12 Eco-Friendly School Fundraising Ideas

No more junky, made-in-China trinkets for your school’s fundraisers. Eco-friendly school fundraising can be just as successful, with less consumerism or impact on the planet.

eco-friendly school classroom

“I vote for the wrapping paper. Didn’t we make good money on it last year?”

“Yeah, well at $12 a roll, we should have made a fortune. I vote for the scented candles!”

This was the school fundraising conversation at my first PTO meeting when our son was in kindergarten. The squirmy toddler on my lap may have kept my jaw from hitting the table during this debate over pricey rolls of disposable virgin tree paper or $25 for a jar of flaming toxins? 

Before the vote, I politely asked if there were any fundraising options that were more health-conscious or earth-friendly. And if not, were there any non-consumable ideas (does anyone remember the trusty Math-A-Thon?) we could consider? 

The PTO members and other parents were extremely polite and nodded in agreement, then went on to gleefully vote for BOTH the candles and the wrapping paper.

Fundraisers CAN Be Successful and Eco-Friendly

That was several years ago, and I’m happy to say that since then, we’ve participated in or helped arrange organic bulb sales, bake sales, walk-a-thons, spell-a-thons, and a phenomenal fundraising gala for our kids’ schools.

And if there wasn’t a better option, I’d just send in a $50 donation check and decline the consumables.

So, how do you combine teaching children about caring for people and the earth with earning money for your schools? Thankfully, there are plenty of environmental fundraising ideas for schools.

Environmental Fundraising Ideas for Schools

“This year, my eco-friendly fundraising committee’s goal was to accomplish both,” mother and green living advocate Anna Hackman explains. “We started with one program (print cartridges) and after seven years, expanded to twenty different recycling collection programs.”

“Our school viewed the committee as a teaching tool, so they didn’t push for us to become a huge financial success our first year,” Hackman shares. “Yet, both can be achieved by choosing among the following excellent green fundraising programs.”

With a variety of public, private, and homeschool kids on the Green Child team, when we see a socially conscious and eco-friendly option for school fundraising, we pay attention.

The same goes for the various clubs and sports teams our kids have joined throughout the years. We’re excited to share with you that we’ve found a program that truly makes your organization a priority, without compromising our collective goals to live healthier and lower-impact. 

Here are 12 great green fundraisers your school (or sports team or club) can implement. As with Anna’s program, it’s best if everyone has an open mind and allows for a learning curve with new ideas. But once you get going with these, you’re sure to find one that’s a perfect fit!

Used Book Sale

Essentially, a used books fundraiser brings together those who are cleaning out their book shelves with those who like a good read for a bargain price. It’s one of the best educational recycling fundraising ideas for schools.

Donations can come from school families, of course. But you can also set up donation boxes at businesses that get a lot of foot traffic. Find everything from locating venues, gathering volunteers, and marketing your used book fundraiser here at FundraisingIP.

Trivia Night

Choose a popular topic (Harry Potter trivia is always a hit) and charge $10 per person or team to enter. BetterWorld‘s online fundraising platform is a great resource for this. Have the teams participate beforehand by entering ideas for trivia questions on the Custom Questions section of the BetterWorld ticketing platform.

Build up the excitement and create some healthy competition by lining up some great prizes for the winners. You can increase your profits by selling snacks, too.

Sell Something People Actually Use and Want

It’s always important to sell something people will actually use. This option is great because nearly everyone likes coffee, tea, or chocolate.

Equal Exchange’s Catalog Fundraiser offers a variety of USDA approved organic and Fair Trade chocolate, coffee, tea, cocoas, olive oil, and more at a 40% profit! It is a fundraiser that considers your health, the environment, and authentic Fair Trade.

Equal Exchange has been a bold leader of the authentic Fair Trade movement for the last 30 years. They don’t just source sustainable products via a third party, they visit the areas in person to speak to the farmers and learn about the land and the native processes. They seek to understand the impact on the environment, the community, and the families involved. 

They also have educational resources to help you introduce important information about where our food comes from, the environment, and our global community to your children, in an age-appropriate way.

“We raised $12,500! The Equal Exchange fundraiser really emphasized the understanding of supporting our own community, but also supporting communities around the world. And the chocolate is sooo delicious.” ~ Leslie Dimaio, Columbia Falls Junior High School, MT

Earn Cash for Food Wrappers

Schools nationwide can earn money by simply collecting and recycling a wide array of items that are not typically acceptable in curbside recycling. Participating free recycling programs can be found at www.terracycle.com/schools.

TerraCycle has numerous collection programs where the organization is paid two cents per item. In our case, we collected plastic lunch bags, Capri Sun wrappers, chip bags, gum wrappers, energy bar wrappers, markers, glue sticks, and many other items. The kids in the after-school environmental club counted all of the items.

Here’s how fundraising with TerraCycle works:

  • Create a TerraCycle account for your school.

  • Join as many participating free recycling programs as desired.

