15 Eco Friendly Fundraisers For Schools

15 Eco Friendly Fundraisers For Schools

School fundraisers aren’t always particularly welcome when you’re trying to be eco friendly. Selling a bunch of wrapping paper, cookie dough and so forth doesn’t always appeal that much. It’s a bunch of money parents, extended family members, friends and coworkers can get tired of spending. Schools willing to step outside that box, however, have some interesting options for eco friendly fundraisers.

1. Electronics Recycling

My kids’ school has done an electronics recycling fundraiser two years in a row now. While I don’t know anything about the quality of the company they go through, I think this is an excellent concept. It keeps electronic waste out of the dump and allows the school to raise money, yet families don’t have to spend any extra money.

The one our school does is a one-day event, where everything is dropped off during the listed time frame, although the school can also allow pre-collection so that some stuff is there already.

There are also programs out there for ongoing fundraising by collecting and recycling electronics, such as through Recycling Fundraiser, Funding Factory, and others.

2. Donation Drive

Goodwill in Southern California has a donation drive program where schools and other nonprofits can earn money for every bin filled. I believe it’s available elsewhere too.

This is a nice way for the school to earn money while families get rid of the junk that accumulates in most homes. And once again, you don’t have to buy anything for your kids’ school to raise some money.

3. Have A Clean Up Drive

Have students ask friends and family to sponsor them at a cleanup day at a local park, beach or another natural area. Encourage people to give either a rate per pound cleaned up by the student or a flat rate they will give the student for participating. This way the school and a natural area in your community both benefit.


4. Recycle Aluminum Cans And Other Waste

Schools can earn money by recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles for the money. This one takes a lot of space, however. Just look for local places you can take the goods or see if any places will pick up when there’s enough collected.

For schools with less space, you can also collect just the tabs off aluminum cans. They don’t take much space but can add up to some reasonable money for the school. You can participate in the Great American Can Roundup if there are buyback locations in your area.

If you want to go beyond the usual recycling programs, Terracycle has a Brigade program where various items can be collected, and the money donated to a nonprofit or school that you select. They have 40 programs to choose from. Some have a cost, but others are free, right down to the shipping.

This one takes a fair bit of space, of course, as it takes time to collect enough waste to send in. The programs can fill up for a time as well, and you may have to wait for the right one to open for your school. They offer programs for drink pouches, baby food pouches, printer cartridges, electronics and much more.

5. Walk-a-thons, 5k, etc.

These are a good way to encourage the kids to get active while raising money. Have them get family and friends to sponsor them to raise money for the school.

This can be just about any activity the kids can do – walking, running, dancing, whatever. Keep it simple to keep the costs down.

6. Smencils

Yes, eventually it comes back to buying. Still, I like the Smencils fundraisers. Smencils are scented pencils made from recycled newspapers, and kids go nuts for them. Best of all, pencils are things students absolutely need, not just junk. As pencils go, they’re pricey, but they make a nice treat for the kids. Best of all, at our school it’s usually students running the fundraiser under a teacher’s supervision, selling to other students to fund a field trip, not something to take to work. Smens are also available.

7. Scrip

Scrip has been around for a very long time. Basically, it’s buying gift cards to stores you already shop at through your school, including many grocery stores. The school gets a percentage (varies by store), you get to spend the same amount you would have anyhow while benefiting your school. Shop With Scrip and eScrip are two options.

You can also sign up directly with certain stores, such as Target, to have a percentage of your purchases go to the school of your choice when you use their card.

8. Sign Up With Amazon.com

Schools can join the Amazon.com Associates Program and earn a percentage of sales on purchases made by people who click through their link. The challenge here is getting people to remember to get to Amazon through the school’s link, not through bookmarks or just typing it in. Not everyone approves of this, as some feel that it takes money away from local businesses that would come back to schools through taxes, but many people are going to shop through Amazon anyhow.

9. Shop Through iGive

iGive is a program your school can sign up for, then go through the iGive button or download the app for their online shopping. iGive partners with many online stores, and a percentage goes to the school.

The wonderful part about an online fundraiser is that it’s not limited to local friends and family. Anyone you know who is willing to use your school’s links can participate. Families can share links through email as well as social media such as Facebook.

