Submitted by Las Vegas Sands
Las Vegas-based nonprofit Green Our Planet is currently the most senior member of the Sands Cares Accelerator, Sands’ global three-year membership program that works to advance nonprofit organizations to the next stage in their evolution. Scheduled for graduation from the Sands Cares Accelerator at the end of 2022, Green Our Planet has achieved tremendous growth during its time in the program.
Green Our Planet was founded in 2013 by documentary filmmakers Ciara Byrne and Kim MacQuarrie as a fundraising tool for conservation projects, but the founders decided to pivot the organization’s original mission to focus on school gardening as a means of increasing student achievement in STEM subjects, while educating about environmental conservation. Now the largest STEM school garden and hydroponics program in the United States, Green Our Planet provides educators with grants and materials to begin a school or hydroponic garden, along with the curriculum to teach students about STEM, nutrition and financial literacy through planting, harvesting and selling plants grown in gardens.
Green Our Planet charted ambitious goals for its time in the nonprofit accelerator program, aiming to scale its hydroponics garden program to serve more students, as well as leverage a new initiative to bring hydroponic gardens to companies as a funding stream to establish gardens at more schools. The nonprofit also used Sands Cares Accelerator resources to grow the organization’s marketing expertise and capacity.
“When we joined the Sands Cares Accelerator in 2020, Sands saw growth potential in us that we hadn’t seen yet,” Byrne says. “Through our membership in the program, we gained both the confidence and tools to achieve an even broader vision. Along with the funding we received, Sands gave us invaluable expertise and mentoring on how to sustainably grow our reach and impact in new ways.”
Launched during its time in Sands Cares Accelerator, Green Our Planet’s HydroHealth initiative is a B Corporation that brings hydroponic gardening to workplaces and leverages a 1-to-1 model to fund one school hydroponics system for every system purchased by a business. Since introducing HydroHealth, the organization has successfully started 10 hydroponics programs at different corporations.
“We’ve found that our hydroponics gardens in the workplace have been a platform for colleagues to positively connect at work, which has been a huge need during the pandemic,” Byrne says. “In addition to bringing healthy green spaces to businesses, the gardens have been a source of healing for our business clients. Sands helped us make this initiative possible through financial support, which funded a marketing executive for HydroHealth, as well as strategic mentoring to help us develop the program.”
Because every corporate garden enables a new school garden and curriculum, Green Our Planet has been able to amplify its reach and potential to help more students. Green Our Planet currently has hydroponic gardens in 16 states, serving 160,000 students, and the organization is preparing to launch another 250 school gardens and hydroponics programs when the new school year starts in August. Green Our Planet will focus its last half year in the Sands Cares Accelerator on continuing to scale its school hydroponics and HydroHealth program, as well as leveraging its expanded marketing capability to create new video lessons that can be used by teachers, students and employees at participating corporations.
Launched in 2017, the Sands Cares Accelerator is a unique nonprofit accelerator program developed by Sands to help catapult selected nonprofits to greater community impact through a customized blend of extended funding along with structured guidance, consulting and mentorship from Sands. While each member develops its own specific area of focus and goals to accomplish during its time in the Sands Cares Accelerator, the overall aim is to sustainably increase the organization’s capacity to serve the community.
To learn more about the Sands Cares Accelerator, please visit https://www.sands.com/responsibility/communities/sands-cares-accelerator/.
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