Jessica Toth, executive director at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation has responsibilities that include working with the community during the new year to bring in a new law. SB 1383 will require organic waste to be recycled.
Toth, a Del Mar resident answered questions about her experience at Solana Center as well as some of the work she’s involved in. This interview was lightly edited to ensure clarity and conciseness.
Q. What’s your professional background
A.I started out as an engineer before moving on to business school. When my children were young, I wanted them to understand their responsibility in affecting the environment. After completing school projects, I created the programming and set up the Rob Machado Foundation. The Solana Center was established almost nine years later. I was a high-tech worker. I started an educational software company years ago, and also did consulting work. Although I held many different roles, I was passionate about the environment.
A. The organization was in financial trouble and I was asked if I could be a board member. [for the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation]I was working for the Rob Machado Foundation. I said that I needed to know more about the operations. I then said that I’d tell you in three month’s time whether Solana Center should merge into another nonprofit or make a profit. We are now 10 years later, and we are doing great.
I could not think of a better environment. It is interesting because I was always motivated to help people and do my best. Many of the past years’ work has been about encouraging behavior change by businesses, individuals, or cities that we work alongside. The new legislation at state level has been a great kick in the pants for San Diego’s 18 counties and cities, especially with respect to organic waste.
A.There are many aspects to it. There is a reason we do this. Which is the most important. It was a revelation to me when I first came to Solana Center. Organic material can be defined as yard waste, food soil, paper or textiles. When they end up in the dump, it undergoes an anaerobic process. We added materials to them so that it would decompose anaerobic and produce a lot of potent greenhouse gases.
This is why the state took this position. This organic material should be kept out of landfill from an environmental standpoint. It can take up as much as 40% from our landfill.
Its beginning date is January 1. All jurisdictions are required by law to make available services to curbside pick-up of organic waste to their residents.
Q. Q. Do you have any goals for the company going forward?
A.I would like to see us be able to reach every city in the region with the same environmental education we offer. We have inquiries from more than 90% about SB 1383. We are currently in contact with more 75% of the jurisdictions. What is really important is consistency across the borders of different cities. Also, economies of scale are important for them to have, for instance, all consistent signage or workshops with identical messaging. This is the direction we are heading.
For more information on the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, visit www.solanacenter.org.