Whole Foods donates compost to the Organic Learning Garden

Bagging 15 tons of compost may seem to be a daunting task, but many Santa Monica College students have been willing to take on the challenge. With trowels and shovels in hand, Club Grow and the Eco-Action Club began the task at high noon on a sweltering summer day last week. The compost donation was coordinated through Laura Martino, marketing supervisor for Whole Foods in Santa Monica, and Eric Wilhite, of Community Recycling & Resource Recovery, Inc., a privately-owned family company that composts food waste for local businesses.

Martino contacted Genevieve Bertone, director of sustainability at SMC, for a grounds tour.

“After hearing so many great things about what Santa Monica College is doing with their environment department, I had to see it for myself,” said Martino. “I met some of the most amazing students who were so passionate about their garden and vested their time in it.”

Whole Foods sells compost in the store, and also donates frequently to community gardens.

According to Hilary Maler, associate marketing coordinator for Whole Foods’ Southern Pacific Region, caring about the community and the environment is one of seven core values upheld by the store.

“Whole Foods collects all plant waste from its stores, kitchens and produce centers,” said Maler. “They like to see [organic waste] get returned as nutrients to the soil.”

Known for its healthy microbes and high-quality nutrients, good compost is a coveted item among gardeners.

“It’s a great giveaway,” Bertone said of the compost donation.

Half of the compost pile was bagged in two hours, and Club Grow and Eco-Action Club have been working to finish bagging the remainder.

“These guys are troopers, that’s for sure,” said Lisa Burns, administrative assistant for the Center for Environmental & Urban Studies, and co-adviser of the Eco-Action Club.

The Organic Learning Garden, the CEUS, and the SMC campus grounds all received compost before the public giveaway.

Anyone is free to stop by the garden to pick up a bag on Oct. 4 between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.