Photo courtesy Compost Culture
Sophomores Gianna Karkafi, Elizabeth Bercaw and Maddy Gregg are helping bring a compost collection program to San Marino.

A group of students from San Marino are hoping to spread a successful startup service project from neighboring South Pasadena and offer a composting service to the residents of San Marino.
The volunteers have joined the Compost Culture, a project launched last year by two students from South Pasadena High School to provide a compost collection service to residents and businesses in their town. After winning the competition sponsored by the organization they funded, the two SPHS students plan to branch out to their neighboring communities.
San Marino was first on the list.
“I read about it on their website and thought it was really cool what they were doing,” said Gianna Karkafi, a sophomore student and cabinet member of the Green Club in San Marino High School. “I thought I could only help. The ball just kept rolling and it was a really smooth transition to the start in San Marino. “
Those who register for Compost Culture will receive a free container that residents can fill with their food waste for collection each week. Although volunteers will definitely pick up the trash can, the organization is suggesting a monthly donation of $ 15 to keep the operation profitable.
The collected compost is then donated to the Huntington Library for use in their ranch gardens, which includes an array of fruit and other edible plants. This fits well with Compost Culture’s broader goal of promoting sustainable environmental practices in people, especially people who may not know where to start. Part of the long-term goal of composting is to remove the food products from solid waste disposal where they would add to methane emissions.
“You start composting and you may see other areas in your life where you can see the benefits of protecting the environment,” said Patrick Latting, one of the SPHS students who started the project.
Liam de Villa, the other co-founder of Compost Culture, added that they firmly believe that the majority of people ultimately want to contribute to a healthier world.
“Most people do this because of course you have to survive in the world,” he said, “but we have realized that it is more that people don’t know what to do, not that they don’t want to do it . “
This approach proved attractive to the environmentally conscious SMHS students.
“I feel that in general, although everyone understands what is happening to the environment, it is a little difficult to get involved without breaking the bank,” said Karkafi. “I think this will really help by giving people the opportunity to help with the environment without going beyond their limits.”
Elizabeth Bercaw, another sophomore SMHS student volunteering for Compost Culture, believes this will be a workable program simply because it is easy to encourage residents to do so.
“No matter how small your contribution is, we all have something we can do for the environment, and this is a great way to help,” said Bercaw.
When the volunteers hit the market for their first San Marino collection last week, Compost Culture had eight registrations, but they are confident that number will increase.
“That’s a proud eight. It’s much more important to us to get started and get the ball rolling. We look forward to growth, ”said Latting. “We started when we were eight or nine [in South Pasadena]and we are now making 500 pounds of household compost for a total of 1,100 pounds a week. “
In addition to collection in residential areas, food waste from non-profit organizations such as Friends In Deed of Pasadena also ends up in the hands of Compost Culture. In addition, the organization’s representatives, who go to the South Pasadena Farmers’ Market each week to collect waste from non-residents, will be giving away free compost at the market on the first Thursday of each month.
Not only will the San Marino branch register residents and collect compost every week. Through the Green Club, they are also currently planning presentations for elementary school students in the city and are considering a competition asking people to collect as much food waste as possible from their homes and neighbors to show how much more thoughtful waste could be repurposed .
“I definitely think that not a lot of people knew what it was at first,” said Maddy Gregg, a second SMHS volunteer. “When we used the right dialogue and showed that we were helping them and the environment, they were more interested. Once people find out who we are, we will definitely get a lot more registrations. “
Karkafi added, “Even if your goal in life is not to be an environmentalist – not mine – being environmentally conscious is still very important. We have to take care of our planet. “
Latting and de Villa started Compost Culture last year as one of a few dozen applicants to the Dragon Kim Foundation, which awards grants for student-led aid projects. These students develop their projects and take part in the organization’s Dragon Challenge, an event reminiscent of a television series “Shark Tank”.
Last year Compost Culture won the competition and received another $ 5,000 scholarship to help expand their business. With other cities and towns in close proximity, San Marino seemed like a natural starting point for expansion.
“I think San Marino and South Pasadena share a lot of similar community and outgoing qualities,” said de Villa.
Visit compostculture.org to sign up for compost collection or to learn more about composting.