'Celebrate the Earth'

Lincoln Elementary School students, some dressed head to toe in green, showed off their sustainable lunches to celebrate Earth Day on Tuesday.

Parent Cherie Hemphill took note of the students who brought lunches that didn't include any type of waste — paper napkins, packaging, plastic bags or water bottles — for the No Trash Tuesday competition.

The classes that garner the most participants receive a green trophy at the end of the week.

No Trash Tuesday is something the Corona del Mar school promotes each week. However, the event carried even more weight this week, with Earth Day falling on Tuesday, Hemphill said.

Newport-Mesa Unified schools each hold special Earth Week events to remind students to be sustainable year-round.

"We want to teach kids to think just beyond recycling," Hemphill said.

Everything from Hemphill's nail polish to her eye shadow was green for Earth Day. She even crafted a special straw hat with bundles of bright yellow flowers, seeds and a tiny wooden birdhouse perched on the front.

Hemphill emphasized the importance of teaching children to recycle at an early age, especially in a community like Newport Beach, which doesn't request that residents sort their trash.

CR&R;, the city's collection company, sorts waste from recyclable materials after collection, according to the city's website.

"Recycling isn't something these kids are used to doing at home," Hemphill said. "My theory is if you start teaching the kids early, they take that knowledge home with them and continue to apply it later in life."

No Trash Tuesday is just one of the events Lincoln Elementary has planned. Later this week, students will focus on helping in the school garden during lunch and picking up trash around the campus during recess.

When Carrie Gammel took over as principal this school year, she was immediately impressed with the importance placed on making sustainable practices a lifelong habit for students.

"We want our students to be globally aware of what's going on in the world around them," she said. "It's about thinking long-term about what we can do as a school."

Hemphill heads up the campus' Green Team, students who assist their peers during recess and lunch in separating trash from recyclable and compostable items like orange peels. The group holds monthly meetings.

It's important to be mindful of how everyday actions affect the environment, said Kinsley Sahlin, a third-grade member of the Junior Green Team.

"Maybe sometime in the future this Earth could be a huge landfill," she said. "Earth Day reminds us to celebrate the Earth and help make a change."

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