1. Do I need to submit student photo permission forms?

Yes, all recognizable students in submitted photos and videos, must have a completed parent permission form. If you can not identify a student in the picture or video, they do not require a photo permission form.

We realize this may be a challenge this year, if your school is meeting virtually. If you are unable to obtain permission forms, we suggest taking photos/video that do not picture your students’ faces or take photos/video without students.

2. Do projects have to be completed at school?

No, projects do not have to be completed in the school building. Your remote learners can participate at home and share their work back with you and the group in other ways.

3. Do we have to use school milk or juice cartons?

No, you may use any kind of paperboard carton including those readily available at the grocery store. Your project must incorporate at least 100 paperboard cartons.

4. Is there a minimum number of students that must participate in my project?

No, the project can include any size class or group of students in Kindergarten through 12th Grade. PreK classes based at a K-12 schools are also eligible to enter.

5. Do I have to be a school to apply?

The main contact for the Carton 2 Garden project entry must represent a school, however schools may partner/collaborate with other nonprofit and afterschool organizations on the project.

6. Do we have to grow plants for our project?

No, your Carton 2 Garden project does not require growing plants. From garden art to irrigation tools, we have many past winners who have used their projects to support garden learning in many creative ways. Let your students’ imaginations run wild. Check out the inspiration page.

7. Why is this project about paper cartons?

Over 70% of each milk or juice carton is made from trees, a renewable resource, and cartons are recyclable for over 50% of households in the US. In addition to recycling, milk and juice cartons can be repurposed. In this contest, we’re encouraging kids to use their imaginations to repurpose their milk and juice cartons into a creation that fosters environmental stewardship and focuses on establishing school gardens.

8. How much does the contest cost?

There are no registration fees for the Carton 2 Garden contest. It’s free! This will cost your school nothing except the materials it takes to complete your project.

9. When is the project due?

You must submit your entry on or before the due date outlined on the Contest Details page. Be sure to read all of the dates associated with this Carton 2 Garden contest.

10. Do I have to represent a school to enter the contest?

Yes, entries must be submitted by schools grades PreK-12. PreK classes must be located at a school that also serves older grade levels to be eligible to enter. Any public, private, or charter school in the United States may enter the contest. Cartons, however, can be collected at the school, brought in from home, or gathered by the community.

11. Do I have to have a garden to participate?

No, your school does not need a garden to participate in this contest. Schools that have a fully functioning garden do not have an advantage over schools that are just starting their garden.

12. Is there a minimum of project participants required for each team?

Team sizes have no requirement or limit. We recommend teams participate in the project whether you have 5 students or 500 on your team. Please note that you will need to submit signed parental release forms with your entry for each student shown in the photos or video. The official parental release form is also available in Spanish

13. What are the prizes for the contest?

There are fifteen total prizes being offered in this contest. One (1) school will win the grand prize valued at $5,000. Four (4) schools will win specialty prizes valued at $2,000. Ten (10) schools – five (5) elementary and five (5) middle/high school – will receive prizes valued at $1,000. See the Prizes and Prizes + Judging Criteria page for further prize information. Learn more about our evaluation criteria by downloading our Judging Rubric.

14. What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym for an educational approach that focuses on developing skills and knowledge in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM implementation is only a requirement for this contest if your school wants to be eligible for the STEM Specialty prize.

15. What are the specialty prizes?

Four of the 15 prizes are designated as specialty prizes: 1) Carton Art in the Garden, 2) Environmental Stewardship, 3) Health and Nutrition, and 4) STEM. Carton Art in the Garden will award the school with the best display of creative arts. The Environmental Stewardship prize will be awarded to the school that best demonstrates use of sustainability practices and development of environmental awareness. The Health and Nutrition prize will be awarded to the school that best incorporates lessons on healthy eating and lifestyle behaviors. The STEM prize will be awarded to the school that demonstrates the best use of science, technology, engineering, and math lessons in their project.

16. Where do I start?

Below are some helpful hints and tips you could use to start off on the right foot:

  • Have students draw up sketches of their environmental stewardship and gardening ideas; then have everyone vote as a group on which one to make.
  • Assign a classroom, teacher, or student team to be in charge of carton collection.
  • For large groups, assign small teams to complete a specific task. These could be organized using different steps in the process such as: carton collection, garden maintenance or planning, environmental stewardship efforts, and program promotion.

17. How many milk or juice cartons do we have to use?

Your project must use a minimum of 100 cartons. Any cartons will be accepted, including cartons from the school cafeteria or from the grocery store. While the more cartons you use the better, winners are still selected for the best use of cartons in gardens, with the grand prize and specialty winners focusing on the carton drive, uniqueness, STEM, sustainability emphasis, and health and nutrition incoporation. Please see our Judging Criteria for more information.

18. Can we use other materials, besides cartons?

Supporting materials may be used, but should only comprise a small percentage of the final creation. Supporting materials made of natural, renewable resources (wood, newspaper, cardboard, etc.) are strongly encouraged. Consider if supplemental materials can be recycled, composted, or upcycled. The use of cartons should directly relate to environmental stewardship efforts. The use of soil, plants, and seeds are encouraged.

19. Can we paint our entry?

We love to see colorful garden creations, but please try to use environmentally friendly paint. You can also use natural renewable resources. Try covering the cartons with colored paper or upcycling materials like buttons and stickers for colorful garden pots. When completing your entry, please note which items are upcycled, repurposed, and environmentally friendly.

