Local Teens Grow a Green Strategy

Photo courtesy Patrick Latting
South Pasadena High School students Patrick Latting and Liam de Villa recently got their service project, Compost Culture, off the ground.

A lifetime of watching food waste pile up in refuse bins, transferred to garbage trucks and eventually moved to a landfill was more than two South Pasadena High School students could take.
So they went out, found a grant and are now offering compost collection service to city residents. Starting last week, Patrick Latting and Liam de Villa have started delivering bins to those who sign up on their website. Each week, a driver the two have hired will retrieve the food waste in the bins and drop the load off at a nearby farming operation.
Their project, called Compost Culture, is being funded through the Dragon Kim Foundation, which awards grants to high schoolers for service projects.
“We’re one of 23 projects that got a grant this year,” explained Latting, a rising senior at SPHS. “We have up to $5,000 to use, and we chose this because we thought this was where we could do the most good.
“We come by once a week, pick it up and bring it to a local organic garden, about 20 acres, and give it to them,” he continued. “They use it to grow their vegetables and everything.”
Additionally, the pair has obtained a number of home composting units, which it plans to give to residents who apply for them for $15, after subsidizing the bulk of their costs with the grant money. Additionally, educational materials and compostable bags will be included in the delivery of the pickup bins, which include a label indicating what can and cannot be composted.
“Composters are typically expensive and hard to come by and research, so we bought composters and are offering them to people,” said De Villa, a rising junior at SPHS. “We’re going to be teaching people how to compost effectively and correctly to assist people and have a better education system for the community on environmental issues and composting.”
For the bin drop-off and pickup service, Latting and De Villa maintain a requested donation of $15 per month to help keep the operation going.
In addition to finding an alternative fate for food waste, the two teenagers said they were troubled by their research into methane emissions throughout the world, which are contributors to climate change and the buildup of greenhouse gasses.
“That actually accounts for 16% of the country’s methane emission,” Latting said of food waste. “We’re trying to cut down on that greenhouse gas production by providing a couple of new services.”
For additional information, presentations or to sign up for the service or a composter, visit the project’s website at compostculture.org.