After competing amongst 17 schools in the 2013 Trash Free Lunch Challenge, Principal Nancy Parsons of Lunada Bay Elementary School in Palos Verdes was pleased to find that her students won a $1,000 education grant.

A year later, Grades of Green returned to Lunada Bay to reiterate the importance of trash reduction, and why they should keep up the practice.

“We really love the support and the motivation that Grades of Green gave us because you sometimes get busy, and things fall off the plate, so I was really excited when I was contacted about there being an assembly, ” Parsons said. “It’s great just getting the kids inspired again, because we all get lazy and we want to make this a habit so it’s not something you have to give everybody a shot in the arm for every year.”

Following the awarding of the grant, Parsons and her staff found it best to allocate the funds toward the school’s garden, where they purchased a composter, as well as a few fruit trees.

“We used a lot of the money for enhancing our garden, and we’re still working to make that more productive so that we can begin to use fruits and vegetables from the garden for our lunch program,” she said.

To get the students involved in sustaining and keeping up their award-winning practices, the fifth graders at Lunada Bay participate in a club, Champs, where students select different activities to focus on.

“Some kids work on technology, and some work on recycling and gardening,” Parsons said. “Each year a different group of fifth graders takes over either the recycling responsibilities or gardening responsibilities, and they run with the program under the supervision of their teachers.”

While the fifth graders may be the only grade level that participates in the upkeep of the garden and recycling practices, the other grades do their part by properly sorting and recycling trash at lunch, as well as inside the classrooms.

This was essential in Lunada Bay’s success in the Trash Free Lunch Challenge, not to mention the hard work, dedication, and help from active parent participants and the school’s food services department.

“I had two absolutely fantastic parents who were in charge. One of the ladies has her doctorate in environmental biology, so she was just a fabulous resource,” Parsons said. “I can’t claim very much of the responsibility because those ladies took this and they worked with the cafeteria and the food services department, so that we now have recyclable trays and napkins.”

Along with eliminating products that would only create more trash, Parsons and her dream-team of parents took a step further by removing individually wrapped packets of napkins and straws and plastic-ware as they would usually end up thrown out and never opened.

After the school’s staff did their part in reducing the amount of trash at lunchtime, the students did theirs.

“We did participate in Trash Free Tuesdays. A lot of students have the lunchboxes were there’s no trash, and those have continued to be used consistently,” Parsons said. “Even when we’re not pushing Trash Free Tuesday so much, it’s more like trash free lunch every day.”

With Grades of Green returning to Lunada Bay to demonstrate the importance of sustaining green practices, Parson hopes that it will encourage students to win future Trash Free Lunch Challenges.

“Both of the parents, sadly, who sprearheaded this have moved on, so we have new parents that are getting trained who I hope are at the assembly today, that are interested in sustaining it,” Parsons said. “But it really does take the help of my lunch supervisors and my custodian to help remind the kids.”