Collegewood: Reducing Trash 90% Wins $1000

Inspiring students to care for the environment

By Kelli Gile  

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile Collegewood Elementary is a grand prize winner in the Grades of Green trash-free lunch challenge.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Collegewood Elementary is a grand prize winner in the Grades of Green trash-free lunch challenge.

Walnut—This year, Collegewood Elementary decided to go green! Students, staff, and parents worked hard to implement a Grades of Green recycling program, and at the same time compete for a cash award.

Twenty-two Los Angeles County schools joined the environmental non-profit’s 2015-16 Trash Free Lunch Challenge.

The quest focused on encouraging kids to bring reusable water bottles, lunch containers, and napkins to school, and to sort any waste they may have into recycle, compost, landfill, liquids, and tray stacking bins.

By the end of the year, Collegewood decreased lunchtime waste by an average of 95% and was named a $1,000 grand prize winner!

The school rolled out the “green” carpet to celebrate during a May 6 spirit day assembly.

“We used to send 20 bags to the landfill everyday. Because of all your hard work, we have reduced our trash to 1-3 bags a day,” Principal Joan Perez said. “I’m so proud of our team effort and most importantly – our kids!”

Students were eager to pitch in to help increase recycling on campus.

“I learned to make more green choices,” said 3rd grader Advika Ganapathy who also taught her family to recycle bags.

Six different youngsters helped sort recyclables each day at lunch.

“A lot of kids really wanted to help!” said 5th grader Monica Mossmosen about volunteers who didn’t mind giving up recess to be a part of the green effort.

One day, when custodian David Morales had to leave early, the children stepped up and ran the stations by themselves.

“This became much more than a trash-free lunch challenge,” commented parent Leslie Lopez. “Our students learned things that are life skills. They are becoming ambassadors of trash!”

In addition, the school’s Green Team was successful in banning Styrofoam trays from Walnut Valley schools and creating the first-ever battery recycling center in Walnut.

“A group of kids came into my office and talked to me about Styrofoam,” said Mike Hodson, assistant superintendent of business services. “They convinced me right there on the spot!”

“Collegewood students truly care about the Earth and making sure we have a clean and healthy place to live,” said Anjuli Koentopp, Grades of Green program manager who pointed out that the school had reduced its trash by about 3,000 bags or 30 tons.

“That’s the size of 10 elephants!”

“It makes me proud to help Collegewood be more earth friendly,” said 2nd grader Connor Salazar.