Grades of Green is proud to congratulate the grand prize winners of the 7th annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge! The top three middle school and elementary school finalists each submitted a 10 minute video explaining their waste reduction program that was judged by a panel of environmental experts. Winning schools were chosen based on how well the Grades of Green team inspired and educated their campus community about the importance of reducing waste, how much waste the school is diverting from landfills, and how their program will be sustained and expanded upon in the future.

Selecting the winners was no easy task. After much discussion,the winner of the middle school category is… Helen Keller Middle School from Long Beach! Helen Keller Middle School launched a comprehensive waste reduction program which included composting fruit and vegetable scraps on campus and donating uneaten food with the help of Food Finders, a food recovery organization. Helen Keller Middle School’s Grades of Green Team students meet weekly during lunch and make sure every classroom is presented information that was discussed at the weekly meetings. The students even reached out to their school’s Nutrition Services Branch to replace their traditional utensil packets, which included both a spork and napkin, with individual sporks and napkins so students have the option to take only what they need. Congratulations Helen Keller Middle School!

The winner of the elementary school category is… Victor Elementary from Torrance! Victor elementary started a club called the Victor Elementary Environmental Engineer Club Students, or VEEECS, which served as their Grades of Green Team. The Victor school community has made the Trash Free Lunch Challenge a permanent part of the campus culture. The VEEECS sorting station is available to students daily, and student leaders monitor the sorting stations to help their peers sort correctly. VEEECS leaders host raffles to encourage kids to pack trash free lunches and even have multiple VEEECS positions like Sorting Station Technicians, Compost Engineers, Public Relations Promoters, Web engineers/masters, Graphic Artists, Photo-Journalists, and New Program Development to ensure their waste reduction program continues.

Inspired by Helen Keller Middle School and Victor Elementary to reduce your school’s waste? Join the 2018-2019 Trash Free Lunch Challenge! Email us at today to learn more!

One of the most important steps in setting up a successful Grades of Green Team at your school is getting organized. Do you and your Grades of Green Team have plans to implement No Idle Zones, Classroom Recycling, Trash Free Lunches, or another Grades of Green Activity? Click here to view our Grades of Green Team Schedule Template and click here to check out our Green Team student schedule examples created by real schools. Get ready to be inspired to lead your own Grades of Green Team!

Do you have a motivated Grades of Green Team and you are not sure what to do next? We are now recruiting schools from across the globe to join our Water Challenge! Click here to learn more about Grades of Green’s Spring 2018 Water Challenge or email  for more information on how your school can get involved.

Franklin Classical Middle School in Long Beach, California participated in Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge in 2014-2015, and has taken their Grades of Green program to new heights! In the past three years, the school has donated 21,000 pounds of food to local shelters.  Every Friday after school, Grades of Green Team students volunteer their time to manage the schools various Grades of Green Activities. Students help recycle beverage containers and paper in classrooms, tend to the lunchtime sorting stations, and maintain the school garden. The students hosted their first e-waste drive in May 2017, and it was a huge success! Franklin Classical was awarded a Silver Level Green Ribbon School this year, and Grades of Green could not be more proud. Keep up the great work Franklin Classical! Interested in following in Franklin Classical’s eco-footsteps? Registration is now open for the 2017-2018 Trash Free Lunch Challenge! Click here to learn more.