10. Collect Spare Change

Encourage families to donate their spare change to the school. A jar can be placed in the school office as well as at any businesses willing to help out. As anyone who has collected their own spare change knows, this can add up fast.

A fun way to do this is called Penny Wars. My kids’ school does this every year. Every grade has a bucket in which they collect change. Every penny is a point. Any other coin subtracts points up to its face value, such as -5 points for a nickel. This allows grades to sabotage each other. The kids get very competitive about the whole thing.

The wonderful part about Penny Wars is that it has very little overhead. The school gets all the money, and the buckets can be reused from year to year. The winning grade gets a prize. Our school does a pizza party for them, sponsored by a local pizza place.

11. Box Tops For Education

This program has been around for a long time. Families can collect the box tops off products they purchase anyhow and turn them over to the school, which then gets money for them. The products are not necessarily healthy or eco friendly, but we’re talking about things most families will buy anyhow.

12. Rummage Sale

Have families donate goods they would otherwise send to a charity or sell at their own garage sale, and have a huge rummage sale at your school. Make sure to promote the rummage sale on social media, especially local for sale pages and Craigslist. Make and post signs if they’re allowed in your area.

The hardest part about this idea is getting and storing the goods donated for the rummage sale, and handling disposal afterward. The best thing to do with leftovers is to have arrangements made to donate them. Try to have them picked up very shortly after the sale so the school doesn’t have to deal with storage for long.

A rummage sale requires a lot of volunteers and time. Try to involve both parents and students. It’s a good experience for the students, especially if it’s for something specific to their class.

13. Sell Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags

Help parents quit the disposable habit by selling reusable lunch bags, containers and drink bottles. One Small Step, Planet Wise, ECOlunchbox, and others offer fundraising programs.

14. Fair Trade Chocolate, Coffee, etc.

Chocolate and coffee are fun to sell, although there’s always the risk that you’ll enjoy it too much yourself. There are a variety of companies that offer Fair Trade chocolate, coffee and other goods for fundraisers, such as Dean’s Beans, Equal Exchange and Grounds for Change.

15. Non-GMO And Organic Seeds And Bulbs

Help families in your area grow better gardens by selling non-GMO and/or organic seeds. Sow True Seed, High Mowing Seeds, EcoFlower Fundraising, Botanical Interests and the Online GreenHouse offer fundraising programs. Some programs offer seed packets with flowers that are good for attracting bees or butterflies, as well as other types of seeds.

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

It’s funny how these things work. All of the sudden recently, I had a bunch of friends expecting babies. It had been a while since I’d known anyone who was expecting a baby, suddenly I know a bunch. And it got me thinking about what kinds of eco friendly gifts are appropriate for new moms.


Since I have kids of my own, and a habit of handing things down with family, this one is obvious to me. While you have to keep it safe and check for defects, damage and recalls on old items, there are plenty of baby things you can hand down to new moms, especially baby clothes. You know how fast new babies go through clothes. The very first thing I check with the various moms is whether or not they already have a source of handmedowns. If they need something I have just sitting, no longer used, there’s an easy gift.

A Home Cooked Meal

New moms are often exhausted. A home cooked meal made by someone else can be very welcome indeed. Make it something that can be frozen and reheated easily, so it can be served when convenient.

Playtime For The Older Kids

When moms have older kids, it’s hard to deal with them and the baby. If you can give them time to play away from mom and the baby, everyone gets a much needed break. If your own kids are in the same age group, so much the better.

Cloth Diapers

If the new mom is interested in cloth diapering her new baby, help build her stash. You may need to find out which cloth diapers she prefers. Don’t forget the cloth wipes to go with them! A wet bag is another great addition.

Baby Food Maker

If the mom is on board with making her own food for baby, get her a good baby food maker. I used a manual one for my kids, and it did a great job. If you made food for your own babies, make sure you share your baby’s favorite recipes.

Sustainable Toys

So many baby toys are plastic. Switch things up by finding sustainable toys for the new baby, especially ones that should be loved for many years.

Eco Friendly Baby Clothes

While hand-me-downs are wonderful, it’s nice to have something new for baby too. If you know the new mom is getting gifts from a lot of people, consider getting clothes for a somewhat older baby. Moms often end up with too many clothes for a newborn in my experience.

Feeding Supplies

You may need to know something about the new mom’s plans before picking out any feeding supplies for her. Glass baby bottles are a great choice if she’s going to use bottles at all.

