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Elementary education program, curbside recycling, and residential composting among USCC awards

A pile of organics in a brown paper bag
The Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, Napa Recycling & Composting Facility, Jamie Blanchard-Poling, and Whitney Cohen are some of the US Composting Council's award winners. Adobe Stock Images

During their annual conference, COMPOST2023 held in Ontario, California, the US Composting Council recognized a number of different organizations including a Southern California curbside recycling program raising awareness around composting issues, the only residential food scrap composting infrastructure in Northern Colorado, an upstate New York municipality, and a Santa Cruz program cultivating garden-based education at its prestigious annual awards program.

The first of four esteemed USCC achievement awards – the Organics Diversion Program of the Year Award – went to the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation which pioneered the first comprehensive curbside recycling program in Southern California and one of the first community-based recycling programs in the U.S. For over 20 years, Solana Center has been teaching composting and siting operations, from residential to community composting. Students often describe the training as life-changing in the company's "Master Composter" course and they go on to further spread and educate within their spheres of influence. 

The Large-Scale Compost Manufacturer of the Year Award goes to a commercial-scale U.S. composting facility that produces more than 10,000 tons of compost per year. This facility displays excellence in compost production, marketing, and distribution. The winner must be in operation for a minimum of three years. This year's award went to Napa Recycling & Composting Facility. Napa County Recycling and Waste Services and Napa Recycling and Waste Services are local full-service companies that have served the region for over a century. The company operates a 63,590-ton/year composting operation. Their composting system provides a high degree of process control, enabling rapid stabilization and low odours. 

The Small-Scale Composter Manufacturer of the Year Award, given to facilities producing 10,000 tons or less, went to the "Compost Queen" of Fort Collins Colorado, Jamie Blanchard-Poling. Jamie has built the only residential food scrap composting infrastructure in Northern Colorado to provide diversion opportunities in a rapidly growing community. With her Microsite Urban Community Composting model that relies on a network of distributed CESQ facilities, Jamie has been able to divert over 150,000 pounds of food scraps from the local landfill, which is set to close at the end of 2024.

The H. Clark Gregory Award recognizes public outreach as well as outstanding grassroots efforts to promote composting. This year's award went to Whitney Cohen, Education Director of Life Lab. Life Lab, originally Life Lab Science Project, has long been a force in the School Garden and Garden-Based Learning movements. Their mission is to "cultivate children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education". They accomplish this through both local and national programs directly impacting more than 6,000 K to Grade 5 students each year in garden classrooms and programs at 17 partner school sites across three districts and field trips and summer programs at two farm-based educational gardens.

The Hi Kellogg Award goes to individuals who provided outstanding service to the composting industry. This year's recipient of the Hi Kellogg Award is Bob Yost of A1 Organics. Yost's accomplishments and recognitions within the industry over a span of 30 years demonstrate his compassion and caring. He is always willing to lend a hand and give out solid advice. He believes and exhibits the truth that it is better to give, than to receive, to serve, rather than to be served. 

The Jerome Goldstein Award is named after the founder of BioCycle who helped to foster today's composting industry. It recognizes those who achieved excellence in their field of study and honours those who have made significant contributions over their professional career to the field of environmental stewardship and natural resource sustainability. This year's recipient is Jeff Gage. Jeff has been working in composting for over 35 years. He is a USCC Certified composting operations manager and holds numerous composting patents. While living overseas in five countries, Jeff has been supporting the U.S. Embassy's Green Team programs for organizing composting for the onsite food services and supporting the host countries' efforts to develop region-wide composting programs. 

The USCC Volunteer of the Year Award is the only award voted on by USCC staff. Ryan Cooper is this year's recipient. Ryan is chair of the USCC Membership Committee. He also sits on the Target Organics Committee, the Compost Awareness Task Force, and the Finance Committee. Ryan is USCC's board secretary. 

Board service awards went to Joe DiNorscia and Bob Yost. Joe DiNorscia of Laurel Valley Soils served two terms on the board. As past treasurer and chair of the finance committee, Joe was instrumental in making recommendations and changes in the financial structure and policy of the USCC. Bob Yost of A1 Organics also served two terms on the board. Over those terms, Bob served on the Market Development Committee, the Finance Committee, the Membership Committee, the Legislative & Environmental Affairs Committee, and, most recently, as Chair of the STA Advisory Committee. 

Finally, the USCC's Distinguished Service Award went to Cary Oshins, on the occasion of his retirement. The award recognizes Cary's dedication and years of loyal service to the council, the foundation, and the compost industry. 

Awardees are nominated by peers and honoured each year at the US Composting Council's Annual Conference and Tradeshow.

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