Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eco-Friendly Auction Items

My kid's elementary school had an auction tonight and we were determined to both support our local public school and honor the spirit of April's Buy-Nothing Challenge.

In terms of what to give, we decided to go with eco/crunchy items that busy friends and neighbors might already covet but hadn't yet tracked down. Time is what we all really lack, right? Here are three ideas (phew, they all sold! and two people actually got into a bidding war for the cleaning basket so I'm making another!) in case you're trying to come up with something eco-friendly to give to an auction.

BYOBag Medley
2 reusable shopping bags (Get Hip Get Green and Make Love Not Carbon); 5 cloth produce/bulk/grain bags; 3 mesh produce bags; 1 string bag plus red string to tie around your finger to help you to remember to bring them to the store! (I got the bags at ReusableBags and ecobags)

Crunchy Lunch Bunch Basket
2 Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles with sport tops; stainless steel containers (2 small, 2 large); 2 red check Wrap-N-Mat reusable sandwich holders; 1 box Cut-Rite waxed paper bags; 2 organic cotton lunch sacks with fabric markers (perfect art project!)

Mean Green Cleaning Machine Basket
3 spray bottles containing nontoxic, environmentally friendly cleaning concoctions (All-Purpose Cleaner, Window Wash, and Produce Wash) - plus recipes for these. Dozen assorted cloth rags, 2 natural cellulose sponges, Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond. I am a huge dork so I not only upcycled old baby towels for the rags (local towels! already passed down from another family to us! used by 4 kids!) but then geekily sewed heart shaped scraps on them with my freecycled sewing machine so the winners could feel all mellow and happy while they got their clean on. Also?! I found in *my* rag bag a Santa Cruz Earth Day t-shirt from '91 that had a big earth on it. It went front and center on one of the sewn cleaning-rag sandwiches. (Note: the All-Purpose Cleaner and Window Wash recipes are from Better Basics -- I used rosemary essential oil which is a natural antifungal and antibacterial agent; I steer clear of the popularly used tea tree and lavender oils as I have heard they may be linked to endocrine disruption aka man-boobs. Also? I skip fresh lemon juice although it's a great natural antiseptic since it has to be refrigerated. But good to keep in mind if you need to say, disinfect a cutting board on the spot.)

So that covered our contributions (hope the specifics are helpful for folks at the auction who asked me where to get particular items). But what to buy to support the school without acquiring stuff?

Luckily, in the thick of the auction organization team were both a former EWG staffer and an eco-minded neighbor (who jogged by me today with a bunch of newspaper bags for the dog park, talk about reuse and public awareness) who know their audience. I got this email titled Give Green at the School Auction just yesterday:

Hi MamaBird,

I know that April is your "don't buy a thing" month, which has got me thinking about some of my own impulse buys (stop me before I spend $5 on 73 perfect blueberries). So I wanted to let you know that I created two items at the school auction with people like you & me in mind: the Teacher Wish List and School Library Fund. We don't (just) want more stuff, we want to contribute to the school.

We asked the teachers and staff to give us their "wish lists." We think you'll agree that this is what the auction is all about -- providing the resources that our teachers need.

Teacher's Wish List: On every teacher and staff member's list (it would be wonderful to fulfill this dream!) - A working copy machine and a supply of paper.
Um, be still my beating heart. When I taught I used to spend half my life (and disposable income) at Kinko's and the other half breathing purple ditto paper fumes. I cannot believe that I didn't know my kid's teachers don't have enough paper or a functioning copy machine. We totally leapt at that one. And we won a bowling party for my daughter with her teacher (yeah!) and a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Zoo for her and some friends.

Rockin' night and relieved to report, a pretty non-consumptive night after all, despite money changing hands for good reason.


De in D.C. said...

I aimed for useful yet not just consumerable items for my son's school auction last year. I donated a dozen assorted heirloom variety tomato seedlings that I had raised. The PTA divided them into two auctions. One went for $5 (the minimum bid amount) and the other didn't sell. I think I'll go with your ideas if they host an auction again (they didn't this year).

MamaBird said...

Oh, De! I so wish you were at our school - I would have bought all of your seedlings! I love that idea. We have a community garden in the nhood so even though most of us don't have space for yard gardens (or raising seedlings indoors!) I bet they would have a big hit over here....

Anonymous said...

great ideas!

other silent auction "items" that get major bidding at the schools our kids have attended: babysitting, computer help (my husband donated a few hours to the highest bidder to deal with whatever ailed their home computer), or any other service -- maybe a parent will babysit, or cut hair, or rake leaves (that one won BIG last year at BC's elementary school -- and the donator and her family dutifully came by the home and raked up a gazillion leaves in the fall. it was wonderful.)

hat's off to you, madame.

Jessica said...

great, superb auction items! i will be shamelessly copying you at our own school's fall auction.

De in D.C. said...

We should talk next spring. I love raising seedlings (my own non-biological children) and often do a few extras for friends. Maybe you could do a fund raiser with your community garden, where funds are donated to a local charity (Capital Area Food Bank, Martha's Table, Whitman-Walker, etc). I'd be happy to donate plants.

katydidnot said...

you are tres cool.

Gruppie Girl said...

My Girlie's elementary school just had an auction too. I may have to "borrow" a few of your basket ideas.

At Girlie's school they mostly auctioned experiences;
mini golf with the librarian
pizza with the custodian
breakfast with your teacher
a day with the principal

I bid and bid, but didn't win anything this year. Bummer.

Susannah said...

It wasn't just your Green Cleaning Basket that inspired a bidding war -- the reusable bags did too! I noticed a woman I'd never met before staking it out, determined to win (and did). Turns out it was the principal's daughter who texted her mom (who couldn't be there) to ask, "Who is this M***a who keeps outbidding me?" (This I found out yesterday during a meeting with the principal about something else!)

MamaBird said...

Wreke - great ideas, I love services instead of goods for most any present, too (we could really use some haircuts if you're talented in that dept)

Jessica - awesome, glad you can use some ideas for your Silver Spring fundraisers - payback for all the great activity ideas I pirate for our family from your blog!

De - that is a neat idea, a plant swap slash fundraiser for our community garden - I belong to DC Urban Gardeners and they were talking recently about a plant swap - maybe they'd take that one on.

Katydidnot - nothing beats your cell phone story! good job on the attempts at reuse...

Gruppie Girl - you've described the perfect auction experience -- you totally supported your school by bidding and bidding the prices up, the winners all walked with experiences, AND you have all your dinero still in your pocket! And I'm sharing the ideas for a reason, please adapt and cater to your audience and then tell us all about it!

Susannah - that is such a funny story! I had to go home to put CBoy to bed so I missed some of the drama. Thanks for the update! I will have to see if Dr. K has any other enviro needs I can help meet...

Anonymous said...

Mamabird - I love the crunchy sandwich wraps. Do you know if I can make them with plain ol cotton or cotton/poly blend? EM in DC!

MamaBird said...

EM - I think you could totally make sandwich wraps. The ones we use have an inner layer of some type of plastic (thick) that apparently is safe. But I don't really think you need the plastic layer to keep the sandwich fresh and you have to wash them anyways each time you use them. You'd need velcro strips at top and bottom. Big square - you put sandwich in middle and wrap up -- l and r sides fold in, then bottom up, velcro top down. HTH!

Going Crunchy said...

What an amazing thing to do! I'm in awe. You didn't feed the consumption machine AND turned people on to some cool ideas. I must keep this in my idea pot. Shannon