24 L.A.-area schools are set to compete this year in Grades of Green’s fourth annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge. The last three years of the Challenge has led to a total of 71,000 bags of trash diverted from landfills and thousands of dollars saved in bag liners and waste hauler pick-ups. While the metrics speak to the success of participating schools, the real results are the environmental values the students take home.

“The goal of the Trash Free Lunch Challenge is to not only reduce waste, but also to teach kids how to reuse, recycle, and compost. We hope they’ll develop and keep these habits for a lifetime,” said Grace Robinson Hyde, Sanitation Districts’ Chief Engineer and General Manager.

Participating schools will ask students to eliminate trash by using reusable lunch containers, water bottles, and utensils, as well as cloth napkins. All students, including those who buy lunch, will be taught how to sort waste for recycling and composting. Through a combination of sorting and bringing reusable lunch containers, last year’s Challenge schools achieved a 70 percent average lunchtime waste diversion rate.

The 24 schools participating in this year’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge include:

  • Minnie Gant Elementary, Long Beach
  • Bancroft Middle, Long Beach
  • Washington Middle, Long Beach
  • Stephen’s Middle, Long Beach
  • Montemalaga Elementary, Palos Verdes
  • Towers Elementary, Torrance
  • El Segundo Middle, El Segundo
  • Oak Street Elementary, Inglewood
  • Will Rodgers Middle, Lawndale
  • Billy Mitchell Elementary, Lawndale
  • St. Mark’s School, Venice
  • Westminster Elementary, Venice
  • Roosevelt Elementary, Santa Monica
  • Lincoln Middle, Santa Monica
  • John Adams Middle, Santa Monica
  • Westside Neighborhood School, Del Rey
  • Culver City Middle, Culver City
  • Citizens of the World Charter, Los Angeles
  • St. Michael’s Catholic School, Los Angeles
  • View Park Charter School, Los Angeles
  • Cesar Chavez Middle, Lynwood
  • Eugene Fields Elementary, Pasadena
  • Mountain View Elementary, Claremont
  • Sycamore Elementary, Claremont

The competition got under way this year on September 17th, when representatives from each school attended a training session that included a tour of the Sanitation Districts’ Puente Hills Landfill (closed) and Materials Recovery Facility. Next, schools will be receiving one on one eco-consultations to right size their campus for waste reduction and then educate their entire campus with assemblies to introduce the new sorting stations and waste reduction programs at their school.

Though the deadline has passed to compete in this year’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge, any school may still initiate a Trash Free Lunch program using the complete instructions at no cost to schools here.

Sponsors of the Trash Free Lunch Challenge include the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, LAcarGUY, City of Santa Monica, Wean Green, and Go Green Lunchbox. Chevron provides the winning education grants.

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