Drumroll please! After months of sorting lunchtime waste, educational assemblies on waste reduction and being quizzed on “trashy” trivia, Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge finalist schools have been selected and the panel of environmental experts have chosen the winners.

24 Los Angeles schools entered the Trash Free Lunch Challenge in August to see which school could divert the most waste and best inspire their student body to take on lifelong waste reduction habits. Grades of Green provided each school with an educational assembly, an eco-starter kit, a personalized waste reduction plan and one-on-one mentoring to personally guide each school. Participating schools ask students to reduce trash by bringing reusable lunch containers and using lunchtime sorting stations – forming habits that will protect the environment for years to come.

As in past years, the schools exceeded all expectations. The Trash Free Lunch Challenge schools collectively surpassed the 100,000th trash bag mile marker. Even more impressive, the schools educated nearly 11,000 students on waste reduction; that’s more students than any other previous Challenge year. Each of these students, including those who buy lunch, learned to sort waste for recycling and composting. In total, this year’s participating schools achieved a 77 percent average lunchtime waste diversion rate, which means about 320 tons of waste will be diverted from Southern California landfills thanks to the work of these dedicated students.

With the combined positive impact of this year’s participating schools, the decision to choose the finalist schools was a difficult one. Each school filled out an end-of-year application showing the number of trash bags diverted, the strategies they used to educate their campus community about waste reduction and the sustainability of their waste-reduction program. The finalist schools from the elementary school category and middle school category are:


  • Grand Prize Winner: Oak Street Elementary School (Inglewood)
  • Runner Up: Montemalaga Elementary (Palos Verdes Estates)
  • Runner Up: Mountain View Elementary School (Claremont)


  • Grand Prize Winner: Will Rogers Middle School (Lawndale)
  • Runner Up: Cesar Chavez Middle School (Lynwood)
  • Runner Up: El Segundo Middle School (El Segundo)