By Ellen O’Connell | January 25, 2011


Grades of Green is a new national nonprofit organization that helps parents and students implement conservation practices and environmental education in their schools. It recently celebrated enrolling its 50th school into its programs. Grades of Green got its start at Grand View Elementary, where students help reduce trash by composting.


The non-profit has gone nationwide, offering free pre-packaged programs to help reduce trash and auto emissions, to switch to healthy cleaning products in classrooms and to educate students on environmental issues. More than 33,000 students across the country are now enrolled as part of Grades of Green. The group is co-directed by its four founders: Lisa Coppedge, Shaya Kirkpatrick, Suzanne Kretschmer, and Kim Martin. Kirkpatrick talked to Manhattan Beach Patch about why environmental education should start in the schools.


Manhattan Beach Patch: How did you get started?


Shaya Kirkpatrick: Initially we (the founding parents) wanted to do something to make a difference in protecting our environment and having a healthy environment for our kids. That remains true, but we also found along the way the possibility for something bigger: We could equip kids across the country with environmental habits so they grow up to be good stewards of the environment. Caring for the environment would be intrinsic and come naturally to them.


Patch: Why did you choose Manhattan Beach?


Kirkpatrick: All four founders live here and our children go to school here. Manhattan Beach is where it all started!


Patch: What has been a highlight of your organization’s tenure?


Kirkpatrick: Seeing Grades of Green grow to 50 schools across the country within a few months of its creation as a nonprofit. We’re starting to realize our vision for having a huge impact in trash reduction, air pollution reduction, and chemical reduction—because hundreds of thousands of kids across the country can become aware of the problems and make changes. All together it makes a big difference.


Patch: What gaps do you think you are filling with your nonprofit? Who exactly is your target demographic?


Kirkpatrick: Statistics show that greening schools not only protects the environment but also saves schools money, decreases absences, and increases test scores! But most schools lack the guidance and resources to produce tangible results. Grades of Green fills that gap. We help parents, administrators and the broader school community.


Patch: Why do you think this mission is so important?


Kirkpatrick: There is the potential for hundreds of thousands of children to implement Grades of Green’s easy programs and that will make a huge difference in trash reduction, air pollution reduction, and reduction of the use of harmful chemicals in our schools. For example, Los Angeles has a big trash problem that is critically endangering our environment. The county produces enough trash to fill Dodger Stadium every day. If every school in our country reduced trash by 84% like several of our Grades of Green schools have done, we would reduce trash to landfills by millions of bags each year. It also saves schools money.