A Waste-Free Isla Vista: The IVCC Story

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Illustration by Esther Liu

Daniel Ku

Staff Writer

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, composting “is the natural process of recycling organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, into a valuable fertilizer that can enrich soil and plants.” By recycling food and other organic waste, we can save tons of trash from landfills. To help facilitate a compost service throughout Isla Vista (I.V.), the I.V. Community Services District voted in the winter of 2020 to absorb an existing organization called the Isla Vista Compost Collective (IVCC) into the government.

The IVCC was founded in the fall of 2017 by the Ocean Friendly Gardens Committee of Isla Vista Surfrider. Its founder, Jacob Bider, an environmental studies alumni here at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), proposed the idea when he applied for the committee. In an interview with The Bottom Line, Bider explained what first inspired him to start the IVCC.

“I wanted to start a residential compost program for Isla Vista as a way to make use of the food that was going to waste. I was soon hired and immediately proposed that the OFG committee develop a community compost program. The committee was ecstatic about the idea, and so began Isla Vista Compost Collective,” Bider explained.

Bider went on to say that excessive food waste in I.V. was among the top reasons for starting the IVCC.

“After moving into I.V., I began to notice the exorbitant amount of food that was being sent to landfill by households. At the time I was saddened to see so much food going to waste, but I also was excited about the potential opportunity to use my background to make a difference in my community,” Bider said.

Despite the enthusiasm of the people involved, the program ran into several problems. Money was scarce as the new project lacked a track record to attract new funding and storage was limited. Additionally, there were concerns about the longevity of the project. However, the IVCC was able to eventually secure funding from organizations such as the AS/UCSB Community Affairs Board (CAB) and the Coastal Fund by running a pilot program that helped demonstrate the group’s ability to manage a compost program. They also partnered with local groups for storage:

 “We were able to establish partnerships with IVRPD [Isla Vista Recreation & Park District] and MarBorg early on, allowing us to store our materials at the Estero Park community garden … Over time we were able to compost the majority of our food waste in local compost piles through a partnership with the Edible Campus Program,” Bider said.

The IVCC was eventually absorbed by Isla Vista’s local government which will allow the Compost Collective to scale its program and expand. 

Although the compost program started with a service area of 10 houses, it grew to 96 houses by 2020. The IVCC provides households with five-gallon buckets as well as guidelines to make sure the compost is done correctly. They accept materials like plant wastes, eggshells, coffee grounds, and other common compostable household waste.

The IVCC also partnered with UCSB Associated Students Food Bank to start Food on Wheels. The program is simple: volunteers go door to door collecting non-perishable food donations which will eventually get donated to the Food Bank. Food on Wheels helps reduce food waste while helping Gauchos support fellow students who may not have access to food. Check out their website if you want to be a part of their compost program or if you want to get involved. They also have an option for you to provide composting for your event. 

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