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an array of compost bins waits at a rowing event

Sarasota County Extension composting education wins award

The UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County Waste Reduction Program has earned the Outstanding Higher Education Program award from the National Recycling Coalition for 2020.

The award recognizes Sarasota County Extension’s educational efforts to help divert food waste from landfills, part of the overall Sarasota County aim to achieve a 75 percent landfill diversion rate. The waste reduction program targeted several areas to create a comprehensive program.

Randy Penn (center, blue shirt), waste reduction agent at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, leads an outdoor, hands-on "Let's Make Some Black Gold" composting class at the Sarasota County Extension office. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]

Randy Penn (center, blue shirt), waste reduction agent at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, leads an outdoor, hands-on “Let’s Make Some Black Gold” composting class at the Sarasota County Extension office. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]

First, the program focused on two primary areas: educational classes and event food waste collection. The educational classes evolved into an active learning “Let’s Make Some Black Gold” workshop that focused on the issue of food waste, composting basics, how to build a compost pile, screening your finished compost, and vermiculture.

For the calendar year, Extension hosted 16 total workshops at the Sarasota County Extension office, as well as parks, libraries, and schools across the county to allow for increased localized participation. Attendance was free of charge and open to all ages, with activities including lectures, presentations and hands-on experiences, to maximize learning. Participants also had the option to purchase a Geobin composter for $25, available for pickup at the workshop.

compost bin decal (to explain what can and cannot be composted) Next, the waste reduction program partnered with local event organizers to provide food waste collection and education using Sarasota County Extension-supplied (and branded) composting bins. Extension agents and volunteers taught event attendees the process of composting and the importance of reducing our impacts on the environment through one-on-one interactions, demonstrations, and tabling displays.

Finally, we have transitioned the composting education efforts from in-person events to online offerings, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That included developing and delivering eight online webinars, a multi-county composting workshop, and a first-ever UF/IFAS online composting certificate course. Additionally, a recording of the “Black Gold” webinar was converted and uploaded to the Sarasota County Extension Youtube channel (available via https://tiny.cc/ufsaraext_youtube), along with a youth-focused composting video created for our LIFE and 4-H programs.

Sarasota County residents have demonstrated that there is a need and demand for composting education here. As a result of our Extension education programs, the waste reduction program is implementing additional courses for residents, youth, and schools. The program is part of a UF/IFAS-identified “super” issue to promote awareness and appreciation of food systems and the environment.

Learn more about composting at sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/compost, and find “Let’s Make Some Black Gold” and other Extension classes via ufsarasotaext.eventbrite.com.