The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, LAcarGUY, Don Knabe’s office and the Johnson Ohana Foundation partnered with Grades of Green for our second annual “Trash Free Lunch Challenge” offered to schools within the Sanitation Districts. The challenge encouraged schools to focus on reducing lunchtime trash and also
educated students about the 4Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Students
were encouraged to bring their lunches in reusable containers and to use other
reusable items, such as canteens and cloth napkins. Students who purchase their lunches on campus
could participate by sorting waste into recycling, composting, and by stacking
their trays like legos.

Any school within the Sanitation Districts’
service area was eligible to participate. The first qualified seventeen schools
to register received an Eco Starter Kit worth more than $1,500 from Grades of
Green, an Eco Audit by Grades of Green, a “Prep Rally” Assembly, and assistance
developing a project plan to implement a Trash Free Lunch Program at their
school. The seventeen schools then participated in a training session, where
they were instructed on how to implement a Trash Free Lunch and Composting
Program at their school and also got to tour a landfill and recycling facility.
Principals, teachers, parent volunteers, custodians, and students all
participated in the training session and left feeling optimistic about reducing
trash at their schools. The seventeen schools then implemented the Trash Free Lunch
Program from November, 2012 to March 16, 2013 and submitted their results to
Grades of Green. Collectively, these schools reduced their lunchtime
trash by diverting 20,000 bags from landfills this year! Exceeding our
goal by over 15,000 bags!

After careful evaluation, we could not decide
on just three finalists because so many schools went above and beyond exceeding the judges expections. Chevron generously donated an additional $450 education grants for three more schools. These three
runner-up schools that were awarded a $450 environmental education grant for
their incredible environmental stewardship were Chapman Elementary School
(Green Shake Education Award) in Gardena, Silver Spur Elementary School
(Operation Green Nation Award) in Palos Verdes, and Beryl Heights Elementary
School (Trash Redux Award) in Redondo Beach. Our three finalists were Riviera
Elementary School in Torrance, Washington Elementary School in Redondo Beach,
and Lunada Bay Elementary School in Palos Verde. A panel of environmental experts visited each
school to assess the implementation and success of the programs. The judging
panel included Alisha Auringer, Manager of the Environment at LAcarGUY,
Michelle Nakamura, Operations and Outreach Manager of 5 Gyres, Marieta Francis,
Executive Director of Algalita Marine Research Institute, Rupam Soni, Senior
Environmental Engineer at Sanitation District of Los Angeles County, and Abby
Landers, Grades of Green Student Club President at El Segundo High School,
Grades of Green Youth Corps Student, Co-Chair of the Youth Corps
Newsletter Committee.

After visiting all three schools, the judges
announced Lunada Bay Elementary as the winner of the 2012-2013 Trash Free Lunch
Challenge. On Tuesday,
April 22nd, all three schools attended an awards ceremony at Lunada
Bay Elementary. Landry Bender, from Disney Channel’s Crash and Bernstein,
presented education grants to each school at this ceremony. The winning school
received a Grand Prize of a $1,000 education grant, with the two finalists,
Washington Elementary and Riviera Elementary, receiving a $750 education grant
each. Combined, these three schools
reduced their lunchtime trash by diverting 87% of their trash bags from the

The second Trash Free Lunch Challenge was a
huge success as over 7,700 students were educated; the schools saved over $5,000
by reducing the number of trash bag liners used, and on average 119 bags of
trash will be diverted from the landfills each day thanks to these schools.

To see photos from the
Trash Free Lunch Challenge, go here.

To read more, check
out the articles in local newspapers and television coverage: