Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the Earth Day Groceries Project?
Q. How do I participate?
Q. How did this project get started?
Q. What are the costs?
Q. What are the benefits?
Q. Who can participate?
Q. Who sponsors this Project?
Q. Who endorses this?
Q. What is the project’s goal?
Q. Where can I learn about similar hands-on environmental awareness projects?
Q. Why is the project managed on the Internet?
Q. How should we decorate our bags?
Q. What are the results from past years?
Q. What are your plans for the future?
Q. What if I can't find a local store that uses paper bags?

 

Q. What is the Earth Day Groceries Project?

A. The Earth Day Groceries Project is an easy, cost-free environmental awareness project that teams up youth and grocers to spread the message of Earth Day. To participate, teachers simply borrow paper grocery bags from a local grocery store. Students decorate the bags with environmental messages about reuse, recycling, wildlife, etc. The bags are then returned to the grocery store, and on Earth Day, April 22 of each year, customers receive their groceries— along with the message that kids care about our environment— in the decorated bags.

Q. How do I participate?

A. To participate, follow these four simple steps:

1. Borrow Paper Bags. Contact a local grocery store that uses paper grocery bags. See if the manager will let you "borrow" enough bags so that each student in your school can decorate one. Let the manager know about the project and its environmental education message, of course!

2. Decorate Paper Bags. Have students decorate the bags with the name of their school, friendly environmental messages, pictures of the earth, or a favorite natural resource. Make them into works of art!

3. Deliver Paper Bags. Before Earth Day (April 22) return the decorated bags to your grocery store (with many thanks to the manager!). On Earth Day, shoppers receive their groceries--along with the message that kids care about our environment-- in the decorated bags.

4. Report Your Participation. Log on to the project’s website and fill out the short report form, so your bags will count toward the international tally. Each school’s report will be automatically included in a Random Drawing for a free Prize Package for your school and students.

Q. How did this project get started?

A. Mark Ahlness, a retired third grade teacher from Arbor Heights Elementary School in Seattle, Washington, (founder of the Earth Day Groceries Project and this Web site) came across the idea of decorating paper grocery bags for Earth Day in a  summer workshop for teachers in 1993. In the spring of 1994, working from his home computer, Mark distributed information about the project to two listservs (Ednet and Kidsphere), and invited others to join in. That first year, 43 schools sent him email reporting that more than 10,000 students from across the U.S. and Canada had decorated over 13,000 Earth Day bags. Mark developed this Web site to help promote the project and environmental awareness.

Q. What are the costs?

A. This is a cost free project. No money or special materials required— just time to meet with your local grocer to borrow a supply of paper grocery bags for your students to decorate, and time to return the decorated bags to the grocery in time for Earth Day (April 22 each year).

Q. What are the benefits?

A. This project is designed to enhance students’ environmental knowledge, along with skills in art, computer science, geography, math and science. It helps educate and empower youth to make a difference in their communities. Participating teachers have reported a strong positive response from the local community, the establishment of a positive relationship with the local grocery store, and often the attention of local media.

Q. Who can participate?

A. Any group of students that wants to promote environmental awareness. Classes, schools, Day Care centers, Scout troops, 4-H Clubs, church groups and art clubs have all participated. The project has also been implemented at community events for Earth Day (April 22), Arbor Day, America Recycles Day (Nov. 15), and Martin Luther King Day.

Q. What do we get for participating?

A. You can download a Certificate of Participation after registering your report. Your groups’ report will be featured on the site, and your bags will be added to this year’s national tally. If you contact your local media, you may get some press coverage too. And don’t forget the reward of being part of an international effort to promote environmental awareness!

Q. Who sponsors this Project?

A. The Earth Day Groceries Project is managed online and sponsored by its founder, Mark Ahlness, a former third grade teacher at Arbor Heights Elementary School in Seattle, Washington. Individuals and organizations can help support the project by becoming a sponsor.

Q. Who endorses this?

A. Just about every environmental and educational organization that learns about it! The Earth Day Groceries Project has been featured in Weekly Reader, Science & Children magazine, Copy Cat magazine, and many local and national newspapers. It has been promoted to teachers via Project Learning Tree and the Society for Developmental Education’s national teacher conferences. The International Educational and Resources Network has helped to spread the word internationally.

Q. What is the project’s goal?

A. To increase environmental awareness, to educate and empower youth to make a difference in their communities. And of course, to involve as many schools and students as possible—to start a movement, if you will!

Q. Where can I learn about similar hands-on environmental awareness projects?

A. Check out these cool Web sites for similar fun, free educational environmental projects:

Earth’s 911— www.1800cleanup.org

IEARN — www.iearn.org

Kids For A Clean Environment — www.kidsface.org

Tree Musketeers — www.treemusketeers.org

 

Q. Why is the project managed on the Internet?

A. The Internet allows students and teachers from across the globe to quickly and easily exchange ideas and information, and to work together to promote environmental awareness.

Q. How should we decorate our bags?

A. For starters, take a look at some of the beautiful decorated bags on the Pictures page. For other cool ideas, check out the suggestions at Educational Support and Starter Kit. Deciding what to put on the bags is up to you. Be positive and creative. Use crayons or markers to draw pictures of the earth (use a coffee can lid to trace the circle; show the different continents). Or create catchy Earth Day slogans such as "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Draw your favorite animal, body of water, mountain or type of tree. Draw pictures of the different types of recycling activities. Remember to check your spelling. Also, it’s okay to include first names on the bags, but NO last names, as the bags will be handed out to strangers.

Q. What are the results from past years?

A. You can read reports from 1994-2014 at the Read Reports page. You can read a summary of each year on the Facts and Figures section of our Web site. In 1995 about 115 schools from across the US and Canada participated — decorating and distributing over 45,000 Earth Day bags. (Note: Since some students decorated more than one bag, it is difficult to get an accurate count of student participation. A reasonable estimate would be about 40,000 students.

  • In 1996, 188 schools participated, and students decorated 78,973 Earth Day grocery bags!
  • In 1997, 314 schools participated, and students decorated 10,899 earth day grocery bags!
  • In 1998, 489 schools participated, and students decorated 164,723 earth day grocery bags!
  • In 1999, nearly 1,200 schools participated, and students decorated almost 400,000 earth day grocery bags!

Q. What are your plans for the future?

A. This is an annual project. Earth Day is April 22, each year.  We'll be here.

 

Q. What if I can't find a local store that uses paper bags?

A. If you can't use paper bags, you can have your students decorate individual fliers, or even bookmarks, which can be handed out to shoppers or inserted in their shopping bags.  These will be counted in the project tally, so do send in your report!