Charles Helmers Elementary students spent the week “showing the planet some love” by packing lunches with reusable containers and cloth napkins, and sorting lunchtime waste for recycling and composting.
The winning class that produced the most Trash Free Lunches won several prizes that included a science kit, reusable water bottles and reusable containers.
The weeklong class competition was part of the elementary school’s yearlong participation in the Grades of Green’s Trash Free Lunch Challenge.
During the challenge, 22 Southern California schools, including three in the Saugus Union School District — Skyblue Mesa Elementary School and Emblem Academy also took part — compete against each other to see which one can reduce the most lunchtime waste.
“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.
The seventh annual competition teaches students about environmental habits by encouraging them to eliminate lunchtime trash and teaching them how to sort waste.
Students also participate in educational assemblies, receive personalized eco-starter kits, implement waste reduction plans and work with Grades of Green Advisors.
At Helmers, students created their own customized sorting stations to sort waste into compost, recycling and trash bins.
Sheri Budhu, a parent at the school, also helped Helmers form the school’s Green Team consisting of 15 fifth- and sixth-grade students. Together, this team supervises the school’s sorting stations and leads a rotating team of third- and fourth-grade volunteers who help during each lunch period.
During the yearlong competition, Grades of Green estimates that Helmers, along with other participating schools, will reduce more than 300 tons of trash.
At the end of the Trash Free Challenge, a panel of environmental experts plan to evaluate the implementation and success of the finalists’ trash-reduction programs.
The panel will then choose one winning school in the elementary school division and middle school division that will each receive a $1,000 grant to continue its sustainability efforts.
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