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Vista given good grades by green nonprofit, Claremont School Board

A proud contingent of kids and staffers from Vista del Valle took a bow at
last Thursday¹s gathering of the Claremont Unified School District Board of

The board honored the local elementary school for a truly remarkable
disappearing act. The Vista community has reduced the amount of waste
produced at the school by 95 percent, going from nearly 1,000 bags of trash
per year to less than 100.

The environmentally friendly feat earned the school grand prize in Grades of
Green¹s third annual Trash Free Lunch Challenge, a kudos that comes with a
$1,000 reward.

Twenty-four K-12 schools in Los Angeles County participated in the
challenge, with Vista sharing top honors with Parras Middle School in
Redondo Beach.

Competitors were judged on their ability over the course of the year to:
Create and implement a trash free lunch program that diverts the most trash
bags from landfills per day, educate the most students and adults within
their campus community and establish the sustainability of the program for
years to come.

Vista¹s effort was spearheaded by first grade teacher Juliana Mittino-Smith
and enthusiastically embraced by students and staffers. Members of the
school¹s Green Team are urged to eat all of their food and then sort their
own trash, with recyclable items going into the proper receptacle.

They toss anything suitable for composting, like orange rinds, apple cores
and banana peels, into a can whose contents will be tossed into the school¹s
compost pile. Once it decomposes, the finished composed is used to nourish
the soil of Vista¹s thriving garden, which is overseen with the help of CUSD
garden coordinator Dessa D¹Aquila.

Students who bring their own lunch make an effort to keep it trash-free,
avoiding pre-packaged items in favor of food tucked into reusable

You can see these conscientious kids in action in a YouTube video titled
³Imagine Green‹Vista del Valle¹s Trash-free Challenge.² The video features a
customized version of John Lennon¹s ³Imagine,² with Vista students asking
viewers to ³Imagine there¹s no trash. It¹s easy if you try. ..Imagine all
the people sorting all the trash.²

Making such a scenario easy to imagine was the seven enthusiastic students
who stood, along with Vista Principal Dave Stewart, to take an honorary
photo with district luminaries. All wore shirts in red or blue proclaiming,
³Once a Vista Student, Always a Vista Student.² One kindergartner who darted
up to join the photo-op completed his ensemble with light-up tennis shoes.

Vista¹s efforts were judged by a panel of environmental experts hailing from
groups like Surfrider, 350 Climate Action Group, Algalita Marine Research
Institute and Grades of Green Youth Corps as well as the Sanitations
Districts of Los Angeles County.
The school was presented with their award at an April 29 ceremony, attended
by Grades of Green representatives. The $1,000 purse will be added to a
grant from the city to help fund an outdoor kitchen and shade structure for
the Vista garden.

For more information on Grades of Green, a nonprofit dedicated to helping
students form ³habits that will protect the environment for years to come,²
visit www.gradesofgreen.org .

—Sarah Torribio

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