20. What kind of adhesives can we use?

There are many different methods that can be used when sticking cartons together and we encourage participants to get as creative as possible! Below are some ideas we have generated as interesting ways to connect your creation besides using glue:

  • Toothpicks (spearing the cartons with both sides of a toothpick to hold them together)
  • Punching or cutting holes in cartons and tying them together with string, twine or yarn.
  • Taping them together using packing tape, pvc tape, even duct tape.

21. What do I need to do to qualify for the grand or specialty prizes?

All entries that submit at least the minimum requirements (entry form and up to 10 photos) will be eligible for a prize. Entries that are eligible for the grand prize and specialty prizes must also submit the minimum requirement (entry form and up to 10 photos), and in addition, a video link (under 5 minutes) telling the story of the project in its entirety from planning and the carton drive to the finished product.

22. How do we make our entry stand out to the judges?

The following criteria will be used when judging all carton creations:

  • Best use of cartons in garden. Submitted with photos and an entry form. Judged by compliance, quality, and creativity.
  • This contest provides the opportunity for collaboration and partnership within your school and throughout your community, and your entry will be given extra points for these efforts. Examples: Coordinating a field trip with your dairy processor, delivering educational materials from your juice processor, partnering on your project with your Food Service personnel, collaborating with local farmers, etc.

Additional criteria for the grand prize and specialty prizes:

  • In addition to the standard requirements, grand and specialty prize candidates must also include a video link (under 5 minutes) that tells the story of the project in its entirety from planning and the carton drive to the finished product, including:
    • The collection of cartons from various sources
    • School and community involvement
    • Sustainability emphasis
    • Goals for the project and how they were achieved
    • Challenges and how they were overcome
    • Key learnings from the project, including but not limited to STEM lessons

To give you an even better idea of what the judges will be looking for in your entry, download our Judging Rubric to help guide you as you fill out your entry form.

23. What are the official contest rules?

Rules are listed on the Contest Rules page of the website and should be reviewed carefully before planning and submitting your entry.

24. How do I enter my school’s project in the Carton 2 Garden contest?

Schools participating in the Carton 2 Garden Contest must have an adult team leader (at least 18 years of age) to submit the entry for the school for that school level — elementary (grades PreK-5), middle/high school (grades 6-12). Entries must be submitted according to the timeline provided on the Contest Details page.

25. What do I need to enter?

Download the Entry Form Checklist to help you prepare for submitting your entry.

26. How many images can I upload?

You may upload as many as ten (10) images as part of your entry. Photos should feature the project and do not require images of students. If you choose to include images featuring children you must include parental release forms for each child. There is a 10MB max size limit on photo files. Photos should be uploaded to the entry in .JPG or .PNG format. Alternatively, photos can be shared by submitting a link to them on the entry form. The official parental release form is also available in Spanish.

27. Do I have to have photo release forms for all students pictured?

Yes and you must use the official Carton 2 Garden Photo Release Form. We cannot accept any alternate release forms. Please do not include photos of children if you do not have parental release forms. You are welcome to take photos of the students with the carton creation, but do not upload them as part of your entry unless you have written permission to do so. Failure to submit release forms will eliminate any images featuring students from your entry. The official parental release form is also available in Spanish

28. How do I submit a video entry?

Video can be created using software or online services such as iMovie, Vimeo, or Animoto. Video taken from smart phones is acceptable. Please do not attempt to upload video files. Rather, submit a public, sharable, link. Video links of your projects can be uploaded and shared on your school’s website or by using a video service. We recommend using YouTube, or a cloud file-sharing service like Dropbox. To learn more about this process, visit our Hints for Uploading Videos tipsheet.

29. How do I submit parental release forms with my photos?

Photos featuring students will require parental release forms for every student appearing within the images, which can be submitted with your entry. Please print release forms to be signed by parents, then scan and upload. Failure to submit release forms will eliminate any images featuring students from your entry. The official parental release form is also available in Spanish

30. How do I know my entry is accepted?

Once your entry is submitted you will receive a confirmation message on the website and a confirmation email. If you do not receive a confirmation message please reach out to us at to ensure that your entry was received.

31. How will I know if my school’s project wins?

The registered team leader for each winning school will be contacted by e-mail within 7 days following the official announcement of the winners using the contact information provided in the entry form. Winners will be featured on and

32. Why Carton 2 Garden?

Carton 2 Garden strives to provide educators with an opportunity to teach students about environmental stewardship, recycling, and repurposing materials, and how those concepts can have an impact on the lives of people, other creatures, and our environment. The Carton 2 Garden effort is focused on helping to facilitate teachable moments through hands-on educational experiences in a garden setting. Through our lessons and activity guide we provide opportunities for learning to better care for our planet through repurposing and recycling.

33. What if something unexpected happens and the Contest can’t run as planned?

If someone cheats, or a virus, bug, catastrophic event, or any other unforeseen or unexpected event that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled, (also referred to as force majeure) affects the fairness and/or integrity of this Contest, we reserve the right to cancel, change or suspend this Contest. This right is reserved whether the event is due to human or technical error. If a solution cannot be found to restore the integrity of the Contest, we reserve the right to select winners from among all eligible entries received before we had to cancel, change or suspend the Contest. Computer “hacking” is a crime. If you attempt to compromise the integrity or the legitimate operation of this Contest by hacking or by cheating or committing fraud in ANY way, we may seek damages from you to the fullest extent permitted by law. Further, we may ban you from participating in any of our future Contests, so please play fairly.