March 22, 2017 by
The VRG Blog Editor
By Natalie Allen, VRG Intern
“Hey, do you want to learn more about the issues that face our planet and share ideas on ways we can help?” This is my elevator pitch for the environmental club at my school. I would ask kids this and if they said yes, then I would go further into explaining to them about how they can get involved with the club at our school that does exactly that. I would make sure they knew what days a week we had meetings and in which classroom, so they were bound to join.
Like any other school club, starting up an environmental club is challenging. That is why everyone should have some basic tips, whether they find them online or have an adult mentor to teach them the ways. With this article, I hope to get you motivated and feeling confident when starting an environmental club at your school.
The startup process:
First, find a friend or friends who share the same interests and motivation as you do to start the club. This is the most important part because most clubs require a certain amount of students in order to get started. Also, having like-minded people in your club will motivate you to reach the limits with your club. Next, find a teacher or other staff member at your school that will be willing to be the advisor of the club. Typically, an environmental science or other science teacher would be the best option; however, do not limit yourself to asking another teacher that you feel would be happy to be the advisor.
Secondly, you’ll need to register the club with your school; most of the time a club must be approved by the principal. Once that has been done, advertise! Spread the word out to your entire school. This is where an elevator pitch comes in handy. Basically, an elevator pitch is a short spiel that you could give to someone during a fifteen second elevator ride. The elevator pitch is easy to memorize and won’t bore the person you are talking to. To advertise, you may also use the school announcements, post posters around campus, or host an informational night or booth during lunch for students interested. From my experience, I was surprised as to how many kids wanted to be a part of the club.
Your first meeting:
Once a set day during the week is established for the meetings to be held on, you will need ideas and goals for what the club can work towards achieving. On the first day, you will definitely be overwhelmed by the turnout, but over time students tend to drop out. So if you think it is too much to handle just wait. When the meeting begins you’ll probably want a sign-in sheet so you can keep track of the devoted members of the club. This is a great idea to maintain attendance and motivation in your club. Many students during the first meeting will not know each other and so having an icebreaker game is the best way to break the awkward silence. Try out these icebreaker games from icebrakers.ws: http://www.icebreakers.ws/. A great icebreaker game I have played with my club is having each member write down an open question such as, “What are three things you would take to a deserted island?” Next have everyone go around the room introducing themselves to each other and asking their question. After that have the members switch questions each time they meet with someone new. Do this until everyone has met each other. This is most likely all of the time you will have for your first meeting and so send your new members off with a sentence or two about what’s in store for the next meeting. What you want to accomplish during your first meeting is a feeling of excitement in the club, you want students to come back to the next meeting, tell their friends, and share the fun experience they had during the meeting.
After a few weeks, you may want to get together a group of officers for your club. These officers will be in charge of different things including scheduling events and handling money. You can get creative and name the leaders of your club after environmental terms each student knows a lot about like, President of the Endangered Species Student Activist Group or President of the Student Climate Change Network. By having these unique officer names, members of the club will be interested and able to learn more about an environmental topic that they are interested in by directly talking to each officer, whilst each officer has an important job to handle.
Goals to work towards and activities:
Once, you gain a committed group of people that attend your meetings every week, you’ll want to start generating activities for the club and even bigger goals to work up to. Some suggestions for the club to do on a weekly basis include announcing an environmental fact every day on the announcements, for example, “It takes 600 gallons of water to produce a ⅓ pound burger”. Also, create posters to not only promote your club but again like the announcements to spread quick facts that will make students at your school think twice about their everyday actions. You can also host park and school cleanups every month in your community. Host an e-waste recycling event, people are always needing to get rid of old phones and cords. You can invite and host a guest speaker from your community, such as a spokesperson from a local environmental organization.
These activities are exciting but meanwhile, your club can also be working towards a bigger goal. Think about something that your school needs, such as new recycling bins, a water bottle refill station, or even a school garden. These beneficial changes can improve your school in the present and the future. However, all of these things cost a lot of money, this is why fundraising should also be a big part of your club. Some ideas for fundraising include hosting a vegan bake sale! While being able to make money for your club you can also be educating your peers on the health benefits and especially the environmental benefits of eating a vegan diet.
Ask local businesses to support your club! More often than not, many local businesses would love to support your club in exchange for advertising. Specifically, ask a local vegetarian restaurant to sponsor your club in return for advertising on your school announcements or in your school newspaper, etc. Another great way to raise money is to host a movie night in your school’s auditorium. Screen movies such as, “GMO USA” and “Before the Flood” and invite people in your school and the community to attend. Charge five dollars for entrance or host a free event while also asking for donations. Having a snack bar will also bring in revenue. Think fresh popcorn and movie theatre candy! With the movie night, you are educating and generating money for future activism. Grants are also available for environmental clubs, applying to grants such as Annie’s Grants For Gardens: http://www.annies.com/giving-back/school-gardens/grants-for-gardens/grant-faqs and the Environmental Education Grants from the EPA: https://www.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-grants are unique ways to give your club a funding boost.
After your environmental club has been started up, you’ve probably already accomplished a lot and you may have enough money to see your goals come to life. Specifically, with the school garden idea, by growing local flowers and possibly fruits and vegetables you will be able to host a new home for some bees in the neighborhood, transform your school’s landscape into a garden oasis, and potentially use the vegetables and fruits you grow to host a farmer’s market or to use in your school’s cafeteria.
Overall, starting an environmental club at your school is a challenging task, yet the benefits are worth it. If you are looking to start an environmental club at your school, get started today, for the planet does not follow time. Have fun out there!
For additional club ideas, see http://www.vrg.org/teen/#activism