The Isla Vista Community Services District has moved forward with plans to absorb the Isla Vista Compost Collective, which has been left without funding since the beginning of Fall Quarter 2019 following stipend issues.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD) is including the Isla Vista Compost Collective (IVCC) under its payroll as a parent organization, but the IVCC will continue to fund itself independently from the I.V. CSD.
Since it lost its funding, IVCC has been unable to provide stipends to its 10 management and shift positions. Students have continued to work for IVCC on a volunteer basis this academic year, but IVCC has stalled compost collection to the 96 homes it currently serves and cannot expand to the 100 homes currently on its waitlist.
The organization was created in Fall Quarter 2017 by current IVCC director and fourth-year environmental science major Jacob Bider, who conceived the idea of a grassroots-level composting group in I.V. when he moved out of on-campus housing after his freshman year and realized there was no composting in I.V.
Bider applied for an internship at the Santa Barbara chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and in his application proposed a student-led composting program to I.V. He and other Surfrider interns then began developing the composting initiative, which officially began in Winter Quarter 2018.
Residents in I.V. can apply for composting buckets at their homes to be picked up weekly by IVCC dirtriders –– student workers for IVCC who pick up the bins each week, sort and deliver compost to gardens around I.V. and then bring the buckets back to people’s homes.
IVCC started in Winter Quarter 2018 by serving approximately 10 homes and proceeded to double in size by the next quarter. A grant from the Coastal Fund in Spring Quarter 2018 allowed them to continue expanding, and by Fall Quarter 2019, IVCC was providing compost services to 96 homes.
IVCC’s past three years of growth began stalling at the beginning of Fall Quarter 2019 when Surfrider notified IVCC that shift workers like dirtriders were not allowed to be paid under a stipend and had to be paid by the hour instead.
Bider said in an interview that the amount dirtriders receive on a stipend is equal to minimum wage, and that the decision to have stipends was proposed in its original funding with the Coastal Fund, but that they have now expanded beyond that model’s capacity. Surfrider told IVCC that they needed to switch their shift workers from stipends to payroll, but as a nonprofit, Surfrider didn’t have the capacity to do so. As a result, IVCC dissolved its relationship with Surfrider.
The main problem the IVCC faced was its lack of a parent organization; the program didn’t need funding, Bider explained — it has a development team that works to apply for grant funding to help it expand operations. But in order to apply for any funding and put employees on a payroll system, it needed a larger organization to be a part of.
IVCC then turned to the Office of Student Life (OSL) to absorb it but found it couldn’t put their shift workers on any payroll system. IVCC also reached out to Associated Students (A.S.) and the Community Affairs Board (C.A.B.) but were told that “due to various policies, A.S. cannot take on the program,” Bider said.
Bider also spoke with Katie Maynard, event manager and coordinator of UCSB Sustainability, and was told that they were already spread too thin and could not take on the payroll for the IVCC; when IVCC tried reaching out to the Department of Environmental Studies, it was told that it’s “not in the nature” of an academic department to take on a project like the IVCC, Bider said.
The IVCC then reached out to MarBorg Industries, a waste management company that collects residential and other compost. Currently, 20% of the compost collected by IVCC goes to MarBorg in order to prevent overflow of the three gardens that collect compost in I.V., according to Bider. MarBorg also told IVCC that it was unable to take on the group.
But throughout the talks with various departments, Bider said there was a recurring name: the I.V. CSD.
“We’re seeking a partner that can provide us with institutional longevity and because [the I.V. CSD is] a governmental institution with paid staff and a board, you can provide us with that,” he said during the meeting.
Director George Thurlow suggested moving the conversation along to the next agenda item in the same vein: discussion regarding the possibility of composting bins at the Isla Vista Community Center.
According to Jonathan Abboud, general manager for the I.V. CSD, MarBorg Industries offered to supply the community center with two free composting bins for six months. MarBorg stressed the importance of having the bins strictly managed; if the bins were open 24/7, people could toss in non-compostable items and render the compost useless, Abboud said.
With the option of having bins at the community center, the I.V. CSD began discussing ways for the IVCC to take part in providing a compost service in I.V. — something that combines the IVCC and the possibility of bins at the community center.
Director Jay Freeman drafted a motion to direct staff to draft a memorandum of understanding between the IVCC and I.V. CSD for potential composting services for I.V., while authorizing the IVCC to approach organizations for possible sources of funding. The motion passed 7-0.
While the IVCC has been stuck in a waiting period this academic year while searching for a new organization, students have continued their work on a volunteer basis. IVCC recently implemented a composting event service, where groups can apply on the IVCC website for composting at its events. IVCC also partnered with A.S. to hold a non-perishable food drive called Food on Wheels.
“As much as we want to communicate the struggles we’ve been through, we also want to communicate the fact that we’re still here and we’re really ready to get back into running and we have some things that we’re excited to promote too,” Ily Logeais, IVCC marketing and communications manager, said.
Logeais said it was important for IVCC to find a group like the I.V. CSD to sponsor it that was just as invested in local, grassroots initiatives.
“Automatically with the term grassroots, there’s a sense of community involved,” Logeais said.
“It’s not just one person doing it and it’s not a business doing it. It’s Jacob as a freshman deciding that there’s no composting services available and I.V., and being like, ‘we need to change this,’ and then other people being inspired with that getting onboard.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the Jan. 30, 2020 print edition of the Daily Nexus.