Eliminating Tire Pollution and Upcycling Waste to Reduce Greenhouse Emissions

Ngalim Franklin is a rockstar LAUNCH facilitator based in Cameroon. Ngalim began his journey in sustainability as a high school Geology teacher, coordinating sustainability workshops and outdoor activities for his students. His teaching journey took a pause when he traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to build earthships – off-grid solar earth shelters made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires – to eliminate tire pollution.

While there, he learned that tire pollution exists in our air and oceans when synthetic rubber breaks down into microscopic pieces through burning or by wear and tear. Repurposing waste tires as construction materials can prevent tire burning and landfill disposal, creating a circular economy – a way of production that involves reusing and refurbishing products to reduce waste.

With the knowledge he gained constructing earthships, Ngalim returned back to Cameroon to lead sustainability and education initiatives with full force, becoming the Executive Director of his non-profit, The Greens, which focuses on educating young individuals from schools and football clubs on tire pollution and the utilization of tires as construction materials. One of his projects aims to construct a 150-meter-long tire embankment to act as a barrier for a football field, leveling the field and preventing erosion.

To clear the area for this project, Ngalim and his youth group utilized our LAUNCH Community/Beach Cleanup Eco-Lesson. He organized and mobilized over 600 students, informing them about waste sorting, waste management, and its effects when improperly disposed of.

With the area cleared, Ngalim and his student group can now lay the tire foundation and gain hands-on experience with using tires as construction material. Ngalim is a facilitator who inspires students to make a difference through project-based learning and community-led action.

Make a Difference

This year, we want to plant the seeds towards a more sustainable environment! During the month of April, we will be sharing all of the incredible projects that our students are doing from around the world. You can support their projects my making a donation to Grades of Green during our 2024 Root For Change Earth Appeal!

This year, we’re adding a special ~twist~ to our Earth Appeal!

  • Make a donation OR show your support during our 2024 Earth Appeal, and you’ll be entered into a giveaway to win 2 Platinum tickets to a LA Galaxy soccer game with free parking. It’s easy! Donate using the link in our bio and/or like, follow @gradesofgreen on your chosen platform, AND share this video on your story/post feed. The tickets can be used at any home game during the 2024 season, except when Los Angeles FC is the opponent. Travel and lodging is not included with the tickets
  • For every $100 donated during our 2024 Earth Appeal, our team will plant something in our home garden 
  • For every $1,000 donated during our 2024 Earth Appeal, our team will cumulatively hike a mile in our favorite location outdoors! 
  • Let us know what our team should do if we raise $10,000 in the comments!

For all of our students, we are also holding some fun competitions:

  • Best Environmental Meme
  • Best Reel/TikTok
  • Best Picture of You In Nature

Your Donations at Work

Every year, we are so proud to support all of the incredible students across the world. Learn how your donation makes a difference by seeing the incredible project our students are working on!

The Greens

Ngalim, a LAUNCH Eco-Toolkit facilitator, is leading six schools across Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions utilizing the lessons from our toolkits. Ngalim is empowering students to become environmental stewards by having them identify climate challenges such as waste management, deforestation, agricultural insecurity, and water scarcity. Then, using Grades of Green toolkits, students are further educated about each topic, inspiring action and commitment to environmental advocacy.

Grades of Green Ambassadors

This year, Grades of Green piloted it’s first ever ambassador program to allow past Eco-Leaders to continue making an impact in their community. Ambassadors, Nkeng Joel Junior and Ayuk Marie Noel, have been leading a combined 9 teams out of Cameroon across various projects to address some of the most pressing environmental concerns such as waste management, pollution, and temperature increases. Some of the projects include tree plantings, waste collection, and waste sorting. Nkeng and Marie have been supporting their teams every step of the way by recruiting, offering on-site support, and supporting students/teachers with their expertise on environmental projects. Click the button below to continue supporting our incredible ambassadors!

SOAR Eco-Leaders

Through Grades of Green’s SOAR Eco-Innovation Academy, students are working with businesses–Northrop Grumman, Beyond Meat, Subaru Pacific, Turner Construction, Build California, and Further Products–to address sustainable solutions to potential environmental challenges. After touring each business, the students have selected their groups and determined the solution they want to address. The students are underway creating their sustainability plans and are scheduled to present their solution to each business in June. Click the button below to support our SOAR Eco-Leaders!

During his time at Whitney High School in Cerritos, California, Kyle became involved with Grades of Green through the Ecology and Wildlife Club at his school. In his initial year with Grades of Green, he took part in the RISE Climate Solutions Campaign, collaborating with Tree Plenish to replenish the paper used at the school through a community tree sale. Despite the global pandemic, Kyle and his team successfully sold 120 apple trees in an online sale.

