Posted on April 4, 2015
Located in Encinitas, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation’s nonprofit programs have bolstered conservation awareness in the region, leading to a revolution among citizens and students eager to create a sustainable community. What began back in 1983 as the Solana Recyclers is now an impressive organization that implements numerous concepts every year including environmental education, composting, gardening, watershed protection, pollution prevention, and the latest trends in sustainable living.
Outreach at both schools and local events is key, explains executive director Jessica Toth, who says that each can create a trickle-down effect for families. “At Cherokee Point Elementary School in City Heights, we are implementing a yearlong program,” she says, “to establish recycling, composting, and gardening programs. Many of the families at this school are recent immigrants. So our education will not only benefit the students, but also families with, for example, a joint school-community garden.”
Likewise, sponsoring events such as the Switchfoot Bro-Am and the San Diego County Fair provide opportunities to station volunteers at trash and recycling cans to educate attendees about how to properly dispose of their waste.
One of the more popular programs the Solana Center offers is its Master Composting course, a five-week program that teaches the ins and outs of reusing waste in the soil. “A typical American discards 20 pounds of food scrap per month,” says Toth. “By diverting food scrap for home composting rather than landfilling, families can switch from 64-gallon to 35-gallon trash bins, resulting in lower waste hauling bills.”
According to Toth, 39 percent of San Diego landfill waste is organic materials like yard trimmings and food scrap that could be composted. When these organics off-gas in the landfill instead of in compost, their emissions are 20 times more harmful to the atmosphere.
A person who completes the Master Composting course not only begins healthy habits at home, but also agrees to spend 30 hours of community service teaching students how to create their own composts.
Community gardening courses are another big draw. “We offer a Gardening 201 course called How to Start and Manage Community Gardens,” Toth explains, “which covers asset-based community development and early organizing, finding and obtaining land, budgeting and fundraising, garden design and supplies, managing the garden, and how to be a good neighbor.”
Always evolving, the centers’ new programs include discounted rain barrel sales and food scrap diversions, in which the center works with city officials to find ways to reduce organic matter from entering the landfill — an important plan since state regulations will go into effect beginning next January that will prohibit organic matter from being discarded in this manner.
From recycling to gardening to water conservation and more, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation is making huge strides in San Diego. To learn how you can take advantage of the Solana Center and all of its important programs, visit them online and on social media. (760.436.7986, www.solanacenter.org) RYAN THOMAS
Photography by Jennifer Nelson