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.

Plastic in our oceans is threatening the marine ecosystem: marine animals get stuck in the plastic or, even worse, they are ingesting plastic because it looks similar to their food.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. This blog gives 8 easy steps to help cut down on plastics that could end up in the ocean and contribute to the pollution problem. It can be as easy as cutting down on plastic consumption (step 1) and choosing reusables such as cloth shopping bags and steel/glass bottles instead of plastic bags and single-use plastic water bottles (step 7). Check out these and other ways to be a part of the solution here.

Thinking of taking on a Grades of Green activity to cut down on plastics? Consider a Water Refill Station or Trash Free Lunches! To access the downloadable resources for all 40+ of our activities, register here. ​

Center Street Elementary School featured their Grades of Green waste reduction activities on El Segundo TV! The segment highlighted the school’s waste reduction efforts through Grades of Green Activities such as Trash Free Lunches and Campus Composting. Center Street Elementary School also implements other Grades of Green Activities such as No Idle Zones, In-Class Recycling, and much more. Learn more about Center Street Elementary School’s efforts to go green and get ready to be inspired by watching the video clip here!

Center Street School Grades of Green – What’s Up El Segundo

Grades of Green Youth Corps Eco-Leadership students Lila M. and Sienna A. were interviewed by food coach and fitness & nutrition reporter Lori Corbin on ABC7 News! The segment highlighted Grand View Elementary School where Grades of Green first started back in 2010. Although the school has already taken on multiple Grades of Green Activities from Walk to School Wednesdays and trash-free lunches to composting and replacing paper flyers with reusable chalk boards, Grand View plans to continue its efforts to make a better planet. Check out the video clip here to learn more about how Grades of Green is carrying out its mission to inspire and empower kids to care for the environment.

Grades of Green students in Manhattan Beach teach others on how to save the planet _ abc7.

Grades of Green was featured in the Santa Monica Daily Press in recognition of all the Grades of Green Website Activities and Youth Corps Eco-Leadership Activities implemented throughout schools in Santa Monica! Check out the article here to see what schools in Santa Monica are doing to help the environment. Click here to register and unlock our 40+ Grades of Green Activities and click here to learn more about our Youth Corps Eco-Leadership Program.

Bryant Ranch Elementary School joined Grades of Green in 2016, and is kicking off their program by focusing on waste reduction. Concerned with the amount of food wasted each day at lunchtime, the Grades of Green Team set to work on rolling out Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunches Activity and Campus Composting Activity. After preparing sorting station containers consisting of compost, bottles and cans collection, recycle, landfill, and tray stacking, Grades of Green hosted an assembly to educate the students on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Students were taught how to pack a trash free lunch, how to conserve natural resources, and how to use their new sorting station. After the assembly, students used the sorting stations for the first time. At the end of lunch, only 4 bags of trash were filled compared to the usual 7, and all fruit and veggie scraps were taken to the garden to be composted. Way to go Bryant Ranch! Interested in introducing Grades of Green’s waste reduction activities in your school community? Email us today at to get started!

After being awarded as a finalist in the 2015-2016 Trash Free Lunch Challenge, Rogers Middle School in Long Beach, California has become more motivated to keep focusing on reducing, reusing and recycling whenever possible. Grades of Green visited the school to give an assembly to the students the first day back from winter break, and our team was thrilled to see a variety of sustainable, effective waste reduction practices in place. Rogers has an awesome student Grades of Green Team, who manage the lunchtime sorting stations and promote trash free lunches daily. Campus composting is a regular occurrence, and the Green Team even created a beautiful native and drought tolerant garden this winter! The Rogers Grades of Green Team is continuously thinking of new and exciting ways to engage students in eco-efforts on campus, and this year they are focusing on reducing straws used. Keep up the great work Rogers! Interested in following in Rogers’ footsteps and launching some of these Grades of Green Activities at your school? Register your school at today to receive your very own Grades of Green Advisor!

Grades of Green’s 6th annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge schools are rockin’ it in the New Year! As of January 2017, all schools have kicked off their lunchtime waste reduction program and are reducing bags of trash each day with support from Grades of Green. These schools are making big changes, and Grades of Green is so proud of each school’s accomplishments thus far. Check out the halftime report here for all of the details! Interested in joining the 2017-2018 Trash Free Lunch Challenge? The wait list is now open. Email us at to save your spot today!

You might have heard the benefits about using one less plastic bag, but have you considered One Less Straw? The One Less Straw pledge campaign is a way to get involved and be the solution to the problem. Affecting change starts with saying “no.” By taking on this pledge, there’s nothing to buy and the only person you need to rely on is you!

Need more reasons to join the One Less Straw movement? The facts about single-use plastic straws are mind-boggling and persuasive. Our environment and health are impacted by numbers like the 500 million plastic straws discarded every day in the US alone, which are enough straws to fill more than 46,000 school buses a year. This huge number also contributes to the 175 billion straws a year making their way into landfills, or worse, the oceans.

Sign the pledge here! Looking to raise money for your school? You can do this through the pledge. One hundred percent of the proceeds can go back to helping your school with environmental education programs. Need ideas for environmental education initiatives? Check out Grades of Green’s Activities and see how the Trash Free Lunches activity can encourage students to take on the One Less Straw pledge while reducing the amount of lunchtime waste they generate. If you haven’t already, register here to gain access to all the step-by-step implementation instructions and resources Grades of Green has to offer.

Grades of Green is recruiting for its 6th Annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge to inspire students and school communities to be trash-free, care for the environment and reduce lunchtime trash!  All elementary and middle schools in the greater Los Angeles area are invited to register for the Challenge, as long as they do not have a lunchtime waste reduction program already in place. By participating in the Challenge, students learn new waste free habits they will carry with them for a lifetime, such as how to reduce, reuse and recycle.  On average participating schools reduce lunchtime waste by 70%, and winning schools reduce waste by over 90%!

By participating in this free program, each school will receive a personal Grades of Green Advisor, an eco-starter kit worth $1,000 in prizes, and a chance to compete for a $1,000 science grant.  To ensure each school’s efforts in the Challenge will be sustainable for years to come, Grades of Green also offers year-after-year guidance and will provide a follow-up assembly for the 2017-2018 school year!

If you’re interested in being one of only 25 schools selected to compete in Grades of Green’s 2016-2017 Trash Free Lunch Challenge, please email us at or call us at 310-607-0175 to learn more about the program and to reserve your spot today! Want to learn more? Here’s a quick video about the Trash Free Lunch Challenge.