Following the success of the tree sale, Kyle progressed within the club and assumed the role of director during his junior year. As director, he partnered with Grades of Green to tackle plastic waste on campus, specifically focusing on reducing the use of plastic-wrapped utensils. Through his efforts, his project raised funds to introduce compostable utensils in the school cafeteria. Kyle’s initiative extended beyond his school; he took the campaign district-wide, rallying support from both faculty and students through a petition. “Seeing people use compostable utensils at our schools is incredibly fulfilling,” Kyle remarked.

Despite graduating from Whitney High School in 2023, Kyle aimed to ensure his campaign’s legacy. Evelyn, his successor in the Ecology and Wildlife Club, has continued to expand the project, now including replacing plastic-wrapped napkins with napkin dispensers. “Encouraging younger students to take charge of their own initiatives is key,” Kyle emphasizes.

Post-graduation, Kyle plans to attend UCLA to delve into the intersection of environmental science and public health.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability is a mindset or perspective. It’s a combination of taking action and realizing that everything you do has an effect on the environment and the people around you. Whether it’s dropping a piece of trash on the floor, the food you are eating, the house you are building, everything has an environment. Sustainability is being engaged and taking action to combat that.

What has been your favorite memory of Grades of Green?

Last year, leading the Grades of Green campaign and bringing such an ambitious project to our school is my favorite memory, even though there were so many challenges. With guidance from our advisor, Mrs. Perry, and everyone from Grades of Green, I was able to break out of my shell and develop leadership qualities I never would have imagined developing before. It showed me how resilient and determined I was. It also showed me the power of students to make an impact on our community.

For those who are new to Grades of Green, what would be one piece of advice you would give them?

Take advantage of all the resources Grades of Green has. They have a wealth of resources and experts from all sorts of fields. Whenever I reached out to Grades of Green, they offered guest speakers, volunteering or internship opportunities, and interviews. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Take advantage of everything they have to offer because really, that’s their goal: to inspire action and help students explore the environment.

We’re so excited to share with you the winners of our 2020 Waste Campaign! These amazing student teams worked so hard on behalf of their environment in their communities.

Grand Prize Eco-Grant Winner – $1,000

Mary Bragg Elementary School  – Cerritos, California

This team consisted of fifty 4th and 5th graders who met before school to discuss solutions to reduce single-use water bottles in their community. They presented to their school’s PTA, in classrooms, and at school assemblies, and then took it even further by hosting beach clean-ups to spread awareness and provide a way for people to take action to help the environment. On top of these efforts, the team started an advocacy campaign that encouraged all their district’s elementary schools to have their own Green Teams to engage in environmental action. With their strong drive and organizational skills, the Bragg team was able to do this all of this before the “stay-at-home” order was enacted. While they weren’t able to present at their principal’s meeting due to their school closing, they were able to continue inspiring others virtually.

Best Elementary Impact – $500

Bryant Ranch Elementary Green Team – Yorba Linda, California

This team has been working incredibly hard, even after the stay at home order was implemented. This team addressed a unique plastic bag problem within their school since it was on their team’s required school supplies list. The team members, though young, asked for alternatives to plastic bags since it was not necessary and it would only contribute to waste.

The Bryant Ranch Team


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!

601 W. 26th Street #325

Green Influencers Award – $500

HEAR Club from California Academy of Mathematics and Science High School  – Carson, California

The HEAR Club used their project to raise awareness of microplastics in synthetic clothing and the damage that they do to the environment. The team reached out to organizations that focused on microplastics reduction and conducted an interview with Grades of Green to further explain the issue, impacts, and potential solutions.

Campus Advocates Award – $250

Keller Dual Language Middle School – Long Beach, California

This team encouraged the head of nutrition services at their school to find alternatives to the single-use, plastic-wrapped sporks served alongside lunch in their school. Their goal was to prove that using reusable utensils as an alternative would be more efficient, more cost-effective, and most importantly, more environmentally friendly. They hope to make the environmentally-conscious changes permanent.

Campus Changemakers Award – $250

EarthSavers from Thomas Starr King Middle School – Los Angeles, California

This very motivated team of 8th graders were working on a pilot program to reduce the number of plastic utensils used at school. Their ultimate goal is to present their findings to their principal and advocate for ultimately replacing plastic utensils with a compostable option. When the Stay-at-Home order was put into place, the team continued their research to find alternatives for plastic utensils and single-use trays.

Most Inspirational Team Award – $250

Whittier Elementary School – Long Beach, California

Whittier Elementary focused on ways to reduce litter on their campus. They educated their school through videos about the harmful effects of litter and showcased how cleaning up was every student’s responsibility. They worked with their principal and teachers to set up “beautification zones” to clean up their school’s grounds.

