Do something today:
volunteer for Earth Day

by Kari Gray and Carolyn Chase
erhaps you've been to the EarthFair in Balboa Park. Perhaps you've started buying products with recycled content. Perhaps you wonder what else can be done.
This is your year to make a difference for the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. There are many ways to become involved. Call the San Diego Earth Day Info Line at 496-6666 to hear about what's going on and how to get involved.

Grocery bags for Earth Day!

This new, fun and simple idea was discovered on the "internet."
Each student in the school decorates a large paper grocery bag from a local store with a picture of the earth, the words "Earth Day, 1995" (or similar), the name of their school, and possibly some catchy Earth Day slogan (i.e., Re-duce, Re-use, Re-cycle; Treat the Earth Well; Earth Day, Every Day) or your promise this year for Earth Day. When the bags are decorated, they are returned to the store to be distributed to shoppers on Earth Day. That's all there is to it.
Arbor Heights Elementary and teacher Mark Ahlness Seattle, Washington decorated 489 bags for their local Safeway. The third graders went to all the classrooms in small teams to show others how to make the bags. On April 20, they carried all the bags to the store where they were met by two local TV stations! They had a wonderful time watching the videotaped segments of ourselves on the evening news! Plus, the store manager promised the class a pizza party (imagine the glee!).

From around the country:

"The students in grades 4, 5, 6 and 8 in my school decorated Earth Day Grocery bags. They completed 200 bags. The bags were beautiful and the messages very carefully thought out. Anyone can tell be looking at these bags how much the kids care about their planet and its preservation. Along with this project the 8th graders had written Earth Day editorials in computer lab. Some of these were selected to read over the PA each morning to stimulate the students in their decorating efforts. 'It takes a whole village to educate a child.' African proverb" Cathy Ker-scher Computer Lab Teacher St. Joseph School, Maumee, Ohio
"My class was really into it and many did two bags. They came up with some great slogans. It was great to see their commitment. The bag project was wildly popular 500 bags were decorated and will be delivered to Fred Meyers by 12:00 today. Thanks." Bill Feather, Horizon School, Mukilteo, WA
"The Safeway was very cooperative. They really loved the project and we have started a new relationship with a local business! I made a poster that said who made the bags and they posted it at the main entrance. They asked their customers if they wanted plastic or an Earth Day bag and many of them were very interested and pleased. It was very worthwhile. Next year I hope to get the whole school involved. Thanks for the great idea. The Safeway manager said they will post your nation-wide results in their newsletter." Krista Canterbury, Olympic Hills, Seattle Public Schools
The students at Arbor Heights Elementary and teacher Mark Ahlness want to spread the word to get as many Earth Day Grocery Bags passed out as they can - so they posted a notice on computer networks, and last year they counted about 14,000 bags!
They had an incredible time keeping track of who was doing the project, where they live, and how many bags were made - all posted on a large map. Since this year is the 25th anniversary, the chances of collecting bags in all 50 states could be realized.
So ... please let us know how many bags you pass out on Earth Day. If you respond, we (and the students) will tabulate the total and publish the total number distributed (and the names of participating schools). Imagine all the thousands of Earth Day Grocery Bags people will be unpacking in their kitchens!
Good luck with your bags, and please remember to send us a note saying how many bags you decorated, the name and address of your school, and the store(s) that participated with you. We'll publish the total number of bags reported nationwide.
Send computer mail to: , and or mail a post card with your total to: Earth Day P.O. Box 9827, San Diego CA 92169.

How to make Earth Day Grocery Bags

Here's how its been done:
  1. Contact the manager of a local grocery store (more meaningful to all involved if it's a store where families in your school shop).
  2. Ask if you can have a "bundle" (that's 500!) of large paper grocery bags to decorate for Earth Day at your school. Explain that you'll return them a day or two before Earth Day (April 22). It might be helpful to bring along an already decorated bag to show. It's also good if the bags you get have one blank (or pretty clear) side.
  3. Deciding who will make the bags and what they will look like is up to you. We've tried to make ours look somewhat uniform and still leave some room for individual expression. We made a few templates of the earth from different angles showing the continents out of three pound coffee can lids. The kids could then trace the "earth," write their promises on them and color them in (actually, markers are more ecologically correct than crayons) the distributed the bags and templates to classrooms, we also sent along a couple of examples of completed bags and some suggestions for slogans, like "Earth Day, Every Day", "Earth Day 25", "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", etc. Some kids wanted to put their names, classroom number, etc. on, and we said fine, just NO LAST NAMES. We have had small groups of students distribute the bags and do a brief demonstration in each classroom.
  4. When the bags are collected from classrooms, we had some decisions to make regarding spelling accuracy and how that might reflect on our school, but we would say 99% of the bags went out "as is".
  5. Delivering the bags to the store has been really quite fun for the class, and was a good public relations opportunity for our school as well. You might let your school and grocer know that others across the country (so far, from Alaska to Maryland) are also doing the same thing!

Kari Gray is the San Diego Earth Day event coordinator and co-producer of EarthFair '95. Carolyn Chase is the Executive Director of SDED and recipient of the mayor's 1994 Spirit of San Diego award.