Empowering the Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

By Giving List Staff   |   October 19, 2021

In 1990, a group of parents excited about the potential of creative reuse and worried about the lack of funding for arts programs at local schools came together to create Art From Scrap. Beginning in a garage and then operating out of a warehouse under the umbrella of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, Art From Scrap taught kids about waste reduction and provided the community with its first Creative Reuse Store. From this humble beginning, seeds were planted for one of Santa Barbara’s leading environmental education nonprofits: Explore Ecology.

Thirty-one years later, the Art From Scrap program is still thriving, diverting thousands of pounds of reusable material from Santa Barbara’s landfill. The environmental protection legacy Art From Scrap established has since evolved into the nonprofit Explore Ecology, whose mission is to “empower the community to protect and preserve the environment.”

As Executive Director Lindsay Johnson says, “Art From Scrap is still one of our most popular programs. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Underneath the surface exists a deep and diverse set of programs that reinforce Explore Ecology’s reputation as one of Santa Barbara’s most impactful environmental nonprofits reaching 48,000 students annually. Highlights include Flows to the Ocean, a program that teaches fourth to sixth graders about watersheds, water quality, and the actions they can take to prevent ocean pollution. Explore Ecology also manages Santa Barbara County’s annual Coastal Cleanup Day, which results in nearly 5,000 pounds of trash being removed from local beaches and waterways. 

The School Gardens Program connects children to nature and teaches them how to grow their own organic food using the garden as an outdoor classroom. Each year, 14,000 students at 33 Santa Barbara schools learn about planting, cultivating, harvesting, composting and nutrition. By spending time in school gardens, eating delicious produce, and getting their hands dirty, children learn that environmental stewardship can be experiential and fun.

“With organic gardening, we are teaching students the best practices for sustainability,” Johnson says. “They’re learning to garden and at the same time are connecting with nature! This inspires children from across our community to appreciate and protect the environment that surrounds them.”


Explore Ecology

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Support School Gardens in Santa Barbara County

You can help Explore Ecology bring garden education and vermicompost bins to schools in Santa Barbara County. California is now