Thursday, April 19, 2018

Send in Your Report 4/19/18

Dear Earth Day Groceries Project Participants,

It's almost Earth Day, and I hope you've had a great time with the project! Please take a minute to share your experiences with everybody else. You can do that via:

  • The Project website, at Send in Your Report (certificate you can print out, at the end)
  • Post a comment (and pictures!) on the Facebook page. They'll be shared up front for everyone to see!
  • If you are a Flickr user, you can share pictures on our Flickr Page.
Scoala cu clasele I-VIII, Cioranii de Sus, Prahova, Romania, 2009

Many thanks to you all, and Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Press Release 4/15/18

With one week to Earth Day, here's an updated press release that participating schools and organizations can distribute to media. Click to view/print/download:

Friday, April 13, 2018

Backgrounds for phones/desktops 4/13/18

It's been a longstanding tradition for the Earth Day Groceries Project to offer free computer  background images of the Birds of Washington. This year, for the 25th Anniversary of the project, we offer  phone/tablet versions as well!

They can be found on the website at Desktop Wallpaper.

Here's what I'm using from 2018....
On my Chromebook laptop, I look at a stunning Red-breasted Sapsucker:
On my phone there is a gorgeous Gyrfalcon:

On my desktop, I have this wise, wide screen Barred Owl:

There are several dozen more to choose from, in high definition...
 Head to:

Happy Earth Day!!

Mark Ahlnessfounder  - The Earth Day Groceries Project

Sunday, April 08, 2018

How to Participate 4/8/18

Earth Day is on April 22nd. There is still time to get involved and participate!
(Reposted from 3/16/18, with new pictures)

Here's a brief rundown on what's involved in participating in the Earth Day Groceries Project.

1. Locate a local grocery store that uses paper bags. Explain the project to the manager, and ask if you can "borrow" enough bags so each student in your school or classroom can decorate one.

2. Distribute the bags throughout your school, and explain the project to classrooms who would like to participate.

3. Give students enough time - and guidance - so they can create beautiful artwork and environmental messages on their bags.
Ormondale School in Portola Valley, CA - 2006
4. Return the decorated bags to the store before Earth Day (April 22), and ask that the store distribute the bags to shoppers on Earth Day.
Bags given to Curt, the Safeway manager by Arbor Heights Elementary, in Seattle, 2010
5. Send in a brief report - on the websiteFacebook, or even this blog, via a comment - to share how your project went. 

That's it. You can find much more detailed information and helpful suggestions on the website at Get Started.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Earth Day's in 3 Weeks - No Foolin'! 4/1/18

Earth Day is on April 22nd every year. It's always been one of the basic goals of the Earth Day Groceries Project to spread and hammer home that fact.

When my third graders visited all the classrooms in the school to explain the project and hand out classroom bags, they always talked about this. But after just a few years, they didn't need to even mention it anymore - everybody in our school knew Earth Day was April 22nd.

Except the Kindergartners. So, the lucky kids who got to speak with those little ones knew they had a little extra to talk about, along with the added responsibility of explaining the Project for the first time, to kids who knew nothing about it.
Explaining the Project to a Kindergarten class, 2007
It wasn't easy for my 8 and 9 year olds to walk into a classroom, get up in front of a class, and talk for 10-15 minutes. In fact, for most of them, it was pretty scary. There were all those smarty pants 5th graders, for instance. And they had to take - and answer - questions. So we practiced public speaking in our own classroom,in front of their classmates.

For two days they practiced, and then there were two very chaotic days when they went out to speak with classrooms and deliver bags. It was a powerful learning experience. Here's what a speaking schedule looked like:
Classroom speaking schedule. Yes, we had a chalkboard.

When a whole school participates, there is an excitement in the air. Some schools offer contests of one sort or another, usually around creative and beautiful artwork. Some schools literally cover the walls with decorated bags before returning them to the store.
Navarre, Florida, 2011

Some schools make an event out of delivering the bags to their store - a great experience for everyone:
Meeting the manager, Smith Renaissance School of the Arts at King Soopers grocery store, Denver, CO, 2010
There are many more ways to create meaningful learning opportunities. If you had special "twists" you added to the Project in your school, please feel free to share with others - by either leaving a comment here, or on our Facebook Page.

I hope your school or organization can join in this year - April 22nd!. Happy Earth Day!

Mark Ahlnessfounder  - The Earth Day Groceries Project

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Looking for a Lesson Plan? 3/28/18

Whether you are thinking about participating for the first time, or have done the project for many years, there is a fantastic lesson plan that has something helpful for everyone:

Protecting Our Precious Planet: Sharing the Message of Earth Day

Folwell Elementary in Rochester, MN
The lesson plan was written by Melissa Weimer from Waterford, Michigan - for ReadWriteThink, which is a part of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and the ILA (International Literacy Association).
Looking for learning standards for the Earth Day Groceries Project? They are listed for all 50 states. 

Besides linking back to the Project website for various parts of the lesson plan, she has developed wonderful new materials that can be printed out and used in the classroom, like:

One of the most rewarding parts of running this Project for 25 years has been the opportunity to meet so many fantastic teachers, always willing to share - and always passionate about teaching, their students, and protecting our environment.

In 2002, I did an interview for Reading Online, part of the International Reading Association, with Jean Carmody, an art teacher in Rhode Island:

You can find the above links on the Project website, at

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you are thinking about participating in the Earth Day Groceries Project, but you're not quite sure, or you have some questions, here's a great place to start (this is also on the Project web site):

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!
Discovery School in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
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. Visit the project website and fill out the short report form, so your bags will count toward the international tally. 

Q. How did this project get started?
A. Mark Ahlness, a now 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 1991. 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.
Hermitage Presbyterian Church in Hermitage, TN

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—
Kids For A Clean Environment —
Q. Why is the project managed online?
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.
Jefferson School in North Arlington, NJ

Q. What are the results from past years?
A. You can read all of the reports from 1994-2018 at the Read Reports page. Results from the early years are available in chart form at Facts and Figures. Finally, there is a summary of every single year on the Report Archives section of our Web site.

Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. This is an annual project. Earth Day is April 22 every 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!