Eco-friendly fundraising: Green your school brand

Schools can set the agenda when it comes to environmentally-friendly fundraising

Green your brand

How we use and reuse plastic matters. For too long single-use plastics were a major cause of avoidable waste and pollution at events. The government has recently banned single-use straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and a ban on other single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery and trays will come into force in October in England, in a bid to reduce land and ocean pollution. The move belatedly follows similar bans in Scotland, Wales, the EU, India and elsewhere.

Hopefully most schools have been forward-thinking enough to minimise this kind of waste already, but why not take a lead and brand your whole event as a fundraiser that supports the planet, as well as your school.

Do a shout-out for reusable crockery and cutlery that can be donated, or encourage people to bring their own. According to Sam Pitman, co-founder of sustainability groups Eco Essex and Eco Education, it’s about making realistic changes and offering incentives: ‘If the children want fizzy drinks at the disco, offer a discount if they bring their own reusable cup.’ Serve condiments in big containers instead of wasteful plastic sachets and set up refill ‘stations’ for water. Ask pupils and parents or carers to bring reusable bags to carry home anything they buy. Cut down on printing by using social media, email newsletters and digital flyers. Encourage people to walk or cycle to the event instead of driving.

Ethics and recycling

Why not look at everything on your stalls and ask where it came from and where it’s going next. Focus on offering as many local, organic and Fairtrade products as you can, and make a feature of seasonal local goodies. Offer any leftover products to a shelter or food bank. Embrace vintage, asking for good-quality donations for tombolas, and giving second-hand books and other quality items as prizes. Avoid plastic tat that will be in the bin by teatime. Make sure waste areas are clearly signposted and use colour-coded bins to avoid recyclables being dumped in general waste.

Run a second-hand book stall to encourage reading and enlist your pupils to make it as exciting as possible. Think about running this as an ongoing fundraiser. Equip it with accessories, such as Fairtrade bookmarks, book covers and cushions.

Simple swaps

Be creative about reusing and repurposing materials. Get pupils to think differently about packaging by jazzing up brown paper and cardboard boxes used in deliveries and selling these on a stall. They could also make bunting to use up old scraps of uniform.

Get everyone on brand

If your school doesn’t already have an eco council, then work with pupils to set one up. Make sure you help communicate pupil goals across the school and your community. Encourage your PTA to support pupil goals in its fundraising initiatives.

Pre-loved uniform

Selling second-hand uniform is great for the bank balance and the environment. The government requires schools to keep uniform costs down, but new items are still a big expense. Yet with children growing out of clothes quickly, there’s a lot of good-quality used uniform available. Setting up an operation to sell pre-loved clothing not only brings supply and demand together, it can also raise significant sums for school coffers.

Do ensure you communicate the availability of second-hand uniform – and the important sustainability message that goes hand in hand with reusing clothes. If you collect uniform, provide parents with an easy way to drop off donated items, ideally with a permanent, clearly marked container near the school entrance.

There may be a space you can clear out and use as a permanent shop. Or ask if any parents have an extra room, dry garage space or usable shed. Although you can sell uniform at playground sales, many schools found new ways to get stock to parents during lockdown and have retained these – for example, setting up a rail of clothes somewhere accessible. Alternatively, hold a pop-up sale just before the end of the school day or set up a stall at events. If you have a PTA, enlist its support in making sure items are washed and repaired, labelled by size and hung or folded neatly.

Price uniform according to condition and stock levels to avoid having to store too much. If your school community faces hardship, provide an honesty box enabling parents to take clothes for free, make a donation or give extra if they can. If your PTA is struggling to find volunteers, take the operation online. One option is to create a dedicated Facebook group, where parents can upload images of their available items. Set up a PayPal account for donations – either priced or as a virtual honesty box. Or use a one-stop shop such as, or PTAs may request only uniform or logo items, but asking for donations of warm coats could help raise extra funds or keep the cold at bay for children of the worst-off families.

'In the first week alone, we sold more than 200 items'

‘Our PTA has collected and sold pre-loved uniform for around five years at pop-up events and online during the pandemic. I approached the headmaster with an idea for a permanent space to collect, store and sell the uniform, and the old PTA storeroom was the perfect place to transform.

After drafting plans, I set about applying for grants. We were very grateful to Bury Council Climate Action Community Fund, who awarded the PTA just under £5,000 for the refurbishment and a new storage container, while builders and decorators from the school community offered their time for free.

The shop is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-3.45pm and is staffed by PTA committee members and parent volunteers. In the first week alone we sold more than 200 items.

Buying second-hand can help parents save money, and all of the sale price goes straight into PTA funds to help pay for equipment and experiences for our school children. We hope our success can inspire others to do the same.’

  • Katie Marsden, chair, Greenmount Primary School PTA, Bury, Manchester (250 pupils)

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