If your school or community group needs to raise some cash, think about selling eco-friendly goods from the greenest businesses.
For several years, the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD, had held an annual fundraiser selling Sally Foster gift wrap to raise money for the sixth-grade field trip. But the gift wrap chosen for the sale contained no recycled content and couldn’t itself be recycled, which concerned a group of green-minded students so much, they called a boycott.
“This particular group of friends called themselves ‘the Treehuggers,’” says Miriam Glaser, who teaches sixth grade science at the school. “I got wind of the boycott, so I met with them, and we started working together as an official school group on green issues.”
As a result of the boycott, the PTO saw a significant reduction in the amount of money they earned, and it didn’t take them long to agree to meet the Treehuggers to discuss sustainable fundraiser alternatives.
Though it was too late to stop the Sally Foster sale, the Treehuggers decided to conduct a sale of their own, to raise money for compost bins and recycled paper for the school. Glaser helped them find Greenraising.com, an eco-friendly fundraising company.
“I was very excited about how much we raised,” says Glaser. “We were all happy with the variety of green products, and the kids felt good that they’d made a difference.”
Are you a parent or grandparent who is tired of seeing your child sell unsustainable products to raise money for her or his school? Does your house of worship or nonprofit run fundraiser programs through businesses whose products could be cleaner and greener? Read on for a variety of responsible alternatives to conventional fundraisers.
Started by a group of eco-minded parents, Greenraising.com exists to help schools and other nonprofits raise money from sales of useful green products. Many items come from members of Co-op America’s Green Business Network™, including: EcoBags reusable bags; Laptop Lunches reusable lunchboxes; Fair Trade Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, Ithaca Fine Chocolates, and Peace Coffee; and Earth Friendly Products cleaning supplies.
Greenraising.com offers three different fundraising options: 1) Your group can hold an ongoing Web sale, where supporters use your specially designated code on the Greenraising.com online retail store. 2) You can hold a two- or three- week “Web site drive” and earn higher profit margins than with an ongoing sale. 3) You can run an in-person (recycled paper) Greenraising catalog drive.
Fair Trade Chocolate, Coffee
As many US students are learning, the coffee and cocoa industries have been tied to worker exploitation and environmental degradation. Now, schools and other nonprofits can raise money and support cocoa and coffee farmers through a Divine Chocolate or Grounds for Change fundraiser.
Farmers in the Fair Trade system work cooperatively and earn a living wage that allows them to improve their lives, communities, and local environment.
Divine sells Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate from Ghana. Schools and other organizations can buy 1.5-oz. dark, milk, and crispy rice Divine Chocolate bars at wholesale prices, then resell them at retail and keep the profits.
Through Grounds for Change, your group can hand-sell 12-oz. bags of organic, shade-grown, Fair Trade coffee, using the company’s order forms and information cards, or you can purchase it in bulk at a discount and resell it, pocketing a percentage of the profits.
Both companies will also provide materials to help you educate buyers about Fair Trade.
Fair Trade Gourmet Food
A catalog of gourmet treats can be a popular fundraiser, too—especially around the holidays. Equal Exchange’s program helps your group raise money by selling Fair Trade chocolate, coffee, tea, and cocoa, as well as certified-organic, US-grown cranberries, almonds, and pecans.
Equal Exchange will send order forms and recycled paper catalogs displaying its organic, Fair Trade, premium-quality products. Once your organization has completed its sales, you order the products at a discount and pocket the profits.
By request, Equal Exchange will provide recycled paper posters and flyers to advertise your sale and the benefits of Fair Trade. It also offers a Fair Trade curriculum for grades 4–9, as well as an incentive program where students earn green prizes for achieving certain sales quotas.
Fair Trade Crafts
If you like import stores like Pier One and World Market, you’ll love the Fair Trade craft items from A Better Footprint (formerly Worldgoods) and Global Goods Partners, which include recycled cotton handbags from India; glass pendants from Ecuador; soccer balls from Pakistan; and more.
Schools and community groups have four options for holding fundraisers through A Better Footprint: 1) The company will give you a special Web link to its online store, so you earn profits when supporters shop. 2) You can order a box of products on consignment and sell them at an event. Once the sale is over, you simply send back any unsold items with payment. 3) You can hold a catalog sale. 4) If you’re with a school in Wisconsin or Illinois, A Better Footprint can come to your school to sell products at an event.
A Global Goods fundraiser is held entirely online. The company gives your school or nonprofit a special code for supporters to use when shopping from its online store, and you’ll earn a percentage of the profits from those sales. For schools, it will also provide posters and other promotional materials.
It’s been hard to miss the fact that fuel costs are skyrocketing, and electricity costs are sure to follow. So selling energy-saving products from E3Living.com might turn out to be the best fundraiser your organization has ever held.
This Web-based company sells a variety of green items, including compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy-saving “SmartStrip” power strips, and LED holiday lights, as well as other household products like water-saving devices.
Organizations sell products through their own special URL on E3 Living’s fundraising site, ECOmmitted.com, earning a portion of the profits, plus an additional two percent of your total annual sales at the end of the calendar year.
