We’re so excited to share the winners of the 2020-2021 Climate Solutions Campaign! Please explore the student teams who won Eco-Grants for their incredible environmental impact and those who we honored for their amazing efforts. You can also relive the fun by watching a recording of our live virtual announcement event, here.

Grand Prize Winner – $1,000

Matungu Community Development Charity
Nairobi, Kenya

Team MCDC was a wonderful team to work with during the Climate Solutions Campaign. They are a group of four motivated girls who are passionate about solving the climate crisis in their community and ended up inspiring their community to plant more than 3,500 tree saplings! From the start, they were committed to the campaign and it showed in their organization, coordination, and overall success of their project. They had clear goals on how to help their community and executed their project exceptionally well. 

South Bay Rotary Club Award – $1,000

The STEAM Express Team from Gardena High School
Gardena, CA

While researching the global climate impact of waste, the STEAM Express team from Gardena High School was very concerned about the environmental cost of fast fashion and textile waste. What really struck them was that 84% of donated clothes still end up going to the landfill. To do something about it, the STEAM Express team worked with local organizations like LAcarGUY and BizHaus, a co-working space where Grades of Green has an office, to collect old clothes. These caring students decided to turn the clothes they collected into blankets to be donated to local homeless shelters. For their dedication to the environment and to people in need, the students were chosen by the South Bay Rotary Club to receive a special Eco-Grant!

Best Elementary Impact Award – $500

The Mary Bragg Green Team at Mary Bragg Elementary School
Cerritos, CA

Mary Bragg went above and beyond. The team is enormous (over 50 kids) so they split into 3 groups. Each group voted on a group leader and held a weekly meeting where they set an agenda and met their goals. These 5th and 6th graders picked trees for their topic and decided to have each group focus on a different solution. Group one focused on increasing urban tree cover, group two focused on protecting tropical forests, and group three focused on reducing the heat island effect.

Green Influencers Award – $500

The “For the Greener Good” Team at Mira Costa High School
Manhattan Beach, CA

This team is 100% student-led with very little to no adult support. Sam Torres, a Junior, is the leader of the team and organizes everything from the meetings to the project and outreach. This team of about 40 students was very successful in inspiring their community to eat less meat and go meatless on Mondays. They garnered support from local businesses and engaging their audience to participate in their online challenge.

Community Advocates Award – $500

The Ecology & Wildlife Club at Whitney High School
Cerritos, CA

The dedicated Ecology and Wildlife Club at Whitney High School hosted a community tree sale to offset their school’s paper usage and surpassed their goal by distributing more than 120 trees. This team is very student-led with minimal adult support. They are extremely passionate, organized, and driven and worked very hard on their social media videos and infographics.

Community Changemaker Award – $500

The Keller Greenies at Helen Keller Middle School
Long Beach, CA

This team is exemplary! The students from Helen Keller Middle School teamed up with fellow Long Beach students to advocate for the commitment of the Long Beach Unified School District to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.  They are very capable and continually show that they’ll one day be future world leaders.

Most Inspirational Award – $500

The Redondo Reducers at Redondo Union High School
Redondo Beach, CA

The Redondo Reducers Club, led by long-time Grades of Green Eco-Leader, Rylee, hosted a Plastic Pollution Solutions Panel featuring state and local leaders that
dove deep into the most pressing issues around plastic pollution. Rylee worked very hard to pull together this panel which required her to coordinate with numerous community leaders to make it such a success.

Most Collaborative Teams Award – $500

Adams High School & Farmington High School
Rochester Hills, MI & Farmington, MI

Students from Adams and Farmington Hills High Schools collaborated on a project to get their schools to ban styrofoam lunch trays and replace them with sustainable alternatives. These teams really put in the time and effort to work as a collective unit to try and get styrofoam banned in their cafeterias! You could tell that they were extremely organized and were always available to move their project forward.

Rookie Team of the Year Award – $500

Weston High School
Weston, MA

The team from Weston High School, led by Max, collected more than 500 pounds of plastic bags from his community to repurpose into a public bench. Max worked to coordinate with many leaders in his community and they all responded positively. He is looking for a longer-term solution to the problem of plastic waste and plans to use his Eco-Grant to help fund a bailer for his local waste transfer station. He always managed to come through and get the work done!