A good breast pump is a great gift if she’s planning on doing any pumping, but not so good if she already knows she’s not interested. Don’t give her a hard time if it’s not her thing – there may be reasons you don’t know.

Baby Wrap/Sling

A good wrap or sling is an effective way to carry babies; so much nicer than relying on a car seat, and less awkward than always having baby in your arms. There are many wonderful options available to keep baby close to mom or dad throughout the day.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Add Bare-Root Fruit Trees To Your Garden

Add Bare-Root Fruit Trees To Your Garden

We bought a home a couple years ago. It’s so nice to get away from renting and be able to do what we want with the property – especially the garden. The very first thing we added to the garden was bare-root fruit trees.

Bare-root fruit trees have a lot of advantages. They’re cheaper than potted fruit trees. They’re much easier to bring home from the nursery. Nurseries often carry a larger variety of bare-root fruit trees because they take up less room, so you have more varieties to choose from.

The disadvantages include that bare-root trees might be a little slower to start bearing fruit. They may need more time to get established. Nurseries don’t carry them all year long in most places, because you must plant a bare-root tree while it is dormant.

The house we bought had no fruit trees or vegetable garden – only grass and decorative plants. Completely not what we want, although pretty enough. If I water it, I want it to fulfill a purpose, beyond just looking good. Some things we plant for the bees, birds and butterflies, some things we plant for food. Fruit trees were an easy choice to start things out.

Add Trees Early To Your Garden

If you want to grow fruit trees in your garden, they should be added early on. They take time to get established, but once they’re established, you only have to maintain them. They’ll last for many years.

The wonderful part about fruit trees is that they’re relatively easy to get started. When you’re new to a property, planting fruit trees is much easier than getting an entirely new garden started.

We followed the advice on the Dave Wilson website when planting our trees. We did two groups of trees – one group of four, and one of three. Trees that need to cross pollinate were put near each other.

Some of our trees produced a little this year, their second in the ground. We limited their production because they’re still young trees. And as often happens, some branches had too much fruit and had to be thinned anyhow to keep the branches from breaking.

Pick The Right Trees

Make sure you consider the needs of each tree, as well as when they produce when selecting your fruit trees. Cross pollination is vital for many fruit tree varieties. If you neglect that aspect and some neighbor doesn’t happen to have a compatible tree, you won’t get fruit from it.

You also want to consider when fruit ripens for each tree. You don’t want all of your fruit ripening at the same time, most likely. It’s much better to have your fruit ripen over time.

Where you live matters too. Some fruit trees need a certain amount of time below certain temperatures, or they just won’t produce. Talk to your nursery if you aren’t certain about what grows well where you live.

Also consider the space you need. Many varieties can be pruned to a smaller size, so that they’re easier to care for and harvest. The Dave Wilson site has tips on high density planting, which allows you to grow more fruit trees in a smaller space. This can be nice even if you have a lot of room in your yard.

And of course, consider what you’d like to grow. It’s always nice to grow particular favorites on your own trees. Home grown fruit always tastes better than the stuff you get at the grocery store.

Be Patient

One important thing to understand about fruit trees is that they won’t produce right away. Some will make you wait for years until they are mature enough to bear fruit after you’ve transplanted them.

While many will get going 2-3 years after you plant them, some take up to seven years before they can produce. We’re looking at that possibility with our cherry trees, although that’s the high end of the wait. I hope it will be on the lower side.

If you’re concerned that your fruit trees aren’t producing, check this table from Stark Bro’s Nursery. It can be quite reassuring to see that the delay you’re seeing is normal for your tree.

13 Eco Friendly Tips For Working At Home

13 Eco Friendly Tips For Working At Home

One of the things I like about working at home is that it’s a relatively eco friendly option. I don’t have to drive to work, so my van gets relatively little use. There are many other ways, however, that you can be eco friendly while working at home.

1. Reset Your Thermostat

Compared to a lot of people I know, I keep my house relatively cool in winter and warm in summer. My air conditioner doesn’t go off until the house is about 80 degrees F, and the heater goes off below about 68 degrees F. This saves a lot of energy.

While this may sound uncomfortable, it really isn’t. There is a ceiling fan in my home office, which uses much less power than an air conditioner. Moving air feels much cooler than it really is.

