At Longfellow Elementary School, recycling comes as second nature to the students, parents and staff who are part of four California schools that recently received the Green Ribbon Schools award by the United States Department of Education.

Longfellow, at 3800 Olive Ave., was honored with the award along with Environmental Charter High School, in Lawndale; Grand View Elementary School, in Manhattan Beach; and The Athenian School, in Danville.

"California's schools are leading the way into a cleaner, more energy-efficient future, and it's wonderful to see that work recognized with some of the very first national Green Ribbon Schools awards," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. “I commend today's winners for their commitment to the earth and to learning. Science, environmental and outdoor education are vital to prepare our students with 21st century skills in sustainability to grow our global economy."

The school has always cared about recycling and has hosted a Friday recycling day, where students bring recyclables from home to recycle at school.

In 2010, Longfellow parent Heather Morrison decided to help expand the vision and created Longfellow’s Green Team, which allows students and parents to sort lunchtime trash into recycle bins and prepare them to be shipped to either the city’s recycling plant or to TerraCycle, in New Jersey.

“Every week, we ship our recyclables in big boxes to TerraCycle, where they give us 2 cents per unit,” Morrison said. “We’ve raised $2,500 for the school since we started this in 2010.”

In the last few years, the school has diverted 100,000 pounds of trash from going into the city’s landfill.

The school is hoping to use the money raised from recycling to revamp a garden patio area for students and teachers to use for gardening and as an outdoor classroom. The patio is one of two “secret garden” areas at the school. The second one is already used as an outdoor classroom, where the children learn how to plant and tend to vegetables, compost and also learn about the weather.

When lunchtime rolls around, Longfellow students eagerly volunteer to help collect items from their classmates, including zip-lock bags, cardboard boxes, juice pouches and milk cartons, and place them in the appropriate bins.

“It’s really fun,” said first grader Clark Otey. “It keeps our earth clean.”

First grader Hannah Swank added that she also enjoys helping out during lunch by helping her fellow students throw away the food, and then place the container in the appropriate bin.

“We get to clean out juice when it’s in there,” she said. “It’s fun.”

When it comes to cold foods, such as milk and yogurts, the Green Team collects all unused cold items into a cooler to donate to Food Finders.

“It ends up being almost 40 pounds every day,” Morrison said. “This cuts down on our waste and helps people in need at the same time.”

Longfellow staff will attend a Green Ribbon award ceremony in Washington, D.C., this summer to accept the award.

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