International Changemaker Award – $250

The “To Environment, With Love” Team at the Modern High School for Girls
Kolkata, India

These girls are on a mission! Two high schoolers started an organization called “To Environment, With Love” in their community before participating in the Campaign. They called family friends, knocked on neighbors’ doors, made phone calls and started an Instagram page to start collecting recyclables such as e-waste, paper waste, and items that could be donated or upcycled. Although they started the campaign with an existing project, they were able to build on it significantly this school year. Not only did they expand their collection in their community, but they were also able to reach other high school students all over the world to start chapters in other cities. They now mentor those students to do the same thing they’re doing in their community.

Most Dynamic Team Award – $250

The Kishoka Youth Organization
Mombasa, Kenya

The students from the Kishoka Youth Organization hosted a bike ride event in their community where they planted 100 mangrove seedlings, in addition to conducting litter pick-ups, presenting at seminars and educating younger students on the importance of mangroves. The Kishoka Youth Organization is led by a very energetic and dedicated director who keeps his students active non-stop. He’s committed to empowering his students and wants them to learn and get involved in making environmental improvements. The team of kids made a ton of impact this year!

Honorary Awards

Best Student Innovator

Adriel Mar at Culver City Middle School
Culver City, CA

Adriel chose a difficult advocacy project – he created a food waste certification system for local businesses – with the potential to make a major impact on food waste in the future. Because of the scope of his Campaign, he is still early in the process, but he continues to be committed to his project and has laid significant groundwork for his goals.

Most Enthusiastic Team

The “Mission Unsoakable” Team at Rogers Middle School
Long Beach, CA

Mission Unsoakable checked every educational goal in the RISE campaign outline. They used all their guidebook materials, learned a TON about project management, used every resource available, and made terrific use of their Ask the Expert meeting. They were truly the most enthusiastic team and showed so much dedication to their project!

Best Team Name

The “Jeez We Like Trees” Team at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74
Queens, NY

What a great team name from Nathanial Hawthorne! This team was heavily student-led, holding their own virtual meetings and organizing their ideas and thoughts. This creative and fun team had an awesome project: they planted trees outside their school to filter polluted air from the nearby docks.

Best Alumni Team

The HEAR Club from the California Academy of Mathematics and Science
Carson, CA

What a high effort, high-functioning team! The HEAR Club has always been an awesome team to work with. This year, the team focused on fighting fashion waste by repurposing used clothes into 150+ dog toys for Gone to the Dogs Rescue. They partnered with long-time Grades of Green supporter, Subaru Pacific, to collect donated clothes and made a lot of dogs very happy!

Best Elementary School Team Facilitator

Roberto Escala at Goethe International Charter School
Los Angeles, CA

Best Middle or High School Team Facilitator

Jean Posada at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74
Queens, NY

This Earth Month, Grades of Green students across the South Bay are taking action to protect our planet and they need your help! Check out these opportunities for you to help our students make the South Bay healthier, cleaner and greener throughout April!

Clean Up Litter and Turn Your Trash into Treasured Art – April 17

El Segundo 9th-Grader, Addison, and our student team from Goethe Elementary invite you to join the El Segundo Museum of Art and the El Segundo Public Library to clean up litter and learn how to create art out of waste. It’s a fun way to clean up your community and learn how to reuse items so they don’t enter the waste stream.

Learn all about it by watching this video made by Addison, a 9th-Grader from El Segundo.

Please support Addison and the Goethe team’s efforts and join their virtual presentation on turning your trash into treasure!

Help Reforest Wildfire-Affected Areas with Manhattan Beach Middle School

Help fight climate change by planting trees for Earth Month. The MBMS Grades of Green team is fundraising to reforest areas of California affected by wildfire and drought. Each dollar donated to our One Tree Planted fundraiser will plant 1 tree in California. Watch the video below to see why trees are so important in protecting our planet and fighting climate change and then click here to donate to their fundraiser.

