20 Los Angeles schools have been competing in Grades of Green’s 7th annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge, and have made some big changes! Grades of Green Team students are championing awesome waste reduction programs in their school communities, and are collectively diverting over 400 tons of trash from landfills. Each of these schools has truly embraced the program in their own way, and we are so proud of their efforts.

After careful review, we are proud to announce the 6 finalist schools!

Elementary School Finalists (in no particular order): Victor Elementary (Torrance), Charles Helmers Elementary (Santa Clarita), Our Lady of Guadalupe (Hermosa Beach)

Middle School Finalists (in no particular order): Oak Middle School (Los Alamitos), South Pointe Middle School (Walnut), Helen Keller dual immersion Middle School (Long Beach).

Winning schools will be selected at the end of March, and will be announced in April 2018.

Each school in the Trash Free Lunch Challenge was unique in their own way, and as such we are pleased to give the following awards of recognition:

Berkeley Hall K-8 – Best Compost Award

Carthay Center Elementary – Litter Busters Award

Castle Rock Elementary – Best Recycling Award

Cyrus J. Morris Elementary – Best Education Award

Evelyn Carr Elementary – Best Green Team Award

F.D. Roosevelt Elementary – Best Food Recovery Award

Gaspar de Portola Middle School – City Leaders Award

Jackie Robinson Academy K-8 – Green Leaders of Tomorrow Award

Nettie L. Waite Middle School – Most Determined Award

Overland Elementary – Greenest Community Award

St. Anthony K-8 – Green Stewards Award

Skyblue Mesa Elementary – Community Activists Award

Whittier Elementary – Most Inspirational

William F. Prisk Elementary – Super Sorters Award

This program would not be possible without the support of our amazing sponsors. We thank the following:  Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, Lush Cosmetics, Northrop GrummanLA Kings Care Foundation, Los Angeles County 4th District, the Carton Council, and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation.

Check our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts next week to see who the 2017-2018 Trash Free Lunch Challenge winners will be!

Interested in registering your school for the 2018-2019 Trash Free Lunch Challenge? Email us at info@gradesofgreen.org for more information.

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!

Charles Helmers Elementary from Saugus Unified School District recently kicked off their waste reduction program by participating in Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge – and they are in it to win it! Before entering the Challenge, the school of nearly one thousand students had no waste sorting system and created seventeen bags of landfill trash every day. After attending the Trash Free Lunch Challenge Training Day in October, parent and student representatives of the Helmers Elementary Green Team brainstormed a waste sorting system that would perfectly fit their school.

By the time Charles Helmers Elementary kicked off the Trash Free Lunch Challenge in late October, their Green Team decided on a waste sorting system composed of a clear food donation box, a blue liquids only bucket, a green general recycling bin, a yellow plastic bottles only recycling bin, a red aluminum cans only recycling bin, a grey landfill bin, and a tray stacking box. To help students identify which lunchtime items go in which container, the Helmers Green Team created a color-coded visual aid with examples of common lunchtime items from home. Items found in the green section should be placed in the green general recycling bin, items in the yellow section should be placed in the yellow plastic bottles only recycling bin, items in the red section should be placed in the red aluminum cans only recycling bin, and all other items should be placed in the landfill bin if they can’t be donated. On the back side of their visual aid was a whiteboard sign-up sheet for any students interested in volunteering as a lunchtime sorting monitor.

After Grades of Green gave the entire school an assembly on the 4 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot) and demonstrated their new waste sorting system, students were motivated to reach their daily goal of eight bags of landfill trash. With the help of several student Green Team lunchtime sorting monitors and their color-coded visual aid, Charles Helmers Elementary decreased their lunchtime landfill trash from seventeen bags down to just three!

Interested in having your school compete in an eco-challenge? Sign up for Grades of Green’s Spring 2018 Water Challenge! Click here for more information, or email us at info@gradesofgreen.org.

Charles Helmers Elementary and Skyblue Mesa Elementary from Saugus Unified School District will compete against eighteen other schools from southern California in Grades of Green’s 2017-2018 Trash Free Lunch Challenge. Last year, Bridgeport Elementary from Saugus Unified School District came in as a finalist in the 2016-2017 Trash Free Lunch Challenge with an 80% landfill diversion rate. Will one of these Saugus Unified schools be the 2017-2018 Trash Free Lunch Challenge Winner and take home a $1,000 grand prize? Check out our website and social media pages at @gradesofgreen throughout the year to check on these schools’ progress in the Challenge. Finalists and winners will be announced in March 2018! Read the full story here.


Volunteers are an integral part of Grades of Green. One volunteer group in particular, the Manhattan-Hermosa Chapter of the National Charity League (NCL), has supported Grades of Green in carrying out its mission for years by assisting with outreach events, annual fundraisers, and so much more. On Thursday, Grades of Green had the pleasure of giving a little bit back to the amazing organization by giving a presentation on how NCL members can be more green at home. From recycling resources in Manhattan Beach to tips on how to save water and energy, Grades of Green covered a plethora of steps that will help the organization improve all areas of the environment! Youth Corps Eco-Leadership students Elise and Emily, who are also members of NCL, spoke about their Grades of Green Activities. Their work on creating drought tolerant gardens and hosting recycling competitions truly inspired the group to care for the environment. Interested in becoming a Grades of Green Youth Corps Eco-Leadership student like Emily and Elise? Click to learn more about the program. Want to implement these activities and more at your school? Click here to register and unlock our 40+ Grades of Green Activities!