Starting a High School Green Club for Zero Dollars and Zero Cents
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
By: Celia Darling
Freshman year, I went to my high school’s club fair looking to join our green club. I quickly noticed that said green club did not exist. I remember thinking to myself, “man someone should start one of those.” It took me until junior year to realize I could be that someone; Webster Thomas Earth Club was born.
Rule #1 of creating a green club: You are someone and you can start a green club.
This will vary from school to school, so check out the process for club formation at your high school. In speaking with my friends in different districts, it seems universal that you need to come up with a name, find an advisor, and clear your club with the administration or student council to make it official. Before you do all that though, it is important to create a mission statement to assist you with every aspect of your organization.
Mission Statement: This is the backbone of your organization. It basically says who you are, what you stand for, and what you do. Your group’s mission statement can be as specific or as vague as you like. It can also evolve and grow along with your organization. As an example, here is the mission statement Webster Thomas Earth Club started with in 2018:
“Our mission is to discuss, educate, and take action on environmental issues in Webster Thomas, our local community, and the world.”
Pro tip: A great first meeting activity is developing a mission statement.
Naming: While it seems like the name of your club is inconsequential to you saving the world, it is actually very important. Your club’s name will be the first thing prospective members, elected officials, and community members hear about you.
You could be simple and general by calling yourself an Eco, Earth, Environmental, or Green group. If your club wants to focus on a specific aspect of environmentalism, like climate change or plastic pollution, your name could reflect that. Looking back at your mission statement might help with brainstorming ideas!
Pro tip: Everyone loves puns. Punny names are amazing attention grabbers.
Finding an Advisor: When looking for an adult to mentor your club, make sure to ask someone you have a good relationship with. They don’t necessarily have to be a science teacher or a climate change expert: they just have to have a bit of passion for saving the world.
Pro tip: It might be helpful to make a list of a few advisors so if someone says no you have other options. Also remember to take into account if this person can stay after school or if they already advise other clubs.
Pitching It: Now that you have a name, advisor, and mission statement, you are 100% ready to bring your club idea to whatever establishment process your school has. Remember your mission statement and your “why” for starting your club.
Pro tip: Take a deep breath. You got this.
Getting the Word Out
First of all, congrats on being the founder of your school’s green club! Second of all, now you need some members.
Advertising: Get an announcement on your school’s morning show, make posters, ask teachers if you can write your club and meeting time on their board, and take to your social media pages. Invite all of your friends! Be creative getting the word out!
Pro tip: Advertise food for your first meeting. They’ll come for the food and stay to save the world. Vegan brownies, anyone?
Social Media: Creating social media pages is not only a stellar way to gain new members but a method to document the work your organization does. In my experience, Instagram is the best place to start as it is most used by high school students. You can post about meeting times and events as well as campaigns you are working on.
Pro tip: Canva is your best friend. You can use it for everything from logo development to making posts advertising a clean up!
Increasing Involvement: Do not be discouraged if your club starts small. You can do a lot with four people (believe me I’ve done it). Remember to always invite new people to meetings and events and encourage others to do the same. The longer you exist, the more you’ll grow.
Pro tip: Create officer positions. This will take some of the workload off of your plate and increase involvement as people will be more excited about something when they have a leadership role.
Yes, I am aware the title of this article is “Starting a High School Green Club for Zero Dollars and Zero Cents.” And yes, I am a strong believer that you don’t need any money to run a successful organization, as I have done it. However, if at some point you would like to fundraise, here is my list of tried and true money-making methods.
Collect cans and bottles.
Work at an electronic recycling drive (my organization has made a lot of money from this.)
Ask your Parent-Teacher Association for money.
Have a bake sale.
Ask members to pay dues, if they are able.
Top 10 Ideas for High School Green Clubs
When I was developing my organization, I found the Internet didn’t have the greatest ideas for high school Earth club activities. These 10 are my tried and true. Enjoy.
1 — Host a Clean Up This is a super simple way to save the world, plus it’s easier than you think. All you need is a date and a location, some bags (I like to save bread bags or paper bags to use so we aren’t throwing away virgin plastic), and people to pick up trash. Make sure to spread the word on social media.
Pro tip: Invite people to bring their own garden gloves to prevent using disposable gloves.
2 — Start a School Wide Campaign Maybe you are disgusted by the amount of Styrofoam trays your school uses or think it would be awesome to compost your cafeteria food waste. Your group might want to have a campaign to get hand dryers in the bathrooms to save paper towel waste or simply want to make it evident how many plastic water bottles your student body uses.
This is one of the benefits of being a high school environmental club: you can make your school greener!
3 — Plant Trees Who doesn’t love carbon sequestration? This is a fun way to give back to Mother Earth by getting your hands dirty.
Pro tip: The DEC offers free trees to educational groups every spring. Check out the link here.
4 — Get Little Ones Involved This is one of my favorites: finding ways to bring sustainability to elementary school students. Your club could host a table at their open houses, create bookmarks with earth friendly children’s books on them, or host an Earth Day poetry contest for little ones. You could also host a climate day for them where they could learn ways to save the Earth at home!
Pro tip: Crayola does marker recycling! This would be a super fun initiative to start at elementary schools! Here’s the link.
5 — Create Green Art An extensive (but not complete) list of Earth art ideas:
Sidewalk chalk the outside of your school.
Make protest signs.
Create a bottle wall to show how many plastic bottles your school uses in a certain amount of time (I’ve done it, it’s cool.)
Paint a green mural.
Have students sign a green pledge by putting their handprint on a banner. (Also have done it. Would 100% recommend, people love getting messy. Plus, you can display the banner afterwards!)
Create a pledge paper chain. (Have students write one green action they will take on a strip of reused paper. Then take all of the actions and staple them together into a paper chain to show the chain reaction.)
Host an art competition.
Check out #earthartchallenge on Instagram or Twitter for ideas.
6 — Host Themed Days This could be watching a documentary with snacks or having a speaker come in. Make sure to advertise to everyone in your school to get more involvement!
Pro tip: Check if speakers from your local Drawdown chapter want to come in!
7 — Lobby Your Reps This could be on any level; however, you can feel the most progress and have the most direct impact at the local level. Maybe you lobby your county to create a Climate Action Plan or demand your town starts using more renewables. Have letter writing parties, host callathons and speak at town hall meetings! You can also always get involved in NY²CL’s statewide campaigns too.
8 — Attend Climate Summits This is one of the best ways to network! It also allows your club to learn about local problems and be exposed to new campaigns and solutions! Make sure to look for local ones in your area. Check if one hosted by the Wild Center is near you here.
9 — Get Other Clubs Involved Hosting events or having joint meetings with other school clubs is a prime example of getting everyone involved with saving the Earth. It also divides up some of the organizing on your club’s end. For example, my club has hosted cleanups with the Cross Country team, posted volunteer opportunities with National Honor Society, and chalked our school with Best Buddies. We have always gained new members from these events and had a blast in the process!
10 — Become a NY²CL Member Organization If you live in New York and have yet to register your group as a New York Youth Climate Leaders member organization, you should get on that. We host monthly challenges that would be amazing activities for your school’s environmental club.
Could you do all of these things and have a great green club? I’d like to think so.
Could you do none of them and still have a great green club? Yup.
These are all merely suggestions I’ve picked up from my time founding and directing my school’s green club. There is no perfect environmental group. What matters is that we have organizations who are working to protect our home.
Always remember Rule #1: You are someone and you can start a green club.
Celia Darling is a current high school senior in Rochester, NY and serves as the Director of Finance for the New York Youth Climate Leaders.