In winter, it’s a matter of dressing just a little warmer.

It doesn’t take much to get used to a house that is a little on the warm or cool side. The great part is that it makes it easier to go outside if you aren’t used to perfect air temperatures all the time. Use a programmable thermostat to make it easy to keep your home temperature just right.

2. Open A Window When The Weather Is Right

When the weather is nice enough, I open windows. The fresh air is good for the house, and it takes no power to open them up. When the weather is pleasant, it helps keep the house at a nice temperature.

3. Use Natural Light When Possible

Opening the windows doesn’t just let air in – it lets in light. You don’t have to open the windows to get light, however. So long as the curtains or blinds are open, you’ll get light.

If the weather is very hot and the sun comes in directly through that window, it may be more efficient to cover the window and use the lights in your house. Too much heat in through the window may make your air conditioner turn on more.

Make sure your light bulbs are CFLs or LEDs for the times you have to turn them on.

4. Print As Little As Possible

It’s amazing how little most people who work at home have to print. It’s very rare for me.

Most receipts and such that I get online and need to keep, I file online or on my computer. That way I’m still keeping track, but not using paper. When it’s no longer relevant, I need only hit the delete key, rather than recycle or shred the papers. It’s a much easier form of storage.

If you do have to print, try to use both sides of the paper. Some printers can handle this on their own for multi-page printouts. You can always save paper for printing on the other side regardless of what your printer can handle on its own. Anything that doesn’t have to be printed for someone else’s purposes can probably share the paper with another printout.

5. Let Your Computer Sleep

When you aren’t using your computer, let it go into sleep mode. Set the sleep setting for a reasonable time for the way you use your computer – 15 minutes is usually safe enough. You can let it turn off your monitor sooner than that if you like, but you’ll save the most if your computer sleeps when you aren’t actively using it.

6. Unplug

When your cell phone is done charging, unplug it if the charger doesn’t turn itself off automatically. Same for your laptop and any other rechargeable devices you have.

7. Recycle

When you have to use paper or other recyclable materials while working at home, make sure you do recycle them.

This is easy in my area, as we don’t have to sort recyclables from each other. We get a bin for trash, a bin for recyclable, and a bin for yard waste. So long as those are kept separate, and the recyclables are reasonably clean, further sorting isn’t necessary here.

Make sure you recycle your old electronics too. I’m hoping to be able to replace my iPhone 4 sometime soon, and it will be sent for recycling when the time comes. The big reason I want to replace it is that too many apps I use are losing compatibility with it – the OS is too out of date. That and a slight freezing up problem here and there.

You can often find electronics recycling events in your area. My favorite is when it’s a fundraiser for a local school, so that the students benefit. Try to be sure that it’s a reputable electronics recycling company, as some have very questionable practices. Be sure to wipe all data before sending any electronics for recycling.

You can also recycle ink cartridges. Some office supply stores take them and give you a discount on new ones.

8. Drink Water From A Reusable Bottle

Water is the healthiest and most eco friendly option you can drink. You can get it from your tap, although you may need a good filter in some areas to improve the taste and remove excess chemicals. It’s cheap when you drink tap water, and using a glass from your cabinet or a reusable water bottle, makes for very little waste.

I prefer my stainless steel water bottle to a glass of water because there’s no risk of spillage. It can be knocked over, and nothing will come out. Between kids, cats, and my own occasional clumsiness, that’s a good thing. Stainless steel lasts pretty much forever. I’ve dented my bottle, but it would take a lot to break it.

9. Buy Used Office Furniture

My office chair is absolutely wonderful. Comfortable and ergonomic. I got it for $5 at a garage sale. Lucky find, but seek such finds out when furnishing your home office. You’ll save a lot of money.

You can also shop thrift stores or Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore. I’m amazed at what they have every time I go.

10. Repair Things

If something breaks, see if it can be fixed. My husband’s office chair had a wheel break recently, and he was complaining at first that he didn’t want to spend money on a new chair, but thought we would need to. I hopped onto Amazon, and found new wheels for the chair. The switch was incredibly easy to make, taking only a few minutes once the new wheels arrived.

Computers and other office gear can be harder to repair, but it is often possible. Some jobs may require very up to date equipment, but keep your electronics as long as you can rather than buying new every chance.

