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McKinley Elementary a Finalist in Trash-Free Lunch Challenge

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

March 28, 2014 -- Santa Monica's McKinley Elementary was named one of three finalist for the Los Angeles County's third annual Trash-Free Lunch Challenge for its students’ efforts in sustainability and recycling.

McKinley Elementary, along with Lowell Elementary in Long Beach and Vista del Valle Elementary in Claremont, was selected from a group of 24 entrants throughout the county.

On April 3, the judging panel, which consists of five environmental experts, will visit the three elementary schools and make its decision.  The winning school will then be honored at a celebration on April 29.

The three finalist schools will all receive an education grant from the Chevron Corporation.  The winning school will receive a $1,000 grant and the two runner-ups will each receive $750.

According to officials, the contest was designed to teach kids to reduce trash and care for the environment by using reusable lunch containers and by sorting compostable and recyclable materials.

The Trash-Free Lunch Challenge has diverted 100,000 bags of trash from area landfills and dumps, saving schools thousands of dollars in trash liners and waste hauler pick-ups over three years.

The countywide competition is partly sponsored by the City of Santa Monica and LA County's Sanitation Districts and was created by the environmental non-profit group Grades of Green.

Additional sponsors include Warner Brothers, County Supervisor Don Knabe, LAcarGUY, Wean Green and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation.

Although the Challenge is nearly complete, any school may initiate the Trash-Free Lunch program, according to officials.  Complete instructions are available at no cost to the school at

Grades of Green is an environmental education nonprofit based in Manhattan Beach that is “dedicated to providing parents, students and educators with free, easy, hands-on and fun tools to educate, inspire and empower pre-K-12 students to take steps to care for the environment,” according to Melissa Bailey, one the group's organizers.

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