7 Best Environmental Fundraising Ideas for Schools & Colleges

Posted on November 2, 2017 | Last Updated On: July 2nd, 2021 by

The school fundraising business is big, with more than $1.4 billion going to schools across America annually, with 94% of schools relying on fundraising activities to fund school programs.

But instead of selling the traditional fair – cookies, chocolates or popcorn – why not have environmentally friendly school fundraisers? These days, more Americans are more environmentally conscious. Schools often find that fundraisers offering green activities and products sell better than the standard fundraising fare. Other benefits of a green school fundraiser are:

  • Opportunity to educate the public and your children about protecting the environment
  • Have the satisfaction of having a positive effect on the environment while helping your school
  • Provide substantial profits for your school fundraiser

To get your creative juices flowing, below are 7 great ideas for green fundraisers for your school or group:

Plant Sale

Whether you sell perennials or vegetable starter kits, small plants are simple to grow with the proper tools and patience. Schools should be encouraged to teach skills needed for gardening, and those who do have a profitable and green fundraiser available. Home gardeners in your school district who lack a seed-starter set up are pleased to pay for young tomato plants etc. that are easier to start inside.

If you think doing this type of fundraiser will work for your school, below are some basic ideas to get rolling:

  • Advertising and planning: If you want a lot of people to come to your plant sale fundraiser, you need to advertise! You can advertise on social media, with flyers at school and word of mouth at work and other places where you and your parents go.
  • Choose the venue: Where are you going to sell your plants? Some people hold the plant sale at school, social club or sporting event. But you may want to do the sale outside if the weather is good. More often than not, you will be conducting the sale in spring, so picking a nice, sunny place on the weekend could work – how about a park?
  • Selling plants: You can have different parents bring different types of starter plants to sell. Or you can purchase a large number of starter plants in bulk from a local supplier and sell those.
  • Invite a plant or gardening expert: When you hold your sale, you can attract more people by having a local gardening expert hold a talk about various gardening topics. For example, if you are selling tomato plants, you could have an expert talk about common problems with growing tomatoes and how to solve them.

Used Clothes Drive

One of the easiest fundraisers you can do is a clothes drive. Hosting one of these drives can be an excellent way to raise money and it is easy to set up. Imagine being able to actually get money for your school just by people cleaning out their closets of unwanted clothes!

Textile recycling companies are growing in a big way. They will pay schools to collect worn out clothes and related textiles. Your school can contribute to its community by reducing waste in landfills and also sending clothes to countries in need. These used clothes also can be made into rags and replace nearly endless paper towel waste that also ends up in landfills. Another possible way to contribute to this concept is to have a permanent used clothing donation bin on the school’s property.

Most cities in the US have places that will pay you by the pound for used clothes and shoes. Another benefit of this idea is you will be helping those in need to get clothes for their daily lives.

On a related note, you also can collect used shoes and get money for them, just as you do for used clothes. Many women tend to have a lot of older shoes that they no longer wear, and they can be a great source of a lot of money for your school.

Trail Mix Fundraiser

Food fundraisers are one of the most popular in the country and make it easy to meet most school fundraising goals. However, obesity in America has become more of a problem, many schools want to offer healthier foods to their communities. Your school can sell trail and snack mixes to members of the community. The foods are healthy but will still fill cravings for something sweet or salty from your customers.

Trail mix is a good, healthy choice because one of the major ingredients is nuts, and these are very healthy for you. Trail mix also is high in vitamins, fiber and various minerals. Another benefit of trail mix is that it helps to keep blood sugar levels relatively stable. This will help you to avoid your blood sugar going up and down wildly during the day, which can lead to fatigue and hunger pangs.

Your school can purchase a variety of trail mixes, but the most common ingredients are peanuts, cashews, almonds, dry fruit, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Some of your customers may want to shy away from consuming nuts, as they contain more calories and fat. But science shows that eating nuts moderately every day can actually lead to less hunger and even weight loss.