Anyone who donates $5 or more can fill out this form to be entered into a raffle to win gift certificates to Deep Roots Garden Center and International Garden Center.

Join the Mira Costa High School’s Meatless Monday Campaign

High school junior and Grades of Green veteran, Sam Torres, has partnered with Southern California small businesses to encourage more planet-friendly diets through her Grades of Green Club’s #MeatlessMonday campaign. Members of the public who post pictures of their plant-based meals are entered into a giveaway featuring gift cards and items from a new business every Monday. The campaign ends April 25th, so don’t miss your chance to green your diet and enter to win some awesome prizes!

The Green Queens from Grand View Challenge You to Plant Native Plants!

We can’t recycle out of the problem…Reduce your use! 

Did you know that 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean each year? This equals one trash truck dumping its load of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.

Rylee Goldfarb, a 10th-grade student from Redondo Beach is passionate about creating a healthier world and is partnering with the creators of The Story of Plastic for the Redondo Reducers Club’s Reduce Your Use Campaign. The panel discussion will dive deep into the most pressing issues around plastic pollution and reflect on the themes of the award-winning documentary.

About The Story of Plastic: The Story of Plastic is a searing expose revealing the ugly truth behind plastic pollution and the false solution of plastic recycling. From the extraction of fossil fuels and plastic disposal to the global resistance fighting back, The Story of Plastic is a life-changing film depicting one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Watch The Story of Plastic trailer!

Register for our panel discussion and get the opportunity to see this groundbreaking documentary for free!

Watch a Recording of the Discussion!

Event Details:

  • March 25 – May 1: Watch The Story of Plastic for FREE by registering for the Panel
  • April 1, 7 PM PST: Join the virtual Plastic Pollution Solutions Panel and hear from leaders and environmental professionals tackling plastic pollution

Meet The Panelists!

Samuel Liu

Deputy Chief of Staff for State Senator Ben Allen representing the Westside and Coastal South Bay in the State Legislature

In his role as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Samuel serves as a strategic senior advisor to Senator Allen and oversees the operations of the District office. Prior to that, Samuel ran Senator Allen’s successful campaign for State Senate in 2014 and most recently ran the successful Senate campaign for State Senator-elect Henry Stern.
He brings prior experience working in the State Legislature for then Assemblymember Ted Lieu and has also worked for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Alliance for Children’s Rights as well as the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence. He is an alumnus of the New Leader’s Council fellowship program and served on the board of the Asian Professional Exchange and the Asian Pacific American Legislative Staff Network in leadership positions.
Samuel has a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Anika Ballent

Education Director, Algalita Marine Research and Education Center

Anika has been studying and educating about the plastics issue since 2010. Her academic background is in the Earth Sciences.  During her undergrad at Jacobs University Bremen she studied how microplastics move underwater, and she later completed a Masters in Geology at the University of Western Ontario studying microplastics in the sediments of Lake Ontario. Since then, she’s been developing educational content around the complexities of the plastics issue at the non-profit Algalita to empower and prepare young people to take action on this issue.

Allie Bussjaeger

Director of Impact and Sustainability, human-I-T

For the past decade, Allie has worked with environmental nonprofits to cultivate behavior changes to protect our planet. Currently, Allie is the Director of Impact and Sustainability at human-I-T, a nonprofit that takes technology that would normally be recycled or sent to a landfill and refurbished it to redistribute to low-income families. Previously, she served as the Recycling Center Coordinator at California State University, Long Beach, where she oversaw the recycling center, as well as the Co-Executive Director at Grades of Green, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring kids to care for the earth.

What’s the Reduce Your Use Campaign?

Click here to learn more about Rylee and the Reduce Your Use Campaign!

While the New Year was settling in, our Eco-Leaders were hard at work spreading the word about sustainability and the environment!

Everyday Environmentalist – Teen Edition

Sam Torres and Rylee Goldfarb joined as guest speakers for South Bay Cares’ “Every Day Environmentalist – Teen Edition” webinar. They inspired us with their passion for the environment and shared how we can all make sustainable changes to how we approach fashion, food, and single-use plastic. 

