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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 3 years ago

City sponsors Gillespie Park compost project

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The city is using Gillespie Park to test a community composting program, encouraging residents to work together and learn about the potential benefits.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

You might not think of waste management as a group activity, but the city is working with a community organization to get Gillespie Park residents to collaborate on a composting program.

On Thursday and Saturday, Sunshine Community Compost will host an informational meeting in Gillespie Park about a compost pilot project for the neighborhood.

“The idea is just to see how we can try something out that will get different people involved and working together,” said Tracie Troxler of Sunshine Community Compost. “It’s an exploration in what’s possible.”

For the uninitiated: Composting is the process of turning decomposing organic matter into a nutrient-rich, soil-enhancing substance. Other benefits include diverting solid waste from landfills and reducing the use of inorganic fertilizers.

After hiring sustainability manager Stevie Freeman-Montes in 2015, the city has focused on embracing environmentally friendly initiatives. Earlier this month, the nonprofit organization This Spaceship Earth named Sarasota its first “Crew Friendly City” for emphasizing sustainability policies.

“Environmental sustainability is now a core value of this community,” City Manager Tom Barwin said.

Freeman-Montes said the city got connected to Sunshine Community Compost via a meeting with This Spaceship Earth. The composting program, if the interest is there, is another piece of that sustainability strategy.

“Our role is being present and supportive,” Freeman-Montes said of the city’s involvement.

After a preliminary discussion at a Gillespie Park neighborhood meeting, Freeman-Montes said residents have shown a desire to participate. Sunshine Community Compost will provide residents with a scrap-collection bucket and kitchen signs stating what materials go into the bucket. Once a week, participants will bring their buckets to a compost station being set up next to the Gillespie Park police substation.

“People say, ‘This isn’t that hard,’ and all these myths are debunked.” — Tracie Troxler 

There, the compost manager will help weigh and deposit the scraps and rinse out the buckets. Although some people are willing to compost on their own, Troxler said this project is designed to minimize the barriers to entry.

“People say, ‘This isn’t that hard,’ and all these myths are debunked,” Troxler said. “People start thinking, ‘Maybe I can do this on my own.’”

The Gillespie Park pilot project is one of its first initiatives, but Sunshine Community Compost hopes to expand its reach throughout the area. 

Freeman-Montes said the city is also interested in expanding the program outside of Gillespie Park if it is successful. Beyond helping the environment, Troxler believes coming together to compost could build links between neighbors.

“I’m very invested, because I think this is something that would benefit so many people,” Troxler said. “I see an opportunity to converge people around a simple thing.”

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