Rubber Duck Race

The idea here is to have a floating rubber duck race where numbered ducks float down a stream to the finish. Your school can sell raffle tickets for $3 or $5 each. Award cash or prizes to the winners. Groups that have done the duck derby before have had 3,000 ducks on average, with some races being even bigger. If you want to make more money for your school, make the rubber duck race a fun family activity with other things to do:

  • Food for sale – chili, barbecue, wings, hot dogs
  • Face painting
  • Water balloon fights
  • Bean bag tournament
  • Eating contests

The basic steps to plan a rubber duck race for your school are:

  • Timeline: For the best results, you should plan your rubber duck race a few months in advance. To make it a good fundraiser, you will want to have at least a few dozen participants, and a few hundred can lead to great profits for your school.
  • Volunteers: It is impossible to run a rubber duck race without volunteers. Some of the important jobs of your volunteers include duck adoptions, logistics, tagging duck party, marketing and sales work and more.
  • Sponsors: The vital part of the rubber duck race from a fundraising standpoint is getting sponsorships. To get corporate and personal sponsorships, you should stress that 100% of every duck purchase or adoption will go to the school fund.
  • Water body logistics: The typical rubber duck race is run on a stream, creek or river, so you will need to find one in your community that works for your location and time.

To promote the rubber duck race, social media is one of your best bets. Also, reach out to local media TV stations and newspapers to promote the event. This is a fun, photo-friendly event that is good for the environment so many people will probably want to help you promote it.

Neighborhood or Watershed Cleanup

Help your school and the environment by organizing a community clean up project. You can get pledges from attendees of 10 cents to 25 cents per pound for the total amount of refuse collected. Watersheds are especially productive because lakes, creeks, and streams are popular places for people to dump their junk.

You may end up with old dryers, tires and washing machines, so it is wise to put a cap on the pledge amount for each person. Most students can find at least five people to pledge, so a $20 or so limit works. Some schools like to combine this event with the duck race above.

A watershed clean up event can be made even more popular by offering food and drinks after the fundraiser. Cookout food such as hot dogs and hamburgers can be an inexpensive and popular way to feed the troops once the event is complete.

Reusable Bag Fundraiser

A great product to sell at your event is reusable shopping bags. Why not encourage consumers to use reusable bags, plus help your school.

Plastic shopping bags are very bad for the environment. They are rarely recycled and are made from oil. When plastic bags go into a landfill, there they sit for 1,000 years or more. Plastic grocery bags are deadly too: Experts say more than one million sea animals, birds and turtles die by choking on these bags. Think about all of the animals that can die from being exposed to harmful plastic bags.

Also, how many times have you walked or driven down a street and seen plastic bags blowing on the street or sidewalk? By selling a custom-printed reusable bag for your fundraiser, you can eliminate countless plastic bags from our communities. Plus, your customers will no longer have to worry about bags that tear or rip when using them.

Your school can make a bold statement for the environment by selling reusable bags for its fundraiser. Most reusable shopping bags are made from 100% natural, biodegradable materials, including hemp, ripstop nylon or cotton twill.

Inkjet Cartridge Fundraiser

Doing an inkjet recycling fundraiser is a great way to raise money and go green. There are many companies out there today that will pay school groups to send in used inkjet and laserjet cartridges by paying a fee for each item. Your school group can reach out to local businesses, parents and ask them for used ink cartridges. Then, just send the cartridges into the recycling company and they will pay you for every cartridge.

It is estimated that recycling ink toner cartridges can save more than 38,000 tons of metal and plastic being deposited in our landfills. Collecting these cartridges and sending them for recycling also can allow us to recover plastics, metal, and ink that can be used for new products.

Recycling ink cartridges can further save water and energy because recycling these products uses less of both than making new ones.


About the Author

Douglas Lober Chief Product Specialist

Doug Lober is Co-Founder and Chief Product Specialist for ReuseThisBag.com. Lober is a passionate environmentalist with roots in the Southern California surf culture. Over the last 15 years, Lober has launched and supported a number of environmental initiatives around the land, sea, and air. Today, he continues to provide and support the use of eco-friendly promotional products for small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies. You can learn more about his extensive background in the industry on Linkedin.com, Quora.com, Instagram.com, Twitter and Alignable.com

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