11. Make Your Own Lunch And Snacks

It’s not that hard to make your own lunch when you work at home. Keep some basic supplies around, and you can have a good lunch without a lot of waste.

I package dinner leftovers for easy lunches. They’re almost as easy as microwaveable lunches, but without the leftover packaging. I also keep easy foods to make for lunch around.

Do something similar for your snacks during the day. Having a supply of chopped veggies, for example, makes it much easier to grab a healthy, low waste snack. If you want chips or something less healthy, decide if your self control will let you have the big bag in the house to decrease the waste, while limiting your serving to an appropriate amount in a bowl.

12. Add Some Plants

Adding a few houseplants to your office makes for some nice scenery and can help clean the air. I like growing orchids. They’re just a little something to brighten my day.

13. Consider Solar Power

If your power bill is high enough, solar power may be a good option for you. How well solar will do for you depends on your area and electricity usage, but some people find paying for the panels cheaper than their electric bill had been. It’s still not cheap, but it might be your best deal.

Do you have any other tips for having an eco friendly home office? What works best for you?

Kids get out and explore

12 Apps That Encourage Kids to Get Out and Explore

Kids get out and explore

As a mom or dad, you probably grumble sometimes about how much time your kids spend in front of one screen or another. And it’s true that kids spend way too much time in front of screens. However, there are some apps you can put on your smartphone that will encourage your kids to get out and explore.

Obviously, you need to decide how much supervision your kids need with each of these apps, depending on location and your child’s maturity level. Some of the apps mentioned here are free; others you have to buy.

1. Geocaching

If you haven’t heard of geocaching yet, the idea is simple. It’s called the world’s largest treasure hunt. The app helps you find geocaches in your area and navigate to them. People hide small things in the cache, and if you find it, you can take it and put something of equal or greater value in, or put the item back where you found it.

Geocaches are all over the place. The website tells me there are more than 8000 geocaches near my town. That’s not just in my town, of course, but in areas surrounding it. Still, I looked at the map and could see quite a few within a few miles of me, and a huge number along a popular local hike.


2. iNaturalist

Share your observations of plants and animals you observe to contribute to biodiversity science. You can use crowdsourcing to identify plants and animals you don’t recognize. You’ll connect to other naturalists who share your interests in the world around you.


3. Audubon Bird Guide

Do your kids love birds? Make it easier to identify them as you wander outdoors with this guide. You can log sightings and share with the community, as well as get help identifying birds you can’t quite identify on your own.


4. Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors

Based on the PBS Kids character, Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors offers daily adventures for kids. The app may have the kids use the compass, camera, microphone or sketch as they create a nature journal.


5. DIY Lake Science

DIY Lake Science is helpful in learning about lakes and freshwater ecosystems. There are hands-on activities, requiring supplies that are generally easy to get. There is also an “Under the Lake” simulation which allows students to explore what happens as temperatures change for different lakes.


6. Star Walk 2

Build an interest in astronomy with Star Walk 2, a stargazing app which helps you identify objects in the night sky where you are. Move your device around and it updates as you go.


7. Redshift

Redshift will also help you identify astronomical objects in your area, and guide you to ones you’re trying to find. It also offers 3d “flights” to go to the surface of other planets and moons in the solar system.


8. Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go hit it huge when it came out. There have been problems with people not really watching where they’re going as they seek Pokémon. Some have played the game in inappropriate places, although the developers have put in some effort to keep the game out of such places. You have to walk to hatch your Pokémon eggs, guaranteeing that the kids will get some exercise.


9. Ingress

Before the Pokemon Go app, there was Ingress. Like Pokemon, you will need to be aware of the potential safety risks as kids visit waypoints and how they chat with other players. Forming alliances with other players is a part of the game, so that your alliance can control more areas.


10. Zombies, Run!

This app will encourage walking and running. You start out on your walk or run, your music playing as you get your mission. When the zombies start chasing you, it’s time to run. It’s a fun story combined with exercise.


11. Fit For Battle

Another app that makes walking or running into a game. Shia the elf and Keg the dwarf will let you know when to speed up or slow down as they take you through the game.


12. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Make exploring your area more interesting with photographic scavenger hunts. The first four hunts are free, then you have to buy further scavenger hunts. Sometimes you can get an addon hunt free.