PTAs are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of their fundraising activities and striving to make them more eco-friendly. But change isn't always an easy thing to achieve when time and budgets are tight. So how can you gradually introduce environmental thinking throughout your PTA, without overwhelming your committee or putting off supporters?
Form an eco committee
Put out a call to parents and form a sub-committee of passionate folk. Their first role will be to create a sustainability plan for the PTA, which can be as simple as a list of aims. For example, if you aim to reduce air miles, shop locally where you can. You can also reduce food waste by buying goods on sale or return where possible, and being aware of expiry dates. Be mindful of the reusability factor, ensuring the benefit of purchasing items outweighs the waste they create. The committee should identify issues and come up with alternatives.
Work with the school
Find out what your school is doing to protect the environment. Ask to see the school improvement plan to find out what its aims are, and encourage the school to join the Eco-Schools programme, which empowers children to drive change and improve their environmental awareness. It develops pupils' skills, improves the school environment and creates financial savings for schools while working towards the international Green Flag award.
The school's sustainability plans will not only inspire your own policies, but you may find there are ways you can help.
Find out what pupils are being taught about the environment in class, then harness this awareness to tie in with fundraisers and activities. Get pupils to create an eco council so that children can help come up with and implement changes, which the PTA can help fund.
Get people on board
If you're able to launch straight into bigger changes, such as asking people to bring their own crockery or banning cheap plastic toys from events, that's great, but some schools will require a more gradual approach to get supporters on board. Begin by introducing some simple alternatives: use digital means instead of paper to promote your events or introduce recycling bins and food composting at events. Get the children excited by making it fun - can you give the recycling bins funny faces, or run a competition to design a recycling mascot?
When announcing how much profit you've made, try to quantify your green achievements so people can see the impact they're having. Thank your visitors for their help in achieving this - it will spur them on to do even more.
Challenge the PTA and school community to get involved in a new eco concept each month. One month could be a recycling drive, another could be a litter pick, while another could be a crockery amnesty to raise awareness of single-use plastic and collect crockery for future PTA events.
What you're able to do will differ depending on your school and community. Begin by taking small steps and get as many supporters on board as possible. Together we can make a big difference.