The Isla Vista Chapter’s Ocean Friendly Gardens Committee founded the Isla Vista Compost Collective in 2017 to enable more residents in Isla Vista to compost. The program was also intended to educate both the participating students and households on proper composting practices. The committee also set out to meet the lofty goal of creating a model composting program that other communities could replicate.
The program started small in 2018 by providing twenty houses with five-gallon buckets and composting guidelines. Students, a.k.a. ‘Dirtriders’, biked around with cargo trailers in tow on a weekly basis to collect food waste and provide clean buckets to each house on their assigned routes. All collected food waste was sorted, weighed, and brought to community compost piles and a bin serviced by the local waste management company, MarBorg. The students also communicated regularly with the participating households, letting them know if any items were not composted properly and what the impact of their contribution was each week.
Over the past two years, the Compost Collective has expanded to service 96 households. The program has diverted over 8.9 tons of food waste from the local landfill and has prevented the release of approximately 6.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere. While students will still participate in the day-to-day operations of the composting program, it is reassuring to have this local government office take responsibility for the program as it grows to meet the demand of over 100 additional households that are currently on the waitlist.
By creating beneficial compost for use in community gardens, this program is helping to nurture healthy biologically active soil that can sponge up and absorb rain and urban runoff. There are also climate change benefits from composting. When organic waste decomposes in landfills it releases methane which is a strong, climate-changing gas. By diverting food waste from landfills, the Compost Collective is also helping to reduce local impacts of climate change by reducing methane emissions.