Growing up in a family of carpenters, mechanics, upholsterers, and farm workers, I have always had an unusual relationship with “waste”. Those who came before me didn’t assume something was waste when it needed repair, but instead saw the true value of the resources around them. This is what spawned my deep appreciation for compost.

When I was growing up, my father, who is still an upholsterer to this day, would take me and my brother around our neighborhood, collecting discarded furniture from the side of the road to transform into the centerpiece of someone’s living room. 

Inspired by my father, I started LA Compost 10 years ago with a group of family and friends. We rode bikes to businesses and small restaurants collecting food scraps. We composted the scraps in backyards and gave the soil away, then built school gardens with the donations we received. Since then, LA Compost has grown into a dynamic community composting network, normalizing compost all across Los Angeles. 

Over the past 10 years LA Compost has worked alongside thousands of LA County residents keeping food scraps local, supporting local green spaces through the creation and redistribution of compost, and hosting workshops and knowledge sharing events. From building a network of over 50 drop off locations at farmers markets, urban farms, and community gardens, to establishing the framework for composting at public parks, we’ve continued to work with our network of partners to make composting more accessible. 

In January, the City of Los Angeles officially launched its organics curbside collection program (Organics LA) to over 700,000 Angelenos. This rollout has come with several educational workshops, countertop pails for separating materials, and an opportunity to turn our food scraps into compost on a much larger scale.

LA Compost welcomes the city’s programs and will continue to offer a community-based composting network for those who choose to keep their food scraps local, connect with their community, and receive the finished compost once processed. 

Some may question if we really need to separate and divert our food scraps from landfills. I encourage Angelenos to see this change as an opportunity, not a burden. It allows residents who lack the time or ability to compost their food scraps and yard trimmings at home to take action against our current climate emergency.

When we send food scraps and yard clippings to our landfills, it negatively impacts our air, water, and soil. As organic materials decompose in landfills, they generate methane, a gas manytimes more potent than carbon dioxide as an agent contributing to climate change. By transforming food scraps into compost instead, we not only eliminate harmful methane emissions, we also create a product that enriches our soil. 

As LA seeks to expand the practice through curbside collection, there are still ways for individuals to recycle their organic scraps themselves, extending a tradition of community composting that LA Compost helped spur a decade ago. LA Compost looks forward to continuing to engage with community members across LA, helping to dispel misconceptions about composting and providing access to locally created compost that can amend and restore soils in our communities.

Turning our food scraps into compost ourselves, with community, or through the city’s curbside program, is a simple act we can do to combat our current climate emergency and begin to restore systems in need of repair, one scrap at a time.

Certainly, compost alone won’t save the world. But the world might not be saved without it.