By Doyoon Kim
Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer

Composting is easy and the natural process of decay is a fun community activity, according to Liam de Villa.

In 2020, de Villa co-founded with Patrick Latting Compost Culture, which provides curbside food scrap and organic waste pickup service in South Pasadena and San Marino. The teens and their volunteers share the benefits of composting through videos, workshops and events.

The group operates a compost collection and distribution booth at the South Pasadena Farmers Market to reduce the amount of organic matter going into landfills in their communities by composting.

De Villa said food scraps and organic waste that’s being thrown into trash cans and the landfill do not compost correctly, producing methane emissions that contribute to global warming. A sustainable solution to the problem is decomposing this organic matter and recycling it into compost.

Compost Culture started as a club for environmentalism at South Pasadena High School. Latting and de Villa received a $5,000 grant from the Dragon Kim Fellowship to launch their service project. They received another $5,000 grant through the Dragon Challenge, a social entrepreneurship incubator to grow their nonprofit.

“We faced two main problems when starting Compost Culture,” de Villa said. “We thought we would have to go through the city to get approval of our project. This took about two months to get approval. Finding a composting site was another challenge, as we needed to find a big area. For a while, we were composting at an area 40 minutes away from us.”

The duo faced challenges getting Compost Culture off the ground, but they saw positive change in a short amount of time, thanks to the nonprofit’s 20 volunteers and three drivers.

“Our management is really just a team of volunteers who are interested (in our work). We currently have different committees for San Marino, South Pasadena, schools and finance to run Compost Culture,” said Twyla Metcalfe, Compost Culture’s chief operating officer.

The group has several goals, including the creation of a system and structure that works effectively to make sure the NPO runs smoothly. They hope to persuade their peers to be environmentally conscious.

Compost Culture