Santa Monica News
Schools Partake In Trash-Free Lunch Challenge
By Melissa Simon
Oct 9, 2013 - 4:33:18 PM

SANTA MONICA—Three elementary schools in Santa Monica have joined 21 other schools in the Trash-Free Lunch Challenge, which began on Wednesday, October 2, with a training seminar. The three schools participating are Franklin Elementary, Grant Elementary and McKinley Elementary.

Staff from McKinley Elementary. Photo courtesy of Grades of Green
“The Trash-Free Lunch Challenge is a contest that rewards schools for reducing lunchtime trash, while teaching students to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost—good habits that help protect the environment now and in the future,” Robyn Murphy, Grades of Green program manager for the Santa Monica schools, told Canyon News.

Grades of Green, the non-profit organization in charge of the program, started the Trash-Free Lunch Challenge in 2011 as a contest for Los Angeles County schools to see who can reduce the amount of lunchtime trash the most, according to Murphy. The program has since more than doubled in scope, she said.

“Any school within the service area of the Sanitation Districts of L.A. County may participate,” Murphy said. “In addition, Santa Monica and Burbank may enter this year’s challenge. The first 24 schools to sign up receive free hands-on guidance and tools from Grades of Green,” she added.

Murphy said the goal of the program is to educate students on the importance of reducing, reusing, recycling and composting in order to minimize the amount of trash sent to landfills.

“With 24 schools in this year’s program, we expect to see nearly 30,000 more bags of trash diverted from the new schools alone,” she said. “But what’s more important is that an additional 17,500 students will learn how to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, [which are] new habits that will protect the environment in the years to come,” she added.

According to Murphy, Lunada Bay Elementary School in Palos Verde Estates, the 2012-2013 winner of the challenge, succeeded in reducing their lunchtime trash by 87.5 percent.

The Trash-Free Lunch Challenge will run through March 14, 2014, when schools will report the details of their programs to Grades of Green, who will then select three finalists.

“A panel of environmental experts and other judges will then evaluate the implementation and success of the three finalists’ programs,” Murphy said. “The winning school will receive a grand prize of a $1,000 education grant. The second and third place schools will receive $750 and $500, respectively,” she added.  

Staff from Franklin Elementary. Photo courtesy of Grades of Green
In addition to the three top schools receiving grants, Murphy said the program would save money for all the schools involved.

“Schools can save several hundred dollars a year in trash can liners alone,” she said. “And they may be able to save $2,000 or more every year by reducing the number of waste hauler trash pick-ups to their school,” she added.

The main lesson, Murphy said, is for students to learn that reducing trash is easy and important to do.

The program is sponsored partly by the city of Santa Monica as well as the Santa Monica-based LAcarGUY, Don Knabe of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Warner Bros. and Wean Green, with the education grants coming from Chevron, according to Murphy.

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