Everyone’s trash is his treasure

Owen Grohman

A City College Horticulture student received a $200 scholarship for his efforts to promote the idea of sustainable horticulture on campus and throughout Santa Barbara.
The Horticulture Consortium of Santa Barbara presented the award to Leif Skogberg during a ceremony held on Saturday, Sept. 18 at the City College Demonstration Gardens.
Skogberg won an essay-based competition established by the Consortium community. But the award was not won just by submitting a superior paper.
“It’s not only that you can do it [sustainable horticulture], it’s that he has been doing it,” said former Professor Emeritus, Jerry Sortomme, of the Environmental Horticulture. “That’s what made Leif stand out.”
Skogberg, 21, has been a valuable member of the college’s Horticulture Department. In the Spring, he was named Environmental Horticulture Student of the Year and Environmental Biology Student of the Year. Skogberg has been involved with projects at the college and in the community as well.
“I see myself as a facilitator of building community networks which are efficient, and, idealistically, more sustainable,” Skogberg said. He and a few fellow students organized the Student Sustainability Coalition, a group that works to improve the efficiency and biodiversity of the school garden while serving as a model for the rest of the campus.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement but this campus is doing very well,” said Skogberg. The Coalition has already made significant process, working with the school’s food service department to develop a composting system that eliminates waste and promotes sustainability.
Skogberg bristles at the suggestion that compost is waste. “There is no waste,” he says, “Everything has to be looked at in a systemic fashion.”
Many of the systems that Skogberg promotes and practices will go unnoticed by any student who doesn’t visit the Demonstration Gardens. But the work of the Student Sustainability Coalition is not confined to the plot overlooking the bluffs on the Harbor-side of East Campus. Skogberg is leading a movement to improve the recycling system at City College, having already raised over $800 for the effort. Also, students can soon expect to be eating locally grown, organic produce at the school cafeteria.
In fact, Skogberg’s work will not be confined to this campus alone, either. Skogberg recognizes that the suggestions of science are to be heeded. “Most major scientists are saying, ‘We [the people of the world] better do something now, or we’re screwed,'” he says. His goal is not to join the movement of those who make light of problems, but rather of those who work to fix them. “I feel like it’s given me a real life purpose.”