Grades of Green Youth Corps students,
Max and Reece Riley, are acting as catalysts of environmental change once again
by kicking off “Foam Free Fridays” at Hermosa View and Hermosa Valley Schools.  No less than 6 newspapers (the Washington
Post, Seattle Times, Beach Reporter, Easy Reader, Daily
Breeze, and Minneapolis Star Tribune) chronicled Max and Reece’s efforts within the Hermosa Beach City School
District to eliminate polystyrene waste by switching to recycled paper trays on
“Foam Free Fridays.” “They understand
the health, environmental, and financial benefits of environmentally friendly
practices at schools and embody Grades of Green’s vision of instilling
environmental values in kids,” says Grades of Green Youth Corps Coordinator,
Allie Bussjaeger.

The Washington Post article,
titled It’s not
easy to replace foam lunch trays with greener options, school officials say
, discusses both the successes of and frustrations of
schools nationwide that are seeking to move away from polystyrene lunch trays.  School districts in Los Angeles, New York
City, Washington D.C., and Portland cited tight school budgets and the high
cost of eco-friendly materials as the foremost obstacle to swapping out
polystyrene trays.  A student activist
club based in Maryland has been struggling to convince the Board of Education
to install a dishwasher at their local school so they can reuse hard plastic
trays, but the Board turned them down, citing high installation costs and environmental
tradeoffs of water-overuse and chemical pollution from dishwasher

The good news is that many schools have managed to
come up with either the funds or the creativity to implement environmentally
friendly practices in small ways, demonstrating that every shade of green effort
makes a difference! The Washington Post article points to New York City
Department of Education’s “Trayless Tuesdays,” a cost-neutral way of
eliminating the use of polystyrene trays once per week, and Los Angeles Unified
School District’s switch to compostable trays this year, as examples of strides
that schools have made in reducing lunchtime waste.

Max and Reece Riley’s “Foam Free Fridays” stand out
as both an effective and kid-driven solution to keeping polystyrene off the
lunch table and out of the oceans. “Styrofoam is really bad for the environment,” Max said.
“It’s bad for the fish, and it’s bad for pretty much everything
else.” The switch to compostable
trays does not come without its costs – $0.03 per tray, to be exact, which adds
up for cash-strapped schools that are already looking to cut corners. Community
support makes a big difference, though, as the Rileys found out when they sent
out an email to district families looking for the $20 per week needed to cover
the cost of “Foam Free Fridays.” Within two hours they had all the donations they needed! Having this strong community
support to eliminate Styrofoam will be important as Max and Reese continue to
work towards their ultimate goal: switching to compostable trays permanently. Check out the full Washington Post, Seattle Times, Easy Reader News, Daily Breeze, Beach Reporter, and Minneapolis Star Tribune articles for more on students’ push for environmental changes in their schools!