waste students bring each day. Schools pay for trash removal, so reducing waste is a fundraising strategy, too!