Ideas & Advice

Judging Criteria for Champions' Award Applications

Projects must address one or more of the following: prevention or reduction of pollution in the air, water or land; waste reduction; restoration, preservation or enhancement of natural areas; water or energy efficiency. Projects should educate the community and make a lasting difference to the environment. Winning projects are well planned, logical, and are highly like to meet  goals and objectives. Be as detailed as possible when completing the application. Projects are evaluated on the degree to which they satisfy the following criteria:

  • Benefits to the Environment--Project offers definite improvement/protection of the environment through one comprehensive program or through multiple activities
  • Outreach--Project offers extensive education or involvement opportunities for those outside the project (school, parents, and/or the community)
  • Student Education--Project offers strong, clearly defined learning opportunities
  • Suitable Use of Funds--Project budget clearly states how use of funds are directly related to the project and its goals; see "Stretching Your Buck" below
  • Student Involvement--Project is largely designed by students and/or implemented by students
  • Realization Factor--Project is highly likely to meet goals and objectives
  • Sustainability/Long Term Benefits for the Environment or Environmental Learning--Project will take place over many years, is sustainable, and will have long-term benefit
  • Innovative and/or Creative--Project is something new or uses a novel approach to address a common issue
  • Partnerships--Outside partners, volunteers, or other environmental education programs (like Green Steps) are actively involved, providing additional resources, knowledge, or donations to the project

Stretching Your Buck

Champions is a competitive grant program; therefore, a limited number of projects will receive funding. Priority will be given to applications that make the most of this one-time funding. Consider using the funds to pay for something you would not/could not otherwise provide. Here are some suggestions to help you stretch your funds and get the biggest bang for your buck:

  • Although not required, securing additional funding from other grants, private donations or other sources can strengthen your proposal. If other sources of funding have been, or will be, made, include this information in the application.
  • If mulch is needed for a garden project, check with county and city offices. Sometimes they give away mulch for free. Also, check with local garden centers. They might be willing to donate landscaping supplies.
  • If you need to print outreach materials, print two-sided. It's environmentally friendly and economical!
  • Borrow construction tools from parents or teachers.
  • Purchase supplies that can be stay with the classroom like binoculars, recycling bins, microscopes, books, etc.
  • Talk to parent/teacher organizations, civic groups, and local businesses to secure donations of time, food, giveaway items like t-shirts and prizes, or any items that may be used only once. If field trips will be scheduled, coordinate with parents to serve as chaperones. These steps free you up to purchase items that directly support the goals of the project. If donations have been or will be made, include this information in the application.

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Project Ideas

Pollinator Conservation

  • Establish or enhance a pollinator habitat (including removal of invasive species)
  • Create a Monarch Waystation
  • Establish a school apiary--collect and share honey produced by the bees
  • Develop and share organic pest control methods 
  • Provide and maintain nest sites to support all pollinator life stages
  • Identify pollinators and record/share your data to protect native SC pollinators
  • Create a garden app to share with your community


  • Start a septic tank maintenance program to minimize human health risks from untreated sewage, and educate people about the environmental pollution caused by failing septic tanks.
  • Implement a storm drain-marking program to raise awareness about non-point source pollution.
  • Establish a campaign to pick up pet waste to reduce impacts to water resources and human health.
  • Install a rain garden or rain barrel at your school, and include an outreach campaign encouraging rain garden and rain barrel installation at home.
  • Implement a water efficiency/conservation campaign to raise awareness about the connection between water and energy use.


  • Implement anti-idling policies at your school for buses, carpoolers, and delivery vehicles. Purchase and erect "No Idling" signs around school reinforcing anti-idling policy. Generate outreach materials so that people will understand and support the anti-idling policies.
  • Build an information kiosk for air quality lessons for students and information for parents to learn about different air quality topics.
  • Plant (native) trees and shrubs around your school to help reduce the effects of air pollution. Include an outreach component to educate students about the project. Consider options such as xeriscaping, which can make the most of soil conditions using native plants and rainfall.
  • Start a carpool or vanpool program at school to reduce traffic and improve air quality.
  • Work with your community to assist in holding a Lawn Mower Exchange event.
  • Host a poster/calendar contest to educate students, parents, and faculty about air quality issues.
  • Develop an outreach campaign that educates students, parents, and faculty on sources of local air pollution and the possible health effects.
  • Find out if your community could work with you on establishing an open burning awareness campaign.
  • Provide information to students and their families on using greener products at home to reduce pollutants.
  • Develop a campaign to increase awareness among teachers, students, and parents regarding the availability of the ozone forecast via Twitter or EnviroFlash.
  • Establish a school flag program to help on-campus audiences become aware of the ozone forecast for the next day during ground-level ozone season.


  • Purchase supplies needed for any of the Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow lessons.
  • Start a recycling program for your school. Purchase recycling bins for classrooms, break rooms, and media centers. Install outdoor recycling collection containers to consolidate all the material collected from the classroom, etc.
  • Go green in your school's backyard through the SC Smart Gardener Program.
  • Buy composting bins (outdoor bins or student-built classroom worm bins for inside) and all necessary supplies to implement a composting program by collecting food scraps from the cafeteria. It is important to follow guidelines as outlined in "Composting: A Guide for South Carolina Schools."
  • Start a beautification/anti-littering project that includes outreach/education (students develop a marketing campaign, produce TV spots for their school's morning television) or participate in actual pick-up projects (gloves, safety vests, bags would be needed).
  • Pay for materials or supplies to implement projects that help your school establish or sustain itself as a SC Green Steps School.
  • South Carolina students can learn about the environment by exploring areas of interest beyond what is offered in the curriculum through participation in an environmental club. The "Reducing Food Waste: A Guide for SC Schools" provides tips and resources to get started.

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Ideas from Our Blog 

Young Innovators Recognized for Environmental Efforts

Inspiring Environmental Education

Building a Living Shoreline

Deerfield Recycling Initiative

It's for the Birds…An Introduction to Ornithology with Kids

Chesnee High Water Bottle Project

Dent Middle School Mitigates Stormwater Runoff

Carolina Springs Middle School Beautification Collaboration

Richland Two Institute of Innovation's Ecofitness Project

Solar Power Shines at Leaphart Elementary School

Montessori School of Anderson Compost Initiative

Northwest Middle School Recycling and Bird Conservation


Champions Coordinator: Amanda Ley,


K-12 Students Teachers