While fashion is a fun way to express yourself, it’s also one of the top contributors to damaging the environment. With many businesses adopting more eco-friendly practices, sustainability is a big and important topic right now.

A student group at California Academy of Math and Sciences (CAMS), in Carson, California, is advocating for sustainable fashion choices as part of their 2020 Waste Campaign project. The students have been focused on reducing the number of clothes headed to the landfill and microfiber pollution and are promoting apps and websites where students can sell their second-hand clothes instead of throwing them away.

The CAMS students saw this as an opportunity after doing a survey at their school which found “less than 10% of our school were either aware or used any of these apps, these second-hand selling apps. So we wanted to increase that percentage …. to help the environment,” said CAMS student, Cathleen U.

They’ve been hard at work promoting this smart way to be more sustainable. Below are a few tips on how you and your loved ones can make more sustainable fashion choices, too.

Support Sustainable Brands

Making eco-friendly fashion choices doesn’t mean that you can’t buy new clothes. It’s about making a conscious decision to support sustainable brands that help our environment. The next time you and your friends are planning a shopping trip, do some research to see which brands are eco-friendly and which are not. You can easily find this information on company websites or their social media channels. Look into ethical brands to see which ones share the same values as you and your friends and family. Doing so will not only help the environment but will also help promote fair and equal working conditions as well!

“A lot of the clothes don’t even end up on display, don’t end up in the hands of anybody. They just go to the landfill. So these apps allow people to give these clothes a chance.”

Oliver K — a CAMS student Eco-Leader

Encourage Proper Clothing Disposal

As much as shopping sustainably is important, so is the proper disposal of our clothing. Every year, trends come and go and we find ourselves reaching for certain pieces in our closets less frequently. Now that spring has finally sprung, encourage your friends and family to do a closet cleanout and properly dispose of their unwanted clothing. Instead of tossing items in the trash where they’ll sit in landfills and emit greenhouse gases, sell your old clothing to a secondhand shop. Not only will this positively impact the environment, but your friends and family also won’t have to worry about doing any of the heavy lifting that is involved with selling their clothes.

The student team at CAMS knows why it’s so important to reconsider how we dispose of our clothing. “A lot of the clothes that people donate actually don’t even end up being sold to these … brick and mortar shops,” said Oliver K. — a CAMS student. “A lot of the clothes don’t even end up on display, don’t end up in the hands of anybody. They just go to the landfill. So these apps allow people to give these clothes a chance.”

Host a Clothing Swap

Another eco-friendly way to get rid of unwanted clothing and even score some new pieces is to host a clothing swap party. Reach out to your friends and family and arrange a time for everyone to bring over any clothing they no longer want. You can then set up tables and arrange the items by style, size, or even season and occasion. You and your loved ones can then go through each item and pick out your desired pieces. Any clothing left over after the swap can be donated to a local shelter or organization.

Upcycle Your Clothes Together

For those pieces that you or your loved ones may have that you’re not quite ready to let go of yet, consider upcycling your clothes. Grab your friends and family, get out your craft supplies, and watch your clothes transform! Have a pair of jeans or pants that are too short? Turn them into cut-off shorts. Have a worn-out t-shirt that you no longer wear? Turn it into a reusable grocery bag! Whether you DIY your clothes so you’re able to re-wear them or turn them into something else entirely, embrace your crafty side to completely transform your wardrobe!

We’re so excited to share with you the winners of our 2019 Water Campaign! These amazing student teams worked so hard on behalf of their environment and their communities.

Grand Prize Eco-Grant Winner – $1,000

Fisher Middle School – Los Gatos, California

The Fisher Green Team was able to accomplish its goals, and then some! Not only did they convince their classmates to reduce the use of single-use plastics, but they also got their school’s leadership to:

• Stop selling single-use plastic water bottles!
• Switch to reusable aluminum bottles
• Eliminate sales of Capri Sun, due to the attached straw and single-use container
• Support the new use of all compostable and sustainable serving trays in the cafeteria
• Switch from single-use plastic water bottle sales at after school events, to cardboard cartons of water
• Allow the Green Team to plan and implement new trash sorting stations campus-wide to help make sure their recyclables can be recycled

How did the Fisher team do all this? They put together a powerful campus-wide advocacy campaign to convince their fellow students, their administrators, and their school’s community to support their green initiatives.

Student Leadership Award

Beatrice O. at Whitney High School – Cerritos, California

Beatrice has always gone above and beyond to help her fellow students take environmental action! Here are just a few of the qualities that her Grades of Green Advisor, Cathy, shared with us: she has great organizational and planning skills, she’s very responsive, very sophisticated and exhibits the most excellent leadership! Congratulations to Beatrice for not only receiving this award but also for leading her team to a third season in the finals.

Help us to Provide Next Campaign’s Eco-Grants

We need your help to continue to provide these transformative Eco-Grants to our students. These grants encourage students to complete their projects, and are one of the most powerful ways for us to expand our students’ impact!

Best Community Changemaker – $500

Mary Bragg Elementary School – Cerritos, California
We knew we had a very special team on our hands when the elementary students from Mary Bragg called out their school board for using single-use plastic bottles while the team pitched to them their plastic-reduction plan. These young students changed how their school community approached single-use plastics and convinced their school to reduce single-use plastics on campus and do a better job of recycling.

