Despite its environmental prestige as the birthplace of Earth Day, Santa Barbara did not have a private home composting pickup program, until now.
Launched last month, The Better Bucket is the passion project of Farm Cart Organics founders Jason and Katherine Lesh. The private food recovery service is the first of its kind locally and aims to prevent organic waste from entering the Tajiguas Landfill.
Six weeks into operation, more than 100 people have signed up for the program. Initially offered just in Santa Barbara, Summerland, Montecito, and Carpinteria, Better Bucket is expanding its route to include Goleta, Ventura, and Newbury Park.
Anyone within the pickup radius can opt into the curbside service for $27 per month, which covers the transportation and pickup fees. Upon signing up, members receive a five-gallon bucket for their compost, which is collected every Friday and replaced with a new bucket by the program’s team.
After collection, the compost is brought back to the Leshs’ farm, where it is sorted by chickens and then mixed with wood chips, horse manure, and water. Once a quarter, members are sent back a bucket of compost along with a dozen eggs from the same chickens that sort the scraps.
For Better Bucket’s team, they say their inspiration came from the need to improve the county’s current trash collection system, which results in large amounts of unnecessary waste. “Municipally, we are way behind the times,” said Jason. Composting is simple, he said. “We’re talking woodchips and food scraps.”
Although the composting process is straightforward, the permits for collection and distribution are anything but. In fact, the regulatory pitfalls put the entire Better Bucket operation at risk. “I expect to be shut down,” Jason said.
But that doesn’t discourage him. Should the program be shut down, Jason said, it would force the region to acknowledge the issue and start a much-needed dialogue among residents. “For us, it’s really an example,” he explained. “The purpose is not to make money, but to antagonize and educate the community into doing more.”
The couple is also in the process of opening a restaurant, where they will continue their efforts to educate the public on diverting usable materials from the landfill. “Composting is going to be a big part of the restaurant,” Katherine promised.
Correction: This story was revised on June 20 to state that Better Bucket is a private company. Isla Vista Compost Collective offers a similar program for I.V. Santa Barbara County’s Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division offers a DIY version at lessismore.org.