Best Alumni Team – $250

Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 – Queens, New York

This team of 10 students has previously worked with Grades of Green on several Campaign projects. This semester, they continued to pursue water bottle waste reduction efforts at their own school before expanding their advocacy to nearby elementary schools. The team then focused on recycling markers at their school but switched their project to educating their community on reducing plastic usage after the stay-at-home-order was implemented.

International Changemakers Award – $500

University of Buea  – Buea, Cameroon

`This team in Cameroon advocated to their University administration to stop the open burning of trash on campus and encouraged their university body to seek out trash collection services and trash bin sites. During this process, they worked to create a university recycling program while educating younger students and siblings about waste issues occurring in their community. The team lead, Forbi Perise, recently spoke to the UN as part of the World Oceans Day global virtual event. Watch his presentation and panel discussion.

Student Recognition Awards

Best Student Leader – Samantha T, Mira Costa High School

Samantha is a 11th grade student at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. She has been involved in Grades of Green since 2012, bringing energy and passion to all of the environmental projects she has taken on over the years.  Sam began with the Grades of Green Youth Corps Eco Leadership program in 2012 when she was in 3rd grade, leading environmental education and recycling projects in her community. Sam started the first student-led Grades of Green club at Mira Costa, spearheading solutions to environmental problems in her high school and city. She and her team began participating in the Rise Campaign program in 2018 focusing on educating her community about ocean health and leading projects to reduce plastic litter at the beach. Sam is a strong environmental advocate in her community and is consistently involved in environmental leadership and speaking out for green solutions.

Best Student Innovator – Sacha E, Granada Hills High School Habit Change Team 

Sacha E. is a student at Granada Hills Charter High school. He is interested in taking environmental action, because of the amount of waste and pollution in his community. The strong winds in the local neighborhoods constantly knock down trash cans and spill trash into the environment. Sasha’s project addresses this issue by using an innovative system of automatic electromagnetic locks that automatically secure trash cans if they are knocked over. This invention has been recognized as the most sustainable invention at the MIT EurekaFest. Sasha is also encouraging people to stop overfilling trashcans, so that trash can lids can be secured properly, further preventing litter in his community. His project demonstrates the power of innovative ideas and creative thinking when approaching environmental problems.

Adult Lead Award

Best Adult Lead – Sheri Sather, The Parallel Projects

Sheri sought to introduce her son, Justin, to other children around the world working to reduce plastics – and in 2019 they met Perise through social media.  Perise had collected over 8,000 thousand illegally dumped plastic bottles from around his hometown of Buea, and without any local recycling infrastructure Perise was looking for ideas on what to do with all the collected bottles.  Sheri and Justin spread the word about Perise’s situation, asking everyone they could for ideas. The two released a national call of action for solution.  Thus, Parallel Projects campaign was born. Sheri worked hard throughout the 2020 Waste Campaign ton continue sharing and implementing ideas from active environmental groups around the world.

With the support of Sony Pictures’ A Greener World, we challenged students to put together a pitch video to showcase their solution to environmental problems in their communities and beyond. It was incredible to see all the students who managed to work throughout the difficulties presented by stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus.

The result? Grades of Green has been overwhelmed by the number of Green Pitch video entries that we received and are even more blown away by all the students who worked so hard! All of the videos showed such great passion and commitment to taking care of our environment. 

It was VERY difficult to narrow it down, but we are pleased to announce the winners!

Winning Teams

The winning student or team will earn an Eco-Grant of $1,000 and two (2) runner-up students or teams will earn $500! All three winners will be able to tour the Sony Pictures Studio Lot and/or watch a live taping of a Sony Pictures production.

Grand Prize Winner: Whitney High School

Whitney High School

Runner Up: Umar from Irvine High School

Irvine High School

Runner Up: Manhattan Beach Middle School

Manhattan Beach Middle School

Finalists Videos

Check out our finalists’ videos below – they were all amazing!

CAMS Hear Club

CAMS Hear Club

Explore Marine Life Team

Explore Marine Life Team

Helen Keller Green Team

Helen Keller Green Team

Irvine SEVA Group

Irvine SEVA Group

Linwood E. Howe Elementary

Linwood E. Howe Elementary

The AMAZING students at Grand View Elementary made it on Spectrum 1 News! The Grand View campaign team was featured as was the school’s incredible trash sorting efforts that were set up a decade ago by Grades of Green students. We’re so proud to show off these Eco-Leaders’ dedication to the environment. Thank you, Spectrum 1!

We’d like to thank Grand View Elementary for letting us film and the Grand View PTA for its continued support of our vision to empower and inspire the next generation of Eco-Leaders. Grades of Green was founded at Grand View more than 10 years and we continue to work closely with their incredible students to keep Manhattan Beach and California at the forefront of environmental action!

Two Grades of Green students featured in Spectrum 1 News’ coverage.

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.