Many parent groups are looking for ways to tread more lightly on Mother Earth. Bringing a green message to your bake sale is a powerful way to pass along lessons to your children.

If your bake sale is part of an ecofest or other such green event, of course you’ll want to join in the theme. If your bake sale is not attached to a larger event billed as “green,” you may want to take a subtle approach. Either way, you’ll want to follow the three basic commandments of green living: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

How far you go with your green theme is up to your group. Think about your community and how your patrons will feel about perhaps sacrificing convenience for the sake of the environment. Be sure to keep your message light and fun, not preachy. Here are some ideas:

  • Cover your tables in tablecloths or fabric rather than disposable paper or plastic covers.

  • Use a large piece of muslin as a tablecloth. Tie-dye it in your school’s colors.

  • Don’t use any decorations that will go to waste. Instead, decorate with reusable supplies, or take a minimalist approach with a recyclable cardboard sign that simply says “Bake Sale.”

  • For colorful decorations, try potted plants or in-season fruit.

  • Offer paper napkins, but place a placard nearby gently urging people to take only what they need.

  • Have a cloth napkin drive, and see whether you can collect enough to offer cloth napkins instead of paper. Enlist a volunteer to launder them.

  • Borrow small reusable plastic plates from the cafeteria or a restaurant. Enlist kids to wash them.

  • Use green cleaning supplies: a nontoxic all-purpose cleaner, soap, water, and cleaning cloths rather than paper towels.

  • Consider buying biodegradable containers made from corn, sugarcane, or other products. Order them online in bulk. Adjust your prices to reflect the cost of the containers, and post a sign explaining that the containers are better for the environment.

  • Reduce packaging as much as possible, forgoing colorful ties and other decorations. If wrapping in plastic wrap, don’t use more than you need.

  • Try edible packaging. Cupcakes may be baked in ice-cream cones. Experiment with other edible bowls made from puff pastry or chocolate. Hollowed-out fruit such as melon or oranges will also work as bowls that can be composted.

  • Place recycling bins, a compost bin, and a trash can near your table, spelling out exactly what goes in each.

  • Instead of selling water in plastic bottles, serve ice water from pitchers. Encourage patrons to bring back their cup for a refill rather than tossing the cup and grabbing a new one.

  • Have students write environmental messages on paper plates, such as “Respect Planet Earth” and “The Earth gives us food; pay it back by reducing, reusing, and recycling.”

  • Use earth-friendly colors such as green and brown to help relay your message.

  • Some ingredients in baked goods may be labeled “fair trade,” which means an organization oversees production to make sure workers in poor countries are not exploited. Consider using fair-trade coffee, sugar, and cocoa. Label treats made with fair-trade products, letting patrons know why they may cost a bit more.

  • Make arrangements to donate leftovers to a shelter.

  • When you clean up, make certain to pick up all litter and to get recyclables and compostables to the right places.

Having a green bake sale isn’t about being trendy or lecturing your patrons. It’s about showing your kids that recycling is important every day, even when trying to pull off a bake sale event. It’s about being creative in finding ways to limit waste. Most important, it’s about imparting a green message while having fun.