Runner Up: El Rancho Charter School – Anaheim, California

Best Innovative Idea – $500

Irvine SEVA Group – Irvine, California
The SEVA Group found a plastic problem that many green-leaning people overlook: plastic produce bags in the grocery store, which can easily be replaced with reusable versions. They met with their PTA and other members of their school community to convince them to go reusable and also did something unique! The SEVA group got their own reusable produce bags and went to a local store to hand them out and raise awareness of the issue. They’re currently in the middle of setting up another give-away event at another local grocery.

Runner Up: Magruder Middle School – Torrance, California

Best Impact by an Elementary School – $500

Seven Generations Charter School – Emmaus, Pennsylvania
These fourth graders worked hard to reduce the amount of single-use plastic, especially sandwich baggies, packed in their school’s lunches. They wanted to educate people in their school and community in an entertaining way, so they went above and beyond to make an extra “Family Feud” themed video to share their project. They also worked to provide easy access to sustainable alternatives to sandwich baggies by coming up with a proposal to the PTO to sell school-branded reusable snack pouches.

Runner Up: Innovation Academy – Oro Valley, Arizona

Best Grades of Green Alumni Team – $500

Airbender Team at Hughes Middle School – Long Beach, California
The Hughes Airbenders have been working with Grades of Green for a few years, and we’ve always been very impressed with their work. This year, their team did an excellent job of picking a specific target audience for their advocacy campaign. Their school’s physical education department had been a major place where students were using single-use plastic bottles. Among other tactics, they set up a competition to encourage students, coaches and teachers to use fewer plastic bottles and the change stuck!

Runner Up: Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School – Bayside, New York

International Changemaker Award – $500

The Parallel Projects
We developed this new award as a means to recognize the teams that work to tackle the unique environmental challenges facing communities across the globe. For the Water Campaign, we wanted to specifically feature those who struggle with plastic pollution and access to clean water. The inaugural awardee was obvious: the Parallel Projects which is a collaboration between Justin S. and his mom, Sheri, and all of their friends in Africa – Perise, Maulid, Hudu, Rashid and others.

Most Impactful Adult Supporter

Pamela Weinstein
Will Rogers Middle School – Long Beach, California
Pam is a superstar! In addition to being an incredible educator, she’s dedicated to the environment and making sure her students develop powerful leadership skills. She makes sure that every semester her students have numerous opportunities to advocate for environmental change, both on campus and in the larger community. 

Just on the north side of the Santa Clarita River sits an elementary school that has found a way to turn a disciplinary situation into a teachable moment. When students on recess began a food fight with their unwanted healthy snacks, much to the chagrin of the parents who had thoughtfully packed them, their amazing teachers decided to educate their students about food waste. As the remorseful students of Bridgeport Elementary School cleaned up their mess, they quickly grew concerned about the sustainability issue right before their very eyes. Since 2016, the students from Bridgeport have become Grades of Green all-stars, by learning to reuse and reduce, as they’ve diverted waste, conserved water, and raised awareness about pollution in the Santa Clarita River.

Want to help teams like Bridgeport expand their impact?

We need your support to continue to help student leaders like the ones at Bridgeport Elementary become the environmental leaders of the future.

Shortly after the infamous food fight of 2016, Bridgeport Elementary students joined the Grades of Green Trash Free Lunch Challenge. They began to implement waste sorting stations in their cafeteria and educated their peers about the importance of using reusables. Their efforts resulted in 70% less lunchtime waste, and almost 90% of this lunchtime waste was recycled. Students groups from participating schools were taught how to eliminate waste by packing trash-free lunches (such as lunch containers, reusable water bottles and utensils, and cloth napkins). All students, including those who buy their lunch, were taught how to sort lunchtime waste for recycling and composting. In their first year as part of the Trash Free Lunch Challenge, Bridgeport Elementary finished among the four finalist schools that received Eco-Grants of $750.

Then, in the spring of 2019…

Having tasted success, the student leaders at Bridgeport Elementary set their sights higher! After several years of continuing to spread environmental education and participate in community service, Bridgeport’s student took our Waste Campaign by storm. Their project was so impressive, that Bridgeport’s team was selected by our judges to receive Grades of Green’s grand prize Eco-Grant of $1,000!

Bridgeport’s Winning Project

While implementing waste sorting in their school cafeteria, The Bridgeport Elementary Green Team was concerned by the large amount of perfectly edible food items that were being thrown into the landfill bin. They wanted that food to go somewhere that it would be eaten. The team decided they wanted to donate the food to local food pantries and homeless shelters, and their Grades of Green advisor provided resources and guidance to help them turn their ideas into action. In order to raise awareness and encourage other schools in their community to start a food rescue program, Bridgeport shared their video and set-up with all the families at their school and with all the schools in their district. You can see their awareness campaign video here.

I can’t be more proud of the change they’ve made on our campus!

Karen Harvey, Assistant Principal – Bridgeport Elementary

Your Support helps schools like Bridgeport change their world for the greener

Bridgeport Elementary is a perfect example of how Grades of Green’s students can fundamentally change the environmental impact of their school community. Without these incredible students and their passion for the Earth and the people on it, just think of all the food that would be wasted!

We’re so proud to provide these inspiring students with Eco-Grants to help them take their Grades of Green projects to the next level, but it wouldn’t be possible without our donors’ generous support. We need your help to continue to provide these important Eco-Grants and grow the number of students that we work with.

We would be so appreciative if you’d show your support by donating today! You’ll be helping student teams, like the ones at Bridgeport, make their green dreams for our world become a reality!