Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Launching RegenerateLA – Los Angeles’ New Strategy to Give Back to Mother Nature

RegenerateLA is a new program to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and sequester (store) it in the ground as compost. Photo courtesy of LA Compost.

Less than 24 hours after Los Angeles based soil advocacy organization Kiss the Ground premiered its “groundbreaking” new film on Netflix, Councilmembers Paul Koretz (CD5) and Mike Bonin (CD11) introduced a motion at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to launch RegenerateLA, a program targeting carbon sequestration (the storage of carbon) as a means to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. How exactly will that be done? The solution is as old as dirt and lies beneath our very own feet.

Yes, soil has the incredible capacity, through the photosynthetic aid of plants, to pull carbon down from the atmosphere and store it underground in the soil, as one of the building blocks that supports plant growth and millions of microorganisms.

RegenerateLA instructs City departments like LA Sanitation (LASAN) and Recreation and Parks (RAP) to develop a healthy soil strategy that “supports urban agriculture, addresses carbon sequestration, and increases water capture, and to solicit input on these issues from local universities, non-governmental organizations, and relevant government agencies.”

By harnessing the City’s annual estimated 280,000 tons of food waste and converting it into compost, Los Angeles can build healthy soils in parklands and open space as well as increase our ability to draw carbon out from the atmosphere.

Compost, a nutrient rich product created by the aerobic decomposition of organic matter (like food scraps), can be incorporated into soil to increase fertility and water infiltration.

Furthermore, transitioning to the use of compost soil amendments in public green spaces can result in significant cost savings for things like irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides.

An antidote to global warming

Cities around the world are coming up with new ways to mitigate and reverse the climate disruption that we’re currently experiencing across the west in the form of extreme heat and destructive wildfires. While Los Angeles works towards achieving its own sustainability commitments, RegenerateLA aims to unify a number of city initiatives such as the biodiversity program, the regenerative landscaping park pilot, and the reduced maintenance of landscaped medians, in addition to State measures like Senate Bill 1383, which requires the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants like methane by converting organic waste into compost.

Calla Rose Ostrander, Strategic Advisor and Climate Change Communicator at the People, Food & Land Foundation, spoke at the press announcement yesterday on the value of managing carbon in our ecosystem.

“Los Angeles has the potential to do something that many large cities across the country can follow, and that is to take its organic material waste stream and turn it back into soil. That is actually unique and very special. Los Angeles is very well situated to be an example not only for the country but for the world.”

Our planet is a carbon based planet, Ostrander said, and carbon is the currency that drives all its life cycles. But, we as humans have disturbed the balance of Earth’s carbon cycle by burning fossil fuels, deforesting and tilling the land.

In order to change the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gases that are being emitted by our human processes, we need to both reduce the burning of fossil fuels and enhance the earth’s natural ability to store carbon in its forests, soils, and oceans.

“Agriculture, and you can also say landscaping, urban agriculture, the way we make our parks and create our medians, these are all a business of moving carbon from the atmosphere to the soil to produce, everything we see that’s green and beautiful around us. Carbon is a keystone in the system. So it’s when we begin to organize and manage for carbon that we also begin to organize and manage for things like water and the many nutrients that exist in our system.”

By shifting the focus to how we can integrate carbon back into our landscapes, Ostrander says, we are able to make our food more nutritious, reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, and lower the cost of irrigation because water follows carbon, and carbon-rich soils have a high capacity to store and hold moisture.

Your role to play

In order to regenerate the rural-urban connection, consumers have to step it up, says Doniga Markegard, California Regenerative Rancher at Markegard Family Grass-Fed.

“We can’t have a full circle, regenerative food system without the consumer. We need the consumer to say, I’m going to boycott [industrialized] big meat, I’m going to boycott industrial agriculture, and I’m going to take the step to eat like a regenetarian. [Eat] only regenerative meats and regenerative vegetables as well. It is impossible to have an intact ecological system that does not have the integration of animals, and its the same as agriculture.”

Achieving LA’s sustainability target of diverting 100% of waste from landfills by 2050 will require infrastructure changes on the city level, as well as efforts on the residential level.

You can go to to download their purchasing guide, which is a helpful tool to begin navigating through the regenerative agriculture landscape. You can also explore Regeneration International’s farm map.

To play your part, check out LA Compost and start composting at home or find a community composting hub near you. LA Compost is a great model for for keeping organics local, and making programs available to communities that need green space, need access to food, and need urban regeneration.

Michael Martinez, Founder and Executive Director of LA Compost, says “if there’s not a park available, reimagining a vacant lot, or a school, or an alley, and creating those green spaces to actively engage and involve the local residents in reimagining parkways, medians, et cetera” is what LA Compost does with its community composting program.

Volunteers at a community compost hub incorporate food scraps into a larger compost pile. Photo courtesy of LA Compost.

Michael Shull, General Manager, Department of Recreation and Parks, says he looks forward to working with LA Compost to do more composting inside of the parks system. “The biggest thing that we can do in Recreation and Parks, is to absolutely continue expanding our green space. We have over 16,000 acres of land, and it’s not nearly enough to give parks for the individuals of the city. Particularly, we need, with an equity focus to be building these new parks in our most underserved communities, where there are food deserts, where there is no access to green space. We’ve added almost 50 parks over the the last 6 years in Los Angeles, but it’s still barely moving the needle on increasing access to parks for the undeserved communities. 61% [of Angelenos] have a park within walking distance of their home, it’s just not good enough.”

With the launch of RegenerateLA, RAP intends to engage the youth and community members coming through the park system with educational programs around land stewardship and climate change. Furthermore, RegenerateLA directs LASAN to report on public and private funding sources, including grants to support and uplift healthy soil programs across Los Angeles and within RAP.

What’s next

The City will be hiring a director for the Climate Emergency Mobilization Office (CEMO), an individual who will be spearheading RegenerateLA, among other programs, in the most affected communities. This office will be focused on initiating leadership within frontline communities, and organizing assemblies which will take place in the seven most polluted areas of LA. These assemblies will inform how the City can best address the issues faced by frontline communities, including climate change and toxic pollution.

The City is also having conversations about expanding its Good Food Purchasing Policy to help farmers involved start cultivating food with regenerative practices.

While Los Angeles has a zero waste to landfill target by 2050, Senate Bill 1383 has much sooner goals for getting organics out of landfills. LASAN is looking into where organic waste can go, and the necessary infrastructure required to process it.

The challenge we face collectively in evolving this new infrastructure and capacity to compost creates an exciting window of opportunity.

It will be wonderful when food waste, a material previously collected as trash and dumped in landfills, can instead be turned into a vital resource for drawing greenhouse gasses from our atmosphere, creating green spaces throughout Los Angeles, and helping to revitalize our earth.

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Calli Sara Goldstein
Calli Sara Goldstein
Calli Sara Goldstein is a contributing writer for the Buzz, specializing in sustainability, ecology, and agriculture.

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  1. Very important article and super-informative. Hoping that L.A. can make this happen ASAP! Thanks, Calli, for putting all that together.


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