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Jan 092009
 

“We sold in the tens of thousands of stainless steel bottles last year. It’s a rewarding fundraiser for everyone,” he said.

Other green fund-raising options include::

Recycling empty computer ink cartridges, cell phones, laptops, PDAs and other electronics: Companies such as Cartridges for Kids, Curerecycling.com and Funding Factory offer your school part of the money made by recycling old electronics and computer parts. There are lots of companies offering cash directly for cell phones and other outdated electronics, but culling good offers from bad, doing all the work yourself and possibly getting ripped off makes the established fund-raising companies a better bet.

Collecting trash for cash: Terracycle will take old cookie wrappers, empty drink pouches, granola bags, chip bags and more and give your school cash in exchange. Each bit of trash isn’t worth a lot – one drink pouch will get you 2 cents, but when you put an entire school’s-worth of trash together, it could add up. The company takes the trash and makes products they then sell: a drink-pouch homework folder, a newspaper pencil, fire logs from wax cardboard waste and, the popular worm-poop fertilizer in recycled milk jugs.

Selling Earth-friendly, free-trade, organic or other green products: Ecosprouts, based in Alabama, helps schools sell made-in-the-U.S. organic cotton T-shirts and totes dyed with clay.  The shirts sell for $25- $30 and the school gets an average 30 percent profit on all sales, they say. Ecosprouts also includes instructional materials and clay dying kits for classroom use. For those still yearning to sell chocolate, Equal Exchange will help schools sell organic, fair trade chocolate, coffee, teas and more grown in Africa, Asia, the U.S. and other countries. Another Earth-friendly group that sells products aimed at fund-raising is EcoLabel Fundraising.

Selling energy-saving light bulbs: General fund-raising sites such as Help Fundraise provide CFLs to schools for sale (although profits are determined based on volume, so they don’t reveal on their Web site how much a school will receive) Others that offer CFL fund-raisers include One Planet Fundraising, Let’s Go Green and Green Market Fundraising.

Do-it-yourself sales: Schools can cut out the middleman by doing everything from sprouting native plant seedlings for sale, organizing healthy walk-a-thons, having product-free auctions (a day spent with your child’s favorite teacher, perhaps?), having a sale of healthy foods (instead of cupcakes). Another approach is to work with local green retailers and sell coupons for discounts on their goods. A professional approach to that can be found in EcoMetro‘s coupon books, sold in six markets around the country. Each book has more than 300 coupons along with all manner of information on being green in the communities. Schools in those markets can sell the books and earn up to $10 of the $20 sales price, said Katherine Mullen, group publisher of the company that produces the books.

The do-it-yourself approach may be gaining traction in some schools – especially efforts that are created and run by students.

Despite all the extra effort, a do-it-yourself (or grow-it-yourself) fund-raiser can pay off. For example, a year ago, teachers and students at Sherman Middle School in Madison, Wisc., took a plot of land on their school grounds and turned it into a lush vegetable and flower garden. The school-grown tomatoes (lots of tomatoes, according to a local newspaper), was turned into Falcon’s Pride Salsa, which in turn was sold at a local farmer’s market for $5 a jar. The students sold 67 jars on their first day, the principal said.

But Green Schools Initiative’s Moore believes that schools that are used to the traditional cookie dough/wrapping paper fund-raiser will be more inclined to use turn-key operations. Also, the for-profit programs are risk-free for the school, says Olson, while do-it-yourself efforts can take more time and effort and aren’t guaranteed money-makers.

Having curriculum to go with the fund-raiser helps students (and parents) understand why this is a better way to raise money. “It raises awareness . . . kids feel really empowered, they feel passionate about it. They’re not just raising money for the school, but teaching important lessons at the same time,” Moore said.

And there’s the ripple effect: “When people make a difference in one area, they start thinking about it in other areas of their lives. . . Start with changing your fundraiser, and don’t stop there. Learn how to green your school,” she said.

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