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A California man brings new composting technique to schools

Posted at 3:26 PM, Mar 26, 2024

LOS ANGELES — There's something special about making your own soil, something about taking your leftovers and instead of trashing them, using them to give back to mother nature.

Steven Wynbrandt knows a lot about soil. He's the founder of Wynbrandt Farms, a pioneer in California composting. His mission is to bring his methods to schools to help them reduce waste.

“It's one thing to take fruit and vegetable scraps on a home scale and chuck them in the corner of the backyard,” Wynbrandt. “But to do this on a commercial scale where there's hundreds of pounds of food waste a week is quite a feat that to my knowledge to this day no one has figured out how to do no.”

Wynbrandt says the trouble with other techniques is they're often labor intensive because the balance of carbon, nitrogen and moisture needed to turn scraps into soil is delicate and often labor intensive.

“It's just it's not realistic for teachers and students at a school or for the custodial staff of an organization for a tech campus, for a religious organization, for a company to be turning compost, to be shoveling compost for hours and hours each week,” Wynbrandt said.

His method happens on campus in a way that's not labor intensive, doesn't attract animals or bugs and doesn't create weird smells.

Along with reducing waste, Wynbrandt says it's also a learning opportunity for students where leftover food becomes food for thought so that they can see how the process works and maybe even be encouraged to waste a little less.

“It actually spans across the entire curriculum from science, from life sciences, soil science, biology, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, data collection,” Wynbrandt said.

When the process is done, the soil is given to the student's families for their gardens and used on the campus itself.

Right now, four schools in the state are testing out the program. But Wynbrandt sees a future where every school can compost.

“We see that it’s incredibly powerful for children, for people of all ages and there's this connection to the earth, to the sources that sustain us, the circle of life, and closing the loop on our waste streams,” Wynbrandt said. “I think that composting on the campuses of organizations whenever possible is what needs to happen to create a more sustainable, resilient society.”

Wynbrant hopes the students will take these composting lessons beyond the classroom so that every time before they throw something away, they think about whether it could have a second life as soil.