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!

Francis Scott Key Elementary Protects the Watershed!

Water’s importance to all life cannot be understated. Without enough quality water sources, it would be difficult to grow food, make clothing, cool power plants, clean belongings, and more.

Luckily, Francis Scott Key Elementary, a school situated in District Heights, Maryland, is tackling these water issues. As a 2018 Spring Water Challenge Participant, Francis Scott Key Elementary focusing on the “Water Quality” aspect of the Water Challenge.

Their Grades of Green team is tackling water runoff and pollution. Water runoff from rain can wash dirt, chemicals, and other pollutants into drains, which eventually go into the local watershed. Without proper prevention or mediums to neutralize water runoff, these pollutants can harm local wildlife. Local wildlife are vital to maintaining water quality. Water Quality can be accessed by the number of insects in a body of water, fish health, nitrogen and phosphate levels, and absence of algae blooms.

Francis Scott Key is using Micro-Bio Retention Facilities to collect runoff water in ponds of native plants that filter runoff water before distributing the water into the larger watershed. By filtering runoff water, nitrogen and phosphorus can be absorbed by plants and prevent algae blooms! Moreover, these filters can protect animals and insects that are vital to protecting water ways.

Follow @gradesofgreen on Instagram for weekly Water Challenge stories from schools like Francis Scott Key Elementary!

Fighting for Clean Water!

The 2018 Water Challenge is well under way. The student-led challenge provided an opportunity for students to brainstorm solutions to reduce water usage and improve water quality. Given the different climates, cultures, issues affecting each school, this year’s Water Challenge has led to an incredible number of ideas. Over 40 schools, from California to Uganda, are participating this year.

About the Water Challenge

The Water Challenge is comprised of 4 parts:

– Creating a Grades of Green Team

– Creating a plan to reduce water usage and completing the Water Challenge Forms

– Teaching others about your plan to reduce water usage

– Creating a video about your findings actions and submitting the Water Challenge Forms

Introduction Videos

In addition, schools were asked to submit videos introducing their school to the other Water Challenge Schools! We compiled these introduction videos so that everyone can see a few of the schools participating! Check out the video here!

Join Us!

If you’re interested in joining a global community of schools, join us in the Water Challenge next semester! In the meantime, you can participate in any of the Grades of Green Activities here!

Facing Environmental Challenges Together!

Grades of Green schools can be found all over the world. Currently, Grades of Green schools span 17 different countries. These schools have implemented Grades of Green activities all around the world while providing a variety of international viewpoints and answers to environmental problems. Many of these solutions can be applied to countries with similar climates, such as using mulch to help soil with water retention- saving water in the process, as St. Roza has shown us. By joining Grades of Green, schools become part of a Global network where they have multiple opportunities to communicate with each other. After all, solutions from 615 (and counting!) schools are better than one!

Last semester, the Global Water Challenge brought Millard Extension from Nebraska and Water Challenge Winner St. Roza from Uganda together. The two schools communicated frequently through Google Classroom. After last year’s challenge, these two schools have kept in contact and are continuing to help each other with their environmental goals!

Buddy Schools!

This year, we have over 40 schools in 10 different countries participating in the 2018 Spring Water Challenge! We’re pairing each school with a buddy school so that people can share their experiences, insights, and inspirations. Through increased communication, schools will be able to learn about other ways to tackle environmental solutions! Moreover, students get to learn about different cultures across the map in their shared goal towards a more environmental conscious world.

If you haven’t registered yet, feel free to register your school with Grades of Green here! You’ll receive FREE downloadable resources and one-on-one staff advisor support year-round.

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!

Did you know Grades of Green offers over 40 Activities to empower students to create environmental change in their community? Whether students are interested in water conservation, energy conservation, toxins reduction, or waste reduction, Grades of Green has a hands on, fun Activity with step-by-step instructions, downloadable resources, and more! If you are interested in tackling waste, one of Grades of Green’s most popular Waste Activities was Trash Free Lunches. However, we have recently refined this Activity and split it into two separate Activities: Trash Free Lunches and Waste Sorting Station.

The Trash Free Lunches Activity focuses on students spreading awareness about the need to create less trash through the use of reusable items, while also teaching kids how to pack their own trash free lunch. This is a great Activity for schools where a large portion of their student population brings their lunch to school.

The Waste Sorting Station Activity focuses on diverting waste from landfills by creating a waste sorting station where kids can sort their garbage into various containers. This is a great Activity for schools where a large portion of their student population receives lunch from the cafeteria.

For the best waste-reduction results, we recommend schools pair these Activities together! Schools that have competed in Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge have all paired these two website Activities together to reduce and average of 70% of their lunchtime waste, with winning schools reducing over 90% of their lunchtime waste.

Interested in signing up your school for an eco-competition? Check out Grades of Green’s Spring 2018 Water Challenge and click here to register!

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

Students and teachers at St. Roza in Uganda are taking initiative to help conserve the environment. Today we Skyped with the incredible students who are already planting trees around their community and neighborhoods, filtering drinking water and much more. Several students are members of Wildlife Club at their school whose motto is to ‘conserve nature’. Kids of all ages are being encouraged to conserve water by harvesting rainwater and reducing water misuse. So far, students at St. Roza have concluded that the majority of water in their community is used for home chores such as for cooking, cleaning, toiletry, and irrigation. After making this assessment, students are currently focused on finding innovative ways to cut down water usage for household activities! St. Roza is part of Grades of Green’s Water Challenge Pilot Program. Keep up with the students at St. Roza by referring to our blog. You can also follow in St. Roza’s footsteps by registering here and utilizing Grades of Green’s Earth Tips to spread the word on campus!

Thanks to Grades of Green Youth Corps students Sydney, Drew, Zoe and Kiley, Lunada Bay Elementary School students have learned some new ways to go green! Second graders Sydney and Drew gave a presentation to the two second grade classrooms to educate their peers about the drought, and to encourage them to turn off the tap when they brush their teeth. The students were invited to sign a Turn off the Tap pledge, and every student was gifted with a green toothbrush with a Grades of Green Turn off the Tap logo on it to remind them about their water saving pledge. Zoe and Kiley created a fun skit to present at a school wide spirit assembly encouraging their peers to choose organic fruits and vegetables, and to avoid pesticides. The skit included scenery made from recycled cardboard boxes! Congratulations to these Youth Corps leaders for inspiring and empowering their school community to care for the environment. Interested in learning more about the Youth Corps? Click here!