A Passion for Compost and Community

By Alan Garvey, Master Composter/Soil Builder Intern

My Master Composter experience started back in the fall of 2014. Little did I know I was stepping into a world that would reignite my passion to serve my community. I was looking for extra credit for a community college course on environmental issues when I stumbled across the Master Composter / Soil Builder (MC/SB) program at Seattle Tilth (now Tilth Alliance).  The assignment was simple: all I had to do was to volunteer for a local non-profit organization doing environmental work. The only problem was that the MC/SB program was not accepting applications at that time, which meant I had to wait until spring to apply. I wound up missing that extra credit opportunity. However, it sparked a deep interest in pursuing the MC/SB program and I am so happy I did.

After waiting a few long months, the application finally opened and so did the rest of my life. I was officially accepted into the program in April of 2015.  I had no idea that my passion would connect me with a network of amazing people and together we are making a difference in the world.

During my MC/SB training I met Program Coordinator Justin Maltry who taught me about making compost, building healthy soils and educating the public on recycling, landfilling and composting best-practices in the city of Seattle. I also got to know the other Master Composters in my cohort where we bonded over our love of compost and serving our communities to become lifelong partners in our city’s composting mission. Before we knew it, we completed our 30 training hours and it was time to go out into the world to spread the good word on the benefits of compost.

I only needed 35 hours of outreach to obtain my MC/SB certification which would successfully conclude my volunteer commitments. However, I was so energized by my outreach experience that I decided that I would continue beyond my 35-hour commitment and continue to my work as a Master Composter volunteer indefinitely. Two years later, with over 100 hours under my belt, I have no intentions of stopping anytime soon. But being an MC/SB has meant more than teaching people how to compost at home or how to recycle. It is also about the connections I’ve made academically, professionally and personally.

My experience as a Master Composter supported my coursework and my sanity while I was earning my bachelor’s degree. My time as an MC/SB helped prepare me for the more challenging aspects of the degree I was pursuing. All the time I spent working with the public helped me to be more comfortable presenting in front of large crowds of people. I attribute my confidence to speak in front of an audience to the work I do as an MC/SB. In fact, I felt so comfortable I ended up giving the student graduation address for my department to an audience of 150+ people. If you are someone who has a hard time coming out of your shell, I highly recommend joining the program. My experience also came in handy when it came time to complete all the internship hours required for graduation.

While my primary reasons for becoming a Master Composter was to learn more about composting and resource conservation, and to serve my community in a positive way, I also had an ulterior motive for volunteering for the program for a school assignment. Now that I have graduated, I am using my MC/SB connections in a different way. Long ago I heard that if you want to get anywhere in the environmental community in Seattle, it’s all about who you know and what you have done for the community. I have cultivated an extensive professional network that includes educators, administrators, program managers, politicians, policy makers and other compost enthusiasts through my work as a Master Composter / Soil Builder. Furthermore, the experience and connections I have developed while volunteering are showing people that I am serious about the work I do and that I care deeply about the environment and my community.

Now that I have graduated, my dream job is working as a community focused waste management educator. Wish me luck!

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