Watch a recording and get wowed by Rylee and Sam!

Get Real with Alissa Stevens Podcast

Grades of Green student Max Riley, co-founder Kim Martin, and Advisor Robyn Murphy spoke about advocating for the environment from home with Ecopreneur Alissa Stevens on her podcast “Get Real with Alissa Stevens.”  

Listen to the podcast and get inspired, here.

The students in Generation-E club at Granada Hills Charter School understand the importance of learning about the environment at a young age. That is why they decided to take action and launch a seven-week environmental education course designed to connect elementary and middle school students with the world around them. Any student can join the class today, by sending an email to generationenvironment@gmail.comand learn more at https://generation-e.webnode.com.

“We hope our classes inspire kids to learn more about the environment and help protect it,” said Sydney Perkins, aged 17, Generation-E leader. 

From environmental justice to National Parks and waste, Generation E’s environmental education course covers a variety of topics that create an accessible and introductory experience for budding environmentalists. 

At the end of the course, participating students have the opportunity to receive a 3D-printed beehive. Generation-E believes that giving students something they can use to support their local ecosystems is a great way to maintain engagement with the environment even after their classes are done.

Generation-E’s is hosting these classes to pursue their mission, which states, “a lack of environmental mindedness amongst Los Angeles residents has damaged the city’s fragile ecosystems-which have historically been some of the world’s most iconic biodiversity hotspots. Our mission is to create greater awareness of local environmental issues and urge our community to become more environmentally friendly.” 

This ongoing course is the cornerstone of Generation-E’s project for Grades of Green’s Climate Solutions Campaign. The Climate Solutions Campaign is a program in which student leaders launch their own climate-focused advocacy projects and programs in communities around the globe. 

Kim Siehl, Executive Director for Grades of Green, noted, “we are constantly in awe of the creativity and ingenuity of our students. What better way for students to learn about environmental issues than from their peers?” 

Do you have an elementary or middle school student that is interested in Generation-E’s free environmental education classes? Send an email to generationenvironment@gmail.com and check out their website: https://generation-e.webnode.com.

Did you know that if you stacked 850,000 sheets of paper, the stack would be taller than the Statue of Liberty? The passionate students of the Ecology and Wildlife Club at Whitney High School know this quirky piece of information because that’s exactly how much paper their school used during the 2018-19 school year. Motivated to take action, the Ecology and Wildlife Club took on the challenge of planting trees to offset the paper that the school consumes to fight global warming and stop the climate crisis.  

This year, the students from Whitney aim to sell at least 110 Gala apple trees to offset Whitney High School’s paper usage and create a healthier community. The sale will run through February 13th and customers will be able to pick up their tree(s) at a socially distanced drive-thru event at Whitney High School on March 13th. Currently, the Gala apple trees are priced at $7.30 – a 25% discount – and supply is limited! To purchase a tree, please visit: www.tree-plenish.org/whitney. For more information, refer to the club’s FAQ: www.tinyurl.com/whstrees

“Fighting climate change starts with the little things we do. Planting a tree, for example, can go a long way toward reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, while providing cleaner air and water, and adding beauty to our homes,” said Sriya Kotta, 11th grader and co-leader of the campaign.  

As a service to the Cerritos community, the Whitney’s Ecology and Wildlife Club is partnering with two non-profits, Tree-Plenish and Grades of Green, to host an online tree sale. Trees are critical to maintaining a clean and livable temperature for our planet, as they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and can store it safely in their roots, branches, and trunks for decades. The student’s project has the potential to remove 220,000 pounds of CO2 over the lifespan of the trees they distribute!

This is the fourth Grades of Green Campaign that the Ecology and Wildlife Club has undertaken to spread awareness and enact environmental change in the local communities. They have organized projects to compost food waste on campus, constructed an eight-foot model of an ocean wave from plastic water bottles to represent the effects of single-use plastics on marine habitats, and developed a curriculum to educate elementary school students on the dangers of plastic pollution. 


