North Park Elementary School and Bridgeport Elementary School are participating in Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge for the first time this school year.
In the Trash Free Lunch Challenge, schools compete to see which can reduce the most lunchtime waste. The winning school will receive a $1,000 education grant and the four finalist schools will receive a $750 grant.
The competition teaches students environmental values and how to eliminate waste by packing lunches with containers, reusable water bottles, utensils and cloth napkins. Students also learn how to sort waste for recycling and composting.
“The mission of the organization is to instill environmental protection into young minds,” said Vickie Wippel, public relations manager for Grades of Green. “Every school that participates in the program and adopts the principles we teach does well.”
This year, 25 Southern California schools will be competing in the sixth annual competition. Grades of Green expects the students to keep 200,000 bags of trash from the landfill.
Karen Harvey, assistant principal for Bridgeport Elementary, said the school chose to join the program after a group of students expressed interest in creating an environmental club, named the Green Team, to pick up trash and keep the campus clean.
Harvey said students at Bridgeport do a good job packing reusable sports bottles, but need to work on reducing other lunchtime waste.
“The amount of waste and trash we have every day really impact our earth,” she said. “We have got to look for alternative ways for them to pack their lunch.”
Wippel said a benefit to the program is the impact on the broader community. Students often take their recycling knowledge to the classroom to their homes.
In schools, a reduction in lunchtime and classroom waste saves the school hundreds of dollars on trash bags each year and frees up time for maintenance staff to work on other projects, Wippel said.
Wippell expects all of the schools involved in this year’s challenge, including North Park Elementary and Bridgeport Elementary, to succeed in their waste reduction efforts.
“Whatever goal each school sets, we expect them to reach those goals,” she said.
Harvey is also optimistic that students will work together to make the overall campus more environmentally friendly.
“I definitely think Bridgeport will be successful because anything we do to protect our environment is going to be a success,” she said.
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