If you’ve listened to our interview on KIIS FM, or followed our Instagram page, then you already know about Justin, from Los Angeles, California. Better known for his Instagram handle, @justinsfrogproject, Justin launched a sustainability initiative ‘For the Love of Frogs,’ which quickly evolved into a journey deeply rooted in friendship and family.

When Justin first learned that frogs were an indicator species, he resolved to do everything in his power to help his amphibian friends. Justin learned that an indicator species is one which tells us about the impact of pollution on an ecosystem. A declining frog population is trying to tell us that our planet needs our help.

Justin started learning more about the problems with plastic pollution. He discovered ways to keep trash out of landfills. He switched to reusable snack bags and gave lessons on composting at Emerson Gardens. He also learned how to recycle crayons, turn fishing line into bracelets, and transform plastic bags into doormats. Then he came across a little girl that melts 200 pounds of plastic bottle caps into a buddy bench that encourages kindness and new friendships.

In the summer of 2018, Justin wrote a letter to Sammie to learn more about her Buddy Benches. He learned that a Buddy Bench is a place where students can go at recess when they are feeling lonely, upset, or want to make new friends. Justin was beyond excited about the concept and the two of them quickly became pen pals and began writing letters weekly to each other. And within weeks, Justin wanted to make a Buddy Bench for his school in Los Angeles. He started collecting bottle caps from friends, neighbors, his classmates, the YMCA, Walgreens, and packages even started arriving from multiple states and the furthest package came all the way from Norway.

In January of 2019, Justin and his family joined Grades of Green at a Los Angeles Kings game, where the dedicated Staples Center staff took the group on a tour of the remarkably sustainable stadium. After speaking with Sustainability Manager Jessica Franco, the Staples Center promised to make his bottle cap dreams come true. Just a few weeks later, they did exactly that. Arriving at Justin’s home in Los Angeles with hundreds of pounds of bottle caps, the Staples Center helped him reach his goal of 210 pounds of plastic bottle caps. With that, Justin and his family were off to meet Sammie in Indiana and deliver the caps to be melted down.

Justin’s family and friends worked tirelessly to help him achieve this awesome feat, first by scouring Los Angeles for bottle caps, and then zig-zagging across the country to complete their mission. What began as a sustainability initiative, grew into a lasting friendship and a bonding experience for the whole family. Last month Justin’s Frog Project held the first board of his Los Angeles Buddy Bench, with family and friends in attendance.

Check out our Instagram to see photos from Justin’s journey and his meeting with Sammie! You can also follow Justin and Sammie’s adventure by following @powerofpenpals on Instagram.

The Niños del Sol School in Playas del Coco, a beach town in the northwestern Costa Rican province of Guanacaste, was featured in The Tico Times! The school was chosen as a semi-finalist in the Grades of Green Spring 2018 Water Challenge.

The Water Challenge is a global competition in which 136 student leaders at 40 schools from across the world design new ways to lead water conservation and water quality efforts in 33 cities and eight countries, Grades of Green told The Tico Times in an email.

The kids at Niños del Sol designed an innovative student-built graywater filtration system that seeks to clean water that drains from sinks, fountains and other sources. The system allows the water to be used safely in the school garden, thereby reducing the school’s water footprint.

In addition, kids at the alternative school are educating their community about the everyday actions that residents can carry out to save water, from taking shorter showers to eating less meat.

To check out the article directly, click here!

What’s greener than no idle zones in schools? No idle zones in car dealerships! In celebration of Earth Month, LAcarGUY is setting a new auto industry standard by introducing the very first No Idle Service Center in all 11 of their South Bay dealerships. As one of Grades of Green’s longtime supporters, LAcarGUY has helped dozens of schools take on the No Idle Zone activity to educate parents and students on why it’s important to reduce carbon emissions and unnecessary idling. As green leaders of the auto industry, LAcarGUY is showing just why they are on the forefront of environmental sustainability. Way to go LAcarGUY! Interested in implementing a no idle zone in your school? Check out Grades of Green’s No Idle Zone Activity for a step-by-step guide on how to roll out a successful program and don’t forget to watch our recent webinar to learn how one small and simple change can make a positive impact on the environment.

Could the brain be the key to humankind avoiding environmental disaster? Ann-Christine Duhaime is a Harvard Medical School professor and neurosurgeon who explored the possibility of the brain affecting our green actions. She studied whether the brain’s drive for material thing and stimulation affected humans getting by with less and impacting the planet.

As humans, we are more likely to hoard or to get more goods then we need immediately. These impulses are controlled by the brain’s reward system, which aided in human survival and reproduction. In the past, more meant bettering your chances of survival, and today that is still the mindset.

The drive for more and bigger material goods have obvious environmental impacts, and these are trends that are speeding up climate change. A lot of people are quick to point fingers to blame us for our greediness and ignorance, among other ugly qualities. Duhaime is different. She’s focused on “assessing people, not [their] character flaws … for what it is about their brains that makes them the way they are.”

What if we changed the way we think? Duhaime thinks it could help with acting sustainably. Rewards don’t have to be just about consumption; they can be pro-social and competitive rewards that encourage you to cut consumption in relation to your fellow people. Who would have thought climate change and changing our behavior in response to it has been challenged by our very own brains?!

Interested in seeing you you can get positive reinforcement for environmentally habits going in your school? Grades of Green’s Caught Green Handed Activity encourages rewarding your peers and other do-gooders for acting green. New to Grades of Green? Register here to unlock the step-by-step implementation instructions and resources to this activity and more!