Tree-Plenish is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to create more sustainable schools by replenishing the number of trees used to satisfy each school’s paper requirements.  Tree-Plenish events are planned by student leaders. Leaders determine the number of trees they want to plant in their community. This figure is based on the amount of paper their school uses. Once the number of trees to be planted is determined, they plan and advertise the event, and anyone in the community can sign up to either volunteer as a tree planter on the day of the event or request to have a tree planted in their yard (or plant trees themself). 

Here’s some good news from the last day of 2020! The Beach Reporter featured four of our amazing students, including Rylee who is pictured here winning an award from the South Bay Business Environmental Coalition! 

Recent college freshman, Beatrice Ongawan, was awarded a $5,500 undergraduate scholarship from the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Orange County chapter at a virtual ceremony on Thursday night. The WTS Foundation provides scholarships to women who demonstrate leadership and interest in the transportation and sustainability industries, ensuring that essential skills and perspectives of women are included in planning the transportation systems of the future.  

While attending Whitney High School, in Cerritos, CA, Beatrice demonstrated initiative and leadership after enrolling her school’s Eco-Club in Grades of Green’s 2019 Water Campaign program. Grades of Green is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that develops the next generation of environmental leaders by empowering students to complete transformative environmental projects in their communities. Every year, the campaign program is open to any grade-school student, includes personalized mentorship and coaching, and is provided free of charge to students and schools.

The Whitney Eco-Club team was inspired to take on the mounting crisis of plastic pollution in their local waterways for their 2019 Campaign project. Under Beatrice’s leadership, the Eco-Club developed a highly innovative campaign that constructed a massive 8-foot tall wave sculpture built from plastic bottles they collected from their high school and community. “We wanted people to be aware of what the plastic pollution problem is in our oceans and what they can do to help,” said Beatrice. 

The sculpture titled “There is No Sea in Disposable” was displayed at the Subaru Pacific Dealership in Hawthorne, CA, and drew attention to the issue of marine plastic pollution. Subaru Pacific and the LAcarGUY dealership family are long-time partners to Grades of Green and are unique in their unwavering commitment to environmental stewardshipLAcarGUY was the first automotive dealer in the country to offer public electric charging stations at its facilities and cares about reducing the company’s carbon footprint through employee education and infrastructure changes. 

Grades of Green was proud to recommend Beatrice for the scholarship due to her outstanding project management skills and talent for marshaling and engaging a large team of peers. Beatrice felt that her years of involvement in Grades of Green’s programs helped shape her personal and professional goals that she now brings with her to her next chapter at the University of California, Berkeley. 

“Grades of Green showed me the kind of positive impact I can have to make a real difference,” she said. “Even though it was small, that’s something I brought to college. I really want to do something that can help the community.”

Beatrice was honored for her scholarship alongside other high school, undergraduate and graduate awardees.  

More than 150 Grades of Green students took an exclusive tour from the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County (LACSD) on Saturday, October 8th!

We learned a ton about how the Sanitation Districts protect public health and the environment, and you can, too! Find our recording of the tour below! Watch it to find out how LACSD converts wastewater into recycled water and learn about the fascinating innovations they’re making to the process of turning food waste into useful resources. 

The Virtual Field Trip consists of two tours – one of the food waste recycling program and one of the water reclamation program. Find out more about each of the tours below!

Tour #1: San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant

The Sanitation Districts’ staff take you through what they do at the San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant and show you how this facility serves LA County. For those of you that don’t know what a wastewater reclamation plant is, it is where wastewater is treated to a very high level so that it can be reused. This is especially important here in Southern California where the weather is dry and we have water shortages. San Jose Creek WRP can treat about 60 million gallons per day – that’s a lot of water! 

Tour #2: Food Waste

Did you know the average household in the US wastes 25% of the food they buy? We throw out 4,000 tons of food waste every day in Los Angeles County. This waste includes dinner scraps, ugly-looking fruit, and vegetables from your local grocery stores, and uneaten food from restaurants. Let LACSD show you how they are recycling food waste into green energy!

Learn more by checking out LACSD’s website.

Here are just a few of the students who joined LACSD’s staff and Grades of Green’s team for the virtual tour!