Alyssa Morin

Parras School in Redondo takes top prize in trash free lunch contest

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Parras students show off their lunchbox trophy. Photo by Charlie Beck.

Parras students show off their lunchbox trophy. Photo by Charlie Beck.

April 22 was no ordinary school day at Parras Middle School in Redondo Beach.

Principal Lars Nygren announced over the PA system that Parras had won the grand prize in the Grades of Green’s third annual Trash-Free Lunch Challenge.

“We celebrated our win by having an all-school assembly put on by the Grades of Green organization,” said Nygren. “They brought in a DJ and rapper for the students. During the assembly a check from Chevron for $1000 was presented to us.”

The countywide competition, created by environmental education non-profit Grades of Green and sponsored by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, teaches students to reduce lunchtime waste and care for the environment by using reusable lunch containers and by sorting compostable and recyclable materials. Parras beat out 23 entrants across the county to receive the $1,000 education grant from Chevron.

“Parras’ middle school students reduced lunchtime trash by 90%—a remarkable accomplishment,” said Lisa Coppedge, Grades of Green Co-Founder and Director of Programs. “Parras went from creating 36 bags of lunchtime trash every day to only three.”

A judging panel of four environmental experts visited Parras and two other finalists in the competition—Jane Addams Middle School in Lawndale and Jordan Middle School in Burbank— to determine the winner. The panel included Marieta Francis of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Rupam Soni of theSanitation Districts of L.A. County, Joel Green of Curiosity Quest and Craig Cadwallader of the Surfrider Foundation.

What really set Parras apart was the students’ enthusiasm.

“When the judges and I arrived at Parras, we were greeted by a group of students,” said Coppedge. “They walked us in and gave us a full tour without any notes. They explained each step of their project. I think that is what knocked the socks off of the judges.”

Principal Nygren credits two Parras environmental groups with bringing home the victory: the Green Team and the Kompost Kidz. Adult staffers helped organize the students in their efforts to reduce waste. Clark Woods is a supervisor at Parras Middle School and sponsors the Kompost Kidz. Danielle Spangler is a parent at the school and runs the Green Team club.

“The Green Team and the Kompost Kidz, together over 30 students, were the main drivers behind the push to change how trash was dealt with at our school,” he said. “It was their excitement and motivation to make a difference that caused a school wide change.”

In the past three years, Redondo Beach School have reduced their landfill trash by 75%. The new practices implemented through the Trash Free Lunch Challenge will raise that number even farther.

“The kids were just amazing at Parras School,” said Coppedge. “They were inspiring.”

Enrollment for next year’s Trash Free Lunch Contest begins in June. For more information, visit

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