Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Global Green Goes Dumpster Diving in Westside Alleys, Seeking to Improve Trash

Non-profit pays college grads to sift through garbage seeking answers to important questions

When I bring home something I find in the alley, everyone makes fun of me for dumpster diving. But when three highly educated recent college grads do it, apparently it's research. I ran into three such women in an alley in the heart of Santa Monica's swank North of Wilshire neighborhood, where pretty much everyone drives a Prius.

The three women are inspired and employed by Global Green USA to dig through trash in order to save the Planet. The Santa Monica Non-profit pays college grads to sift through trash for answers to the questions: What do LA County residents discard? Could it be composted, recycled or better disposed of? They are performing a statistical analysis.

"We are working with the City of Santa Monica to launch food scrap/ organics collection programs in 10 of the City's multi-family buildings," wrote CORR Program analyst Maddie Gittlen. I couldn't get her to put down the trash long enough to interview her, so I had to e mail her later.

"This is a pilot program, through which we are refining a model for multi-family food scrap collection programs. As a part of each pilot, we conduct a pre-pilot waste audit and a post-pilot waste audit," Gittlen wrote. She, Charlotte Will and Eleni Petrow were conducting research for Multi-Family Food Waste Organics Program.

I asked her what she was hoping to find in the trash can behind a Santa Monica apartment building. Donald Trump's tax returns? "Today, we were conducting a pre-pilot waste audit in order to characterize the building's waste streams; we are doing this so that we can determine a baseline diversion rate of recyclables to later compare with the diversion rates for both recyclables and food waste/organics we'll find when conducting the post-pilot waste audit in six weeks. By comparing the pre- and post-pilot diversion rates, we can gauge the effectiveness of our outreach model based on the (in most cases) increased amount of recyclables going into the recycling bin and food waste/organics then being diverted into the green organics bin."

How does it feel to be picking through trash cans? Like, doesn't your hair get really dirty?

"By diverting food waste/ organics out of the landfill bin, we are preventing the organic material from being sent to landfill where it will decompose and emit powerful greenhouse gases. Instead, the organic material is being sent to a compost facility where it will be made into compost soil amendment, turning waste into a valuable resource!" said Maddisen ("Maddie") Gittlin.

Gittlin began her involvement with Global Green as a Research and Outreach intern, helping to expand food waste recovery projects. She is now a Project Assistant for their Coalition for Resource Recovery and Green Urbanism Program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from UCSB, focusing on waste management, resource recovery, and the role of diet in global climate change.

When Eleni Petrow is not digging through trash, she is the Policy and Legislative Affairs Associate for Global Green USA. She earned an MPH in Environmental Health Science and Policy, and works on a range of projects advocating for sustainable city policies and promoting regional green campaigns.

Charlotte Will is a recent UCLA Business Economics graduate. As a Senior Associate for Strategic Partnerships and Development, "Charlotte works with corporations, NGO's, and other non-profits to identify the business value of green urbanism, green living, green schools, and the other Global Green programs."

Before joining Global Green, she interned at the U.S. Green Building Council headquarters in Washington, DC where she worked on adapting the LEED green building standard to the hospitality, industrial, and retail industries and obtained her LEED Green Associate credential.

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