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Six often overlooked ways to give back

6 ways to help give back to your community
6 ways to help give back to your community
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Most parents know that with their kids going back to school, they’re once again going to be collecting Box Top points. Schools basically put out a bounty on these things, and thus parents collect these little squares of paper and plastic Box Top symbols from such brands as Pillsbury and Kleenex packages. In exchange for these little symbols, the companies give money and/or supplies to the schools. So, millions of these things are turned in every year. To encourage participation, most schools will have contests to see which class, or grade, can collect the most. Kids get into it, parents start collecting, and friends and family are roped into helping. Thus, this program has been a success for many years now. What not everyone might know however, is that although it may be the best known of its kind, it is far from being alone.

Several other companies out there support similar give-back programs, but since they aren't always actively promoted by kids and school, like the Box Tops 4 Education program, they can often be overlooked. Sometimes people just don’t notice, or they might think it’s some weird promotion they wouldn't be interested in, and the codes get thrown away. When this happens, a great opportunity to give back is lost, and if you've read this column before then you also know that a great way to be green has been passed up as well.

If you think about it, being green means you renew, recycle, and reuse. With such give back programs you’re basically doing all three. You reuse the packaging when you use it for a second purpose (entering the code and giving back), you renew the world around you by helping to donate to causes that help out in your community, and then you recycle the packaging once you've used the product, and entered your code. It’s simple to do, and a win-win for everyone involved. The only extra thing you have to do is pay attention to the packaging of things you buy, so that you don’t accidentally throw any codes away.

To help increase your awareness, and get you started on your giving back new ways, here is a list of six companies and programs that are currently running such programs.

Coke: The program allows you to collect points for most of their products. In exchange you can choose a reward for yourself, or choose to use the points to donate to one of several organizations that Coke is working with at the time. Current, and past, recipients have included the Red Cross, USO, National Forest, and local schools.

Pillsbury: Along with other brands owned by their parent company, most of their products have the Box Top symbol on it. You give these to a school, and they submit them directly. As mentioned already, most people are aware of this. The part that might not be as known is that sometimes when you think a symbol is just a picture promoting the program, it might actually be a bonus Box Top instead. Always look to see if there is an expiration date on the symbol, if there is, then it’s real!

Kellogg’s: In addition to many of these brands also having the Box Tops on them, there is also a code inside some of the company’s cereal boxes. When you collect three of these you can input them online to get Scholastic Books. You can choose to have the books sent to you, for your families use, or you can donate them directly to one of your local schools.

Campbell’s: Several of this company’s soup cans, and other products have “Labels for Education” on them that can also be turned into schools. As with the Box Tops, the Labels are then submitted by the school to the company directly.

ConAgra Foods: Many of this companies frozen foods have codes on them that can be submitted via the site. Each code will then be used to help feed children in your area. You need to hurry for this one though, as the program is scheduled to end on 8/29/14. According to the site you should still be able to enter the codes through Sept. 30th, 2014 though.

General Mills: GM has teamed up with Feeding America to help give food to local food banks and shelters. For each code entered you can help feed anywhere from 1 to 12 meals to needy people in your community. This program is scheduled to go through Jan. 15th, 2015.

So, now that you know, you too can start giving back. Stay Green Everyone.

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