Reduce E-waste for Cash
Your group can provide a valuable recycling service for your community while earning needed cash with Project KOPEG’s e-waste recycling fundraiser. Your group collects unwanted cell phones and chargers, ink cartridges, MP3 players, digital cameras, and PDAs to send to the company for cash. As long as you’ve collected at least 30 cell phones, or 30 ink cartridges and 15 cell phones, Project KOPEG will pay all shipping costs. Prices vary according to items—you’ll earn at least $0.95 per pound of e-waste.
RecyclePlace.com offers a similar fundraising program for groups that collect cell phones or ink cartridges for recycling.
Neither company ships used electronics to overseas facilities, ensuring that everything is refurbished or recycled responsibly.
Books for Sale
Better World Books (BWB) helps high school and college students raise money through book drives to benefit their school and literacy programs around the world.
Students collect used books, including old textbooks, from their community. They ship the books to BWB at no cost to them, and then BWB resells the books online, donating or recycling those that can’t be sold. The school gets a percentage of the profits and designates one of four literacy programs to receive an additional portion: Books for Africa, Room to Read, WorldFund, or the National Center for Family Literacy.
BWB also offers a similar program to help libraries raise money in exchange for book discards.
Two other organizations provide green-themed books at a discount to schools and nonprofits, which can resell them at retail to raise money: Contact Kids Think Big to get its brightly illustrated children’s book, Think Green!, which is about simple ways kids and adults can help green our world. And Laura Bruzas, editor of Healthy Dining Chicago offers a useful 32-page booklet called “50 Simple Ways to Eat Well for Less,” on greening your food choices while saving money, no matter where you live.
Artistic Accessories and Decor
If you’re looking for a quirky and fun fundraiser, look no further than TheJuicyPearGiftShop.com. This Web store offers a wide variety of unique items, from bags made from old fire hoses, to jewelry fashioned from antique typewriter keys, to belts made from recycled rubber and bottle caps.
Schools and groups can sell Juicy Pear items through recycled paper or electronic catalogs. The company ships items directly to buyers.
Artistic Accessories and Decor
There’s no two ways about it—students need school supplies. Launch an ongoing fundraiser through MyEarth360.com, and your organization can sell school supplies and other necessities that are good for people and the planet.
MyEarth360 sells a range of green products on its Web store, from lunchboxes made from recycled drink containers to Fair Trade backpacks to pencils made from wood scraps. In addition, the store offers household items like water purifiers, compostable zip-lock bags, and more.
MyEarth360 assigns your school or organization a unique code for supporters to use when they shop the site, earmarking a percentage of the profits for your group. Four times a year, the retailer will increase that profit margin for a specific amount of time, giving even more to your group.
Artistic Accessories and Decor
Paper products tend to be a popular fundraiser. Now, through Twisted Limb Paperworks, you can ensure that the stationery, bookmarks, and scrapbooking papers your organization sells are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled content. The paper is all handmade at Twisted Limb’s Bloomington, IN, facilities and is often embedded with flowers and seeds.
You may choose to sell the papers first and then place an order, or purchase products to resell.
Recycled Greeting Cards
If your group likes the idea of selling greeting cards, consider offering the beautiful cards from Arbutus Images, made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper and printed with soy inks.
Arbutus will provide order forms and samples to your group’s fundraiser. You sell each box of eight cards for $15 and keep $5.
For every box of Arbutus cards your organization sells, the company will donate ten cents to Trees for the Future’s Tree Pals program, which covers the cost of planting one tree for a school in a developing country. Schools can also sell Arbutus cards to fund participation in Tree Pals Sponsorship program, planting a forest for a partner school in a developing country.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Reusable shopping bags are increasing in popularity, so why not sell them and make some much-needed cash?
Greenbenefits.net is an online company that offers a different themed fundraising program for schools each year. This year’s theme is “reducing plastic,” so the company is providing reusable nylon bags for schools to sell for cash. The bags are sweatshop-free and can be compacted to fit in a pocket or purse. Green Benefits will provide your school with a special URL or even design a Web site for you to sell the bags online.
Ecobags.com offers several types of reusable shopping bags through its fundraising program, from organic cotton string bags to whisper-thin cotton produce bags. Your group purchases the bags in bundles of ten at wholesale prices (minimum $125 initial purchase) to resell.
AAh Haa! sells its recycled-canvas and recycled-PET reusable tote bags at wholesale prices to schools for resale. You can add a logo for a fee.
And Weaddup.com offers organic cotton totes—and T-shirts—with environmental messages on them. You sell the items via catalog, and the company pays for shipping at least 50 items, giving your group a percentage of the profits.
A Final Word
Next time your school or organization suggests selling toxin-laden cleaners or conventional candy that may be tied to worker exploitation, feel free to hand out copies of this article and lobby for sustainable alternatives. With a green fundraiser, you can help spread the word about high-quality green products and support the green economy, while raising money for schools or causes that are close to your heart.
—Tracy Fernandez Rysavy
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