New Jersey Eco-Schools Exemplify the Benefits of Funding Programs

Seek Academy students are eager to care for their new garden. Photo by Uzma Chowdhury

Seek Academy students are eager to care for their new garden. Photo by Uzma Chowdhury

Making schools more sustainable benefits our communities, our environment, wildlife, and our students. But it doesn’t come without hard work and sometimes money. Let’s face it – resources can be difficult to obtain with today’s school budgets. So what do you do when you have the commitment but no cash? Well if you’re an Eco-School, you get creative, get collaborative, and get crowd funding.

Three New Jersey schools are collaborating with the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA, New Jersey Audubon and ioby with support from PSEG to raise money for sustainability projects. Armed with ideas, motivated students are bringing their projects to life through online crowd funding. ioby, a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen led neighborhood projects will provide training and tools while PSEG has sweetened the pot with a match of up to $2,000 per school.

The Projects

1. The Seek Academy in Newark is transforming an abandoned lot in the South Ward into a thriving school garden that provides outdoor experiences and inexpensive organic food in a neighborhood where fresh food and green space is largely unavailable. Both students and wildlife will benefit from this project.

2. In Freehold, C. Richard Applegate School is building Eco-tool boxes for student green teams to facilitate a school wide waste audit and design corresponding interventions to reduce waste and increase recycling. Students have already created a fun video to spread the word:

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3. Unity Charter built a cob gazebo last spring and are now raising money to build a living wall to protect it. In addition to enhancing their outdoor learning space the wall will also serve as a lesson in green architecture. Other project elements include adding a nature trail through their native species garden and a border to protect a bog on site. The native garden and bog will provide essential habitat for local wildlife like pollinators and birds.

Unity Charter students mix cob for an outdoor learning space. Photo by Mindy Quirk

Unity Charter students mix cob for an outdoor learning space. Photo by Mindy Quirk

It Works!

The concept is simple but effective – together we can accomplish what we cannot do alone. In recent years, a similar partnership with ioby and Eco-Schools in New York City proved to be wildly successful. Through individual gifts from community members sometimes as small as $25, schools raised $45,000 to build gardens and greenhouses, recycling programs and more.

It Can Work for You Too

Crowd-funding can be a creative way for any Eco-School to realize their sustainability vision with multiple platforms available. ioby was featured, among others in an article by The Chronicle of Philanthropy that offers a good introduction to crowd-funding as a viable option.

Schools in New Jersey will have another opportunity to get on board in early 2016 when 9 more schools will be invited to participate in the program with matching funds from PSEG. Contact ecoschools@njaudubon.org for more information.

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA.

Eco-tool boxes will help Freehold students increase recycling school wide. Photo by C. Richard Applegate School

Eco-tool boxes will help Freehold students increase recycling school wide. Photo by C. Richard Applegate School

 

Jessica BrownAbout the Author: Jessica Brown is a communications and development consultant for non profits. As a hiker and outdoor enthusiast, she is an advocate for children spending more time in nature.

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