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Students taught to conserve at Manhattan Beach school

April 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
For Grand View Elementary School in Manhattan Beach, Calif., every day is Earth Day.

"Every Tuesday, we encourage students to bring a lunch where they're not going to throw away anything," said Principal Rhonda Steinberg.

Steinberg says Trash-free Tuesday started three years ago, proving so popular, it's now a daily habit to use reusable bottles, containers, utensils and cloth napkins.

"There's a lot of alliteration in elementary school, so it's liter-less lunches every day," said Steinberg.

Grand View was able to reduce its trash from 40 bags down to just two. That's pretty substantial for 725 kids. Not only did they reduce waste, they saved $5,000 a year-- $4,000 from less trash pickup and $1,000 from trash liners alone.

Even food scraps are composted and used in the school garden with an annual farmers' market sale that yields up to $500 in sales for student council.

With numerous awards from the Environmental Protection Agency and community, Lisa Coppedge and friends founded Grades of Green, a nonprofit organization educating kids, parents and other schools.

"We have over 60 schools and over 35,000 students involved," said Coppedge.

Coppedge says they recycle everything possible. Two years ago, the school produced about 25 bags of regular waste daily. They've cut that in half and are working towards zero trash.

"We measure our trash for the entire school, not just lunchtime," she said.

The lessons go beyond recycling.

"This year, we had composting, water conservation and energy conservation. We go in and teach the parents, and they go out and teach their kids," Coppedge said.

Part of that program is Walk to School Wednesday, where kids and parents burn calories instead of fuel.

"We had about 10 or 15 percent of our students walking, and now, on Wednesdays in particular, we get 80 to 90 percent," said Steinberg.

Other school days, they get up to 70 percent. Their stats show they diverted 52 tons of CO2 and parents saved $366,000 in gas costs.