2022 Grants Challenge

Student Led Change in Environmentally Disadvantaged Communities

Grades of Green provides students with the mentorship, resources and hands-on leadership training they need to discover their passion and turn it into environmental action. Through our free, award winning, innovative program pathway we engage and inspire K-12 grades students to take action and achieve measurable results in their schools and communities today while developing the skills and drive to lead future positive environmental change, to ensure a sustainable and healthy community and planet for generations to come.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Climate and Environment

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The LA-LB region ranked highest for ozone pollution in the newest State of the Air report from the American Lung Assoc. Food waste accounts for a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. In the US 40% of edible food is wasted & is the single most common material landfilled. In LA County, 1.7 million tons of food is sent to landfills per year. Growing & transporting the food that goes to waste emits as much carbon pollution as 39 million passenger vehicles. Decades of research, provide evidence of disproportionate environmental health risks affecting communities of color & low-income people. CalEnviroScreen uses environmental, health, and socioeconomic information to produce scores for every census tract in the state. 41% of schools in LA County are located in the tracts that have the highest pollution burden. Accessible, impactful environmental education are also lacking in low-income school districts due the inability to pay for additional programs and curriculum.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

CA, Senate Bill 1383 requires cities & other jurisdictions, including schools to divert organic waste from landfills. Non-compliance can result in fines. Reducing food waste will increase food security, foster productivity & economic efficiency, promote energy conservation, and address climate change, yet the bill is complex & does not provide implementation funds. School districts in low income areas where this is most needed do not have the manpower, time or funds to implement this law. Grades of Green’s free Organics Programs provides the education, resources, & implementation tools to effectively comply with this law in the most environmentally disadvantaged school districts in LA County. We uniquely achieve this through student led, project-based programs leading to not only successfully meeting the requirements of the law but also providing students with the tools & guidance to make positive change in their schools & community now while building the leadership skills to provide for a healthy sustainable community for generations to come. For 13 years, we have been educating and empowering students to take action and lead environmental change. The Organics Program builds upon our Climate Action Campaigns and Eco-Toolkits to ensure sustainable district compliance and includes a district eco-assessment, implementation recommendation report, teacher trainings, and mentorship of students leading the projects- all at no cost to the district or students.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

We are changing students lives in the communities most in need by building a healthier and fairer world through positive, engaging & empowering mentorship, programs & leadership skills. Our programs give students extraordinary benefits, hope, & opportunities. Without funding these students & their communities will continue to be left behind & suffer the greatest consequences of pollution & climate change. Organic Program will Engage students in solving environmental problems through project-based learning, problem-solving skills, leadership development, mentorship, & support in civic engagement & community outreach. Provide teachers with training & stipends to lead their students in implementing projects. Support school districts in complying with the CA mandated Organics law, saving them money & time. Support 5 LA County school districts,500 students,1000 teachers &100 school administrators directly & over 600,000 students, 10,000 teachers &1,000 school administrators indirectly.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Grades of Green was selected by Senator Ben Allen as a 2022 CA non-profit of the year- one of 109 out of 72,000 CA nonprofits. He chose us because of the measurable impacts in students’ lives and in the health and wellness for their communities in many cities in LA county. Our award winning programs include education (including a module on Environmental Justice), project implementation, leadership training, impact measurement & eco-grant opportunities to further their projects. We not only collect environmental impacts, but also the # of students and community members engaged. The Organics Programs metrics will be collected at the school and district levels. In the 2020-2021 school year 1,129 student eco-leaders, competed 94 environmental projects. These students collectively sequestered 775 tons of CO2, planted 6,608 trees, diverted 1,410 pounds of trash from landfills, and engaged over 175,000 students and community members in their efforts to change the world for the greener!

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,600

Indirect Impact: 611,000

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

Grades of Green is fortute to partner with and receive funding from corporations, foundations, governmental agencies and individual donors allowing us to provide impactful, free environmental project based, student-led programs to students, teachers and schools. Our non-profit partners include EMA, Heal the Bay, Meatless Monday, Tree People, as well as many others. In LA County we also work with and are provided funding and support from local governmental agencies/offices Sanitations District of Los Angeles County, LA Sanitation, Cities of Manhattan Beach, Long Beach and Santa Monica, and several County Supervisorial districts (among others).