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March 24, 2010 > Santa Clara County recognizes new Master Composter volunteers

Santa Clara County recognizes new Master Composter volunteers

Submitted By Zachary DeVine

The Santa Clara County Home Composting Education Program graduated its fifteenth class of Master Composter volunteers on March 11. Since 1995, 328 Master Composters have been certified, providing 38,000 hours of volunteer service.

"Composting is an important part of our overall strategy for decreasing pollution and limiting our impact on the planet," said Ken Yeager, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. "As the popularity and viability of composting increases, these volunteers will help spread the message."

The Class of 2010 completed a nine-week training session in compost science, soil health and natural gardening techniques and also toured Z-Best, a local commercial composting facility and the SMART station in Sunnyvale. Each new Master Composter will volunteer a minimum of 50 hours to the Home Composting Education Program. Volunteers fulfill their hours in different ways including classroom presentations and demonstrations on worm composting food scraps in the classroom or school garden, teaching composting classes and staffing informational booths at community events and compost bin sales.

Russ Behel was honored as the recipient of the 2009 Master Composter of the Year award. He volunteered 117 hours in 2009 and 360 hours since his graduation from the Master Composter Program in 2005. He has taught many composting workshops to adults and school children and to students at San Jose State University and National Hispanic University. Behel has manned many Earth Day table displays and delivered special lectures for companies such as Apple. He has been especially helpful by donating time and equipment to build worm bins for school compost programs.

"As a life-long environmentalist, I decided to become involved with the Master Composter Volunteer Program. I saw an opportunity to give something back to the community that in a small way could impact the environment," said Behel. "I especially like working with schools because the kids are the future. If I can get them excited about composting and the environment, I know I've planted a seed that will grow."

Nearly 35 percent of what Santa Clara County residents throw in the garbage or leave at the curb can be composted easily at home. Backyard and worm composting is a major element in each city's efforts to meet state and local waste-reduction goals.

For more information on composting, low-cost compost bins, composting and Bay-Friendly gardening classes and the Master Composter program, call (408) 918-4640 or visit

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