Students plant a tree as part of environmental club

Student's nonprofit helps schools create greener Earth

“Schools are the best way I can reach people. It’s a learning place, so it’s the easiest way to teach them about the environment while we’re doing fun activities talking about why these topics are important and how they can help.”

Update: At the 2024 International Career Development Conference, Ayla Relland finished second in the Community Awareness Project category, marking the first time in more than 15 years that an Oklahoma DECA student has placed in the competition. Read more about Ayla and ForGreenerEarth in the original story below. 


Ayla Relland noticed many of her classmates weren’t aware of environmental issues or ways to combat them. That’s why she started ForGreenerEarth, a nonprofit that creates clubs at elementary and high schools to teach students about the environment and to boost sustainability at their schools. 

ForGreenerEarth began as a community awareness project for DECA, which Ayla participates in as a Business Marketing and Management student at Francis Tuttle. The Edmond Santa Fe senior established the first environmental club at her high school in September 2023.

Since recycling can be expensive, Ayla had the idea to expand the organization and encourage partnerships so schools within the same district could potentially split costs. Now, ForGreenerEarth is in 27 schools across four school districts: Edmond Public Schools, Deer Creek Public Schools, Putnam City Public Schools and Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“If not me, then who? The most important time to do something is now,” shared Ayla about what motivated her to start ForGreenerEarth. “I feel like it’s really important to make a change and make a difference.” 

Ayla Relland helps at an elementary school's environmental club
Ayla Relland, ForGreenerEarth founder, volunteers at an environmental club meeting

The nonprofit has three main goals: establishing clubs to increase student interest and involvement; making schools more sustainable through initiatives like recycling, composting and anti-food waste programs; and raising awareness on social media and the organization’s website,

Through ForGreenerEarth, schools receive assistance from the organization’s council as they establish their own clubs. High schools are paired with at least one elementary school, and the high schoolers regularly attend meetings and help facilitate activities for the younger students. Club activities include learning lessons about topics like the butterfly lifecycle, tending to gardens and planting trees.

ForGreenerEarth provides each new club with a starter kit that includes a suggested schedule and activity and event instructions. The kit also has supplies for initial projects since it may take time to establish fundraising initiatives, Ayla explained. To raise money for the sustainability programs, the club at Ayla’s school has created and sold various items like terrariums made from recycled jars, painted rocks and more.

Elementary students tends the school's garden as part of environmental club
Environmental club members tend to their elementary school's garden

Throughout the process of establishing her organization, Ayla has applied what she’s learned at Francis Tuttle, including how to start and run a business and interview skills. She has also found a mentor in instructor Natalie Jordan and is grateful for the time and flexibility to focus on ForGreenerEarth when she is in class. 

“A lot of the skills I needed to be able to start something like this, I learned from this class,” Ayla said. “I also have a supportive teacher who has helped me along the way. She is individualized with each student and will come check on me, see how it’s going and ask how she can help.” 

Despite being less than a year old, ForGreenerEarth is already expanding out of state. Last fall, Ayla and her classmate, Yvanna Kony, mentored DECA students in Maui who were impacted by the wildfires. The group plans to do a community awareness project focused on cleaning up the water pollution caused by the wildfires, and they have asked Ayla to be involved in the “ForCleanerWaters” organization. 

While Ayla has not determined her long-term plans, one potential path is attending college and becoming an environmental lawyer. No matter what she decides, Ayla plans to keep the ForGreenerEarth momentum going. The organization’s council members will continue to focus on adding more schools next year, and Edmond Santa Fe’s club president is taking the organization to Colorado. 

“We are planning to expand,” Ayla shared. “I am excited to see where it goes and also how it continues to grow here in Oklahoma.” 

by Chelsey Koppari - April 15, 2024