When it comes to lunchtime trash, less is definitely more. That’s the lesson environmental education nonprofit Grades of Green wants to teach students as the organization kicks off its seventh annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge (TFLC).
Students from participating schools, including Charles Helmers and Emblem Academy elementary schools in Santa Clarita, will learn how to decrease waste by packing trash-free lunches (such as reusable lunch containers, water bottles and utensils, and cloth napkins). All students, including those who buy lunch, will also learn how to sort lunchtime waste to be donated, composted and recycled.
Through a combination of sorting waste and bringing reusable lunch containers, TFLC schools reduce an average of 70 percent of lunchtime waste; winning schools reduce over 92 percent of trash. In total, 117 schools have diverted 2,300 tons of waste from the landfill since the Challenge began seven years ago. This year, Challenge participants are on track to reduce at least 300 tons.
While these metrics speak to the program’s success in helping schools protect our environment and divert waste, the real results are the environmental values students take home. “The goal of the Trash Free Lunch Challenge is not only to reduce waste but also to teach children how to reuse, recycle and compost. Educating students through programs such as these furthers our mission of converting waste into resources in the communities we serve,” said Grace Hyde, Sanitation Districts’ Chief Engineer and General Manager.
“Grades of Green’s goal with our Trash Free Lunch Challenge is to help participating schools start lasting green programs to instill environmental and waste reduction habits that will stay with students for a lifetime,” said Allie Bussjaeger, Director of Regional Programs at Grades of Green. “We are changing the course of the future by making environmental protection second nature in young minds today.”
Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge is a yearlong competition where Southern California schools challenge each other to see which school can reduce the most lunchtime waste. Grades of Green teaches students to reduce trash by bringing reusable lunch containers and using lunchtime waste sorting systems. This ultimately forms habits that will protect the environment for years to come. Through fun, educational assemblies, personalized eco-starter kits, waste reduction plans, and Grades of Green Advisors available to personally guide each school, Grades of Green helps create an environment where every school can be a winner! A panel of environmental experts will evaluate the implementation and success of the three finalists’ trash reduction programs. The winning schools (one elementary and one middle school) will receive a Grand Prize of a $1,000 education grant. Click here to learn more about the Challenge.
How can my school get involved?
While this year’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge is underway, any school can begin Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Activity, as well as more than 40 other student focused eco-minded Activities, at any time. Complete instructions and materials are available at no cost to schools at www.gradesofgreen.org.