When you’re spreading an environmental message, consider creating an eco-display or recycled art project. Visuals can be easier to understand than text or a verbal presentation.

For example, last April students from Manhattan Beach, CA went to their City Council to advocate for the banning of plastic straws. They spoke about the negative impact plastic straws, utensils, and polystyrene products have on our environment, such as harming human health and marine life. To drive the point home, one student event wore a suite made entirely out of used plastic straws! After a lively conversation, the City Council voted unanimously to move ahead with a ban on plastic utensils, stirrers and last but not least, straws.

Another student used the power of memes to encourage his middle school campus to use their new waste sorting stations. He created and posted cutouts of custom eco-themed memes of Grumpy Cat, Success Kid, and more on a display board near the waste sorting stations, and also included images of how wildlife is affected by pollution.  By the end of the school year, his school reduced their waste by 82%!

Looking for more inspiration on spreading environmental messages? Check out this digital art video by N2U to encourage people to transform the goods, move them around and create new “sculptures” to realize the value of all these objects and also become aware of the huge impact they have on their Ecosystem with those goods. Click here if you’re interested in having N2U create a work of art at your school or community.

At Grades of Green, we love a good eco-competition. Each school year, we host our Trash Free Lunch Challenge to see which school in southern California can be the best at reducing its lunchtime waste. In addition, we host our Water Challenge every semester to see which school across the globe can be the best at reducing its water usage. In the spirit of eco-competitions and the new year, Grades of Green decided to host a Zero Waste Week Challenge between our Los Angeles and New York-based offices to see which office could create the least amount of waste over the first week of 2018!

Here were the rules of Grades of Green’s Zero Waste Challenge Week:

1. Collect all single-use packaging and containers in a collection bin at the office and a bin at home.

2. Wash out all dirty containers before putting them in the bin.

3.Recyclable single-use containers are still counted as waste and should be collected. Why? Recycling takes up our natural resources, and only a small percentage of what is put in the recycling actually ends up being recycled. Only 9% of plastic waste is actually recycled!

4. Food waste can be composted and doesn’t count in the Challenge.

5. Sanitary items (such as toilet paper) don’t count in the Challenge.

Which office do you think won the Zero Waste Week Challenge, Los Angeles or New York? Check out our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) on Tuesday, January 16 to find out which Grades of Green office will earn the title of Zero Waste Week Challenge champions! Feeling inspired? Check out Grades of Green’s Waste Activities and encourage your school community to go zero waste too!

Franklin Elementary from Santa Monica began its eco-friendly journey with Grades of Green back in 2013 and has continued to lead the way as green school ever since. Franklin competed in Grades of Greens 2013-2014 Trash Free Lunch Challenge. After reducing and diverting lunchtime waste by packing trash free lunches and adding in liquids, recycling, and composting bins in addition to their landfill bins, the school was able to reduce their lunchtime waste by 90%, earning them the “Above and Beyond” award.

Franklin Elementary has since taken on many of Grades of Green Activities. Not only do Frankin students pack trash free and recycle at lunchtime, but they also host an annual recycling event every year to encourage students to  recycle electronic waste.  Students are even encouraged to walk/bike/ride to school instead of driving.

In fall 2017, Franklin Elementary hosted an education night where parents and students learned different ways to reduce their everyday waste. Crayon Collection taught students how they could donate used crayons to schools in need instead of throwing them away while Grades of Green reminded students how to correctly use their recycling, composting, and landfill bins on campus.

Interested in having your school take on one of Grades of Green’s Activities? Click here to unlock Grades of Green’s 40+ Activities and receive one-on-one guidance from a Grades of Green Advisor!

This year Hamilton Middle School from Long Beach got a refresher lesson in recycling, and a little something extra as well. The fun began when the school enrolled in Grades of Green’s 2016-2017 Trash Free Lunch Challenge. As part of the program, students were asked to stack their paper lunch trays for recycling instead of throwing them away. As the students became familiar with the new system, the daily stacks of trays grew taller and taller until one day – just for fun – head custodian, LaMont, challenged the kids to find out how high they could stack their trays. Thus, the Tower of Trays Challenge was born! Stinson put a couple of rules on his Challenge:

1. The Tower had to be self-supporting

2. Only recyclable materials could be used in Tower construction.

Kids were scoured the lunch area for any and all trays to add to the project. No one needed to be reminded to stack trays and not a tray went to waste.As the Tower of Trays grew, the kids could see the impact of recycling in a tangible way. They could literally see how many trays were getting recycled instead of going to the landfill. The school has been able to cut its lunch trash by over 50% simply by recovering this single item from the waste stream.

What started out as just a bit of recycling fun became so much more. All kinds of engineering concepts were being spontaneously tested and discussed. What can we do to support it? How can we prevent it from leaning? A spirit of teamwork and camaraderie developed. Even the robotics club got involved. The kids experimented by expanding the base of the tower and by using smaller stacks of trays to buttress a central tower – a bit like the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Abu Dhabi, one of the tallest buildings in the world. In the end, the Hamilton Tower of Trays reached a height of over 14 feet!

The “just for fun” project was so successful, Stinson plans to make the Challenge a yearly event. Last week, Grades of Green supported Hamilton Middle Schools Tower of Trays Challenge by providing an assembly on waste reduction efforts and the importance of keeping waste out of landfills by properly stacking trays. If sometime this spring you see a new tower rising above the skyline, it might just be the environmental engineers of Hamilton Middle School playing around while protecting the environment!

Interested in getting your school involved with waste reduction efforts like Hamilton Middle School? Click here to learn more and to apply for the 2017-2018 Trash Free Lunch Challenge.

Between August 2017 and May 2018, parents, teachers, students, companies, and local organizations from around the world will unite to implement volunteer projects and promote healthy and sustainable learning environments in honor of Green Apple Day of Service! Over the past five years, almost one million volunteers from 73 countries have participated in this event. Want to join the movement? Visit the Green Apple Day of Service website to gather project ideas and register by clicking here. Schools that register between September and October can receive official support with funding and other resources! For more ideas on project activities, register on the Grades of Green website here to unlock our 40+ Activities and we’ll pair your school up with a one-on-one advisor to help you implement your activity of choice!

Did you know the production of disposable water bottles uses 17 million barrels of oil a year? Purchasing water bottle filling stations for school campuses are not only a great way to provide fresh drinking water to students, but they can also help conserve natural resources, teach kids about the impact of single use plastics, and encourage the use of reusable water bottles. In fact, by encouraging students to use reusable bottles, families can save up to $300 every year!

Do you know a school in Los Angeles County, CA that’s been wanting to purchase a water bottle filling station?  For a limited time,  our friends at the West Basin Municipal Water District will award grants – up to $1,000 maximum per applicant – for the purchase of a Water Bottle Filling Station! Applications will be continuously accepted on a first-come first-served basis. To see if your school is eligible and for more information, view their flyer here or visit their website here.

Want help choosing the right water bottle filling station for your campus and encouraging students to use it? Whether you’re in Los Angeles County or on the other side of the world, click here to register and unlock Grades of Green’s Water Refill Station Activity and receive one-one-one support from a Grades of Green Advisor!

Put your eco-literacy to the test! Are the following statements true or false?

1. If everyone in the world lived like an average American, we would need 5 Earths to sustain our lifestyle.

2. The hole in Earth’s ozone layer actually reduces the greenhouse effect but allows harmful UV radiation to pass through.

3. It takes 1800 gallons to grow cotton needed for one pair of jeans.

If you’re like half of all Americans, you may have had to look these questions up on the internet to find out they are all true, but these are some of the topics students are beginning to learn in the classroom thanks to a focus on environmental literacy. Environmental literacy not only means understanding the science of the environment and understanding society’s impact on the natural world, but also being able to make informed decisions to actively help the global environment.

