Unity Awards

Tracie Troxler Improves Our Soil, and Our Community, Through Composting

“Healthy plants and healthy ecology sprout from healthy soil, and so does a healthy community."

By Lauren Jackson January 1, 2024 Published in the January/February 2024 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Tracie Troxler

Tracie Troxler

Image: David Tejada

Tracie Troxler’s mission is about more than just throwing food scraps in a bucket. It’s about interconnectedness—the web that unites soil with community, and nature with health.

“Healthy plants and healthy ecology sprout from healthy soil, and so does a healthy community,” she says.

Troxler’s nonprofit Sunshine Community Compost, which was founded in 2017, hinges on educating the community about food waste and how to improve your local environment through conscious consumption.

“What we’re doing above ground is mirroring what’s going on below ground,” she says. “Underground, there is this rich network of relationships. If you start with soil work, you yourself will end up in rich relationships. Our community is based on water, the health of our beaches and the aquatic ecosystem. What happens in the soil happens to the water—and subsequently the people and the economy. And I know life is busy, but we can help you refresh and remember these interdependencies.”

Troxler, 49, is a Manatee County native who returned to the area after years of working in California, where she participated in composting programs in San Francisco. When she felt the call home to Florida, she brought those skills with her to help educate our community and create closed-loop systems in which residents can repurpose their food waste and benefit from increased soil health.
“We want to make the cycle transparent and create opportunities so that we can all participate in this loop together for the greater good,” she says. “When we make compost and don’t throw food scraps in the landfill, there is a huge wealth of benefits that we’re all receiving, whether we know it or not.”

As an example, she pulls out a gallon-sized mason jar filled with food scraps and garbage. “I take this with me everywhere, for education,” she says, “It’s seven years old and in 20 years it will look the same. This is what a landfill looks like. There is goo at the bottom, food and garbage, and it never breaks down.”
She then pulls out a bucket of healthy soil, with small bugs and the occasional worm wriggling through it. “Even people who aren’t soil people can look at the soil that the compost turns into and see that it looks really good,” she says.

Sunshine Community Compost operates nine food scrap drop-off stations, five of which are open to the public at city parks, including Arlington Park, Gillespie Park, North Water Tower Park, Whitaker Park and The Bay. For a small fee of $14.50 per month, participants receive waste buckets in which they can place their food scraps before bringing them to a park to be composted. A few times a year, they receive healthy composted soil in return.

Troxler’s work extends beyond the physical work of composting. She strives to educate residents and rally support for composting. “Basically, people call and I show up to teach about composting and, ultimately, our interconnectedness,” she says. “Composting is not that complicated, and we can all do it very easily. All that matters is that we recognize that we’re collaborating with everything. We are nature.” 

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