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Avatar actress Zoe Saldana was the surprise presenter at the annual VERTE fundraiser to benefit Grades of Green, an environmental education nonprofit that empowers K–12 school communities, on June 6.

The event was held at the MBS Media Campus in Manhattan Beach, CA. Zaldana presented awards to Avatar and Titanic film producer Jon Landau for his commitment to making the upcoming Avatar films carbon neutral, and to co-founder of the MUSE school and environmental advocate Suzy Amis Cameron for her strong commitment to preserving our natural environment. The corporate award honoree went to Earth Friendly Products, a company that promotes and sells non-toxic products.

With a vision of making environmental protection “second nature” in young minds, Grades of Green began in 2008 at Grand View Elementary in Manhattan Beach, CA by four moms – Suzanne Kretschmer, Lisa Coppedge, Kimberly Lewand Martin, and Shaya Kirkpatrick – wanting a better world for their children. The program was so successful, the founders decided to start a non-profit so that other schools would have free and easy access to the tools and information needed to green schools.

Grades of Green is a recipient of the U.S. EPA’s coveted Environmental Award and has inspired and educated more than 150,000 students in 239 schools across 36 states and 5 countries. One of these elementary school students named Max boldly walked up on stage and proudly proclaimed, “I convinced Hermosa Beach to ban the use of Styrofoam cups.”

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