  • Set up a TerraCycle recycling hub with collection bins in your school using materials on hand.
  • Spread the word to the school community: let students, parents, and faculty know they can help fundraise just by recycling.
  • When the collection bins are full, download a free shipping label for each program and send the trash to TerraCycle to be recycled for free!
  • For each shipment, earn points that can be redeemed as a donation to fund field trips, new supplies and more.

As an added benefit, every school that signs up to become a TerraCycle School through the end of the year will be awarded $5 towards their fundraising goals.

Electronics and Print / Ink Cartridge Recycling

Recycling Fundraiser and Funding Factory have fundraising opportunities to buy back electronics which include cell phones, iPhones, iPads, and other digital electronic devices. Some organizations even take back broken items.

Recycling Fundraiser, Funding Factory, and Earthtone Solutions pay for used print cartridges. Terracycle pays for the cartridges, too.

Eco-Friendly Shopping Fundraiser

Several websites offer fundraising programs where your donors can buy sustainable products that are actually pretty useful. They also offer various fundraising opportunities such as catalog or website drives where an organization can earn up to 45% of the sales commissions.

It makes perfect sense for schools to support waste free lunch supplies with their fundraisers. EcoLunchboxes also offers a program where 15% of sales goes back to your school or organization.

You can also get your fall fundraising off to a good start with Smencils. Smencil and Smens are pencils and pens made out of recycled newspaper that smell good.

With the eco friendly school fundraiser from Tru Earth, your school can earn 20% per order when people order their super useful and safe liquid-less laundry detergent. You’ll get a special fundraising link to share with your community via social media, email newsletters, or your school’s website.

Spring and fall are perfect times for a seed/bulb fundraiser. High Mowing Organic Seeds offers non-GMO organic seed fundraisers. Dutch Mill Bulbs offers a wide variety of flower bulbs for your program.

Yard Sale

Instead of selling new items (with the shipping and packaging footprint), try a group rummage sale. Send a letter home inviting families to clean out those basements and attics of good condition items they no longer use.

Choose a visible location with plenty of parking and spread the word to the local community. Schedule workers in shifts. Accept cash donations, too.

Lunch Bag Fundraisers

Promote the zero-waste message and help your school reduce lunch-packing waste by having a waste-free lunch sale after school, at an event, or as part of a fundraiser. UKonserve offers 20% coupons so your school can either pass on the discount to the families, or sell products at full price and keep the profits as a fundraiser.

Sell T-Shirts

Because t-shirts are part of many school events or clubs, they can pull double duty as a green fundraiser. One – because you needed them anyway, and two – opt for a sustainably made shirt. When choosing a shirt vendor, be sure to consider reputation and convenience along with the price.

A local vendor may offer convenience and more control because they’re close. It’s also nice to support your local businesses whenever possible so that’s our recommendation. An online source may provide more options – especially when it comes to sustainable fabrics. Green Benefits and Bonfire offer sustainable T-shirt fundraising opportunities.

Chili Cook-Off

Chili, tacos, or any type of cook-off can be a huge hit. And this can make a great addition to any fundraising event. Charge for every person at the door. Make sure you have enough chili providers to feed all attendees.

Each contestant receives a number and the attendees vote for their favorite chili. Make sure there’s a prize for the winner, but ultimately bragging rights are the real reward.

Not only is this a creative fundraiser idea for school, it’s also a fun way for school families to get to know each other. It’s also for fun for kids to play together in a different setting.

Online Crowdfunding

With the right crowdfunding program, you can take a more personal approach to ongoing donations. Crowdfunding is especially effective for unique campaigns to rally your supporters around something in particular, like the yearly education fund, sourcing eco-friendly classroom supplies or renovations.

It also works well as a complement to an offline effort, like a benefit or auction, because you can create an online home to kick off the event weeks in advance and also use it as a follow-up tool, both of which can bring in extra donations, especially from those who cannot attend.

Creating a personal eco-friendly fundraising site online empowers supporters to help turn an ordinary campaign into a viral campaign because it’s a naturally social way to communicate your story, engage supporters and compel them to give.

About Those Incentives

Some schools offer incentives to the students who bring in the most money. Have an open debate among your PTA group about the type of message you want to send to the kids. Sometimes these incentives are junky toys or candy, and they can seem like a frivolous use of your hard earned fundraising dollars.

So if you opt to use them, consider this list of healthier school incentives to keep the options safer or more intrinsically rewarding.

Has your school, club, etc. run a super successful environmentally friendly fundraiser? Or have you had a flop? Either way – we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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  1. I have a small charity that I want to do a fundraiser for and my 11 year old son loves to sell things to neighbors, etc. I saw seeds and bulbs which I dont think would do well here. Have you come across other ideas for things a kid might sell to neighbors family, etc that are more on the eco friendly side?

    1. Amity Hook-Sopko says:

      For smaller scale fundraising, he could offer services like raking neighbors’ leaves, washing cars, walking dogs (or something you feel safe allowing him to do) and letting them know he’s donating the payment to charity.