Although schools across the United States still have a long way to go before all their students are environmentally literate, California had a recent victory in environmental literacy. With the support of over 130 organizations and state leaders like Senator Ben Allen, Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, California Governor Jerry Brown approved a one-time budget of $4 million to fund environmental literacy in the state in 2017-2018. According to Ten Strands, this budget allocation will allow school districts to utilize community-based environmental education providers and ultimately improve critical-thinking and problem-solving skills about environmental challenges that will benefit students in schools, in their communities, and in the workplace. Way to go California!

Grades of Green supplements environmental education and literacy through experiential learning with our 40+ Activities that can be accessed online and implemented in the classroom, our Trash Free Lunch Challenge which teaches kids why and how to reduce their waste, and our Youth Corps Eco-Leadership Program which empowers kids to lead an environmental activity of their own from start to finish. For more information on how our programs can improve environmental literacy, email info@gradesofgreen.org or call our office at (310) 607-0175.

School may be out, but Grades of Green never takes a break from carrying out its mission to inspire and empower kids to care for the environment! Last week, Grades of Green educated 300 students from the Los Angeles Expo Center’s summer programs about the importance of reducing waste. Students learned about the 4 R’s and even played some of Grades of Green’s favorite eco-games. When playing the How Long Until It’s Gone game, students were surprised at how long it takes different manmade items to decompose in landfill. From plastic bags to glass cups, the Natural Resources Matching Game taught students where their everyday items come from in nature.

Interested in bringing some fun eco-activities into your classroom? Click here to register and unlock Grades of Green’s 40+ Eco-Activities!

Grades of Green had the honor of teaming up with Jack Johnson and his All At Once movement to promote Sustainable Local Food Systems and Plastic Free Initiatives at his concert at the Hollywood Bowl! As concert attendees made their way up the Hollywood Bowl trail, they were invited to visit the All At Once festival, which included a handful of Jack Johnson’s favorite Los Angeles nonprofit organizations. Guests were challenged to complete environmental actions, such as visiting a nonprofit booth, filling up a reusable bottle at the hydration station, and even purchasing carbon offsets to earn a reusable, stainless steel cup. The Grades of Green booth encouraged participants to take pledges to help the environment and spin our Eco-Wheel to learn interesting facts related to our 40+ Activities. Participants also learned how Grades of Green helps schools across southern California reduce their lunchtime waste by an average of 70% through our Trash Free Lunch Challenge, and how we empower students to implement an eco-activity from start to finish at their school through our Youth Corps Eco-Leadership Program.

Donations collected at the concert will be matched by Jack Johnson’s foundation. Didn’t get a chance to donate at the concert? All donations to Grades of Green will be matched by Jack Johnson’s foundation until September 1st – you can donate to Grades of Green by clicking here or on Venmo at @gradesofgreen!

Thank you to Jack Johnson and the Johnson Ohana Foundation for supporting Grades of Green since 2011 and helping us inspire and empower kids to care for the environment!

Grades  of Green is thrilled to welcome our summer intern, Gunner! Check out his story below to learn about how his passions help Grades of Green carry out its mission to inspire and empower students to care for their environment.

Gunner is an intern at the Grades of Green’s LA office. He is on track to graduate from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in March of 2018 and will earn a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Earth Science with a concentration in Environmental Assessment. Throughout his educational career, he has gained knowledge in the complexities of Earth systems and understands how essential it is that humans protect the environment. After graduating from Cal Poly, he would like to work on developing sustainable technologies that would help preserve Earth’s Environmental systems. Gunner is eager to join the Grades of Green team and hopes he can help them empower youth to care the environment by supporting Grades of Green’s Youth Corps Eco-Leadership ProgramTrash Free Lunch Challenge, and 40+ Eco-Activities.

Interested in volunteering or becoming an intern with Grades of Green? Email info@gradesofgreen.org for more information.