Explore Ecology has received a $20,000 Environmental Champions Grant from SoCalGas to support its Food Waste Reduction Education Program. The funds will help Explore Ecology reduce the organic waste stream at two schools by installing large-scale vermicompost (worm) bins.

Explore Ecology’s School Gardens Program has already installed and currently maintains six large-capacity vermicomposting bins in six schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Tons of food waste are diverted from the landfill and turned into compost in the bins, in line with AB 1826, the California bill calling for major reduction in food waste.

Funding from SoCalGas was requested to install large bins in two additional schools during the grant period.

SoCalGas accepted applications from nonprofit organizations focused on clean energy, renewable natural gas, and clean air.

“We are happy to award this grant to Explore Ecology,” said Tim Mahoney, public affairs manager for SoCalGas in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. “We support their efforts in schools throughout Santa Barbara County to educate students about food waste and composting. These new worm bins will help to reduce the waste stream in local schools.”

Explore Ecology staff collect and add 30 gallons of food waste to each of the large vermicompost bins in Santa Barbara Unified School District schools each week. The new bins will contribute to the diverted waste.

“We are so proud to be the recipients of an Environmental Champions Grant from SoCalGas. It means so much for our work in school gardens to be supported in this way,” said Lindsay Johnson, Explore Ecology’s executive director. “Our Garden Program serves over 14,000 students at 36 elementary schools and two junior highs.

“This grant will help us compost more organic waste,and also support our work of educating students and their families about composting and food waste. Thank you, SoCalGas.”

SoCalGas awarded 26 grants totaling $400,000. Since its inception in 2015, the Environmental Champions Initiative, which is funded by Sempra Energy shareholders, has awarded more than 150 grants totaling some $2 million.

Explore Ecology is an environmental education and arts nonprofit that educates 38,000 children a year, inspiring them to engage with the natural world, think critically, and experience the value of environmental stewardship. Explore Ecology programs include the Art From Scrap Creative ReUse Store and Gallery, Watershed Resource Center, and School Gardens Program.

For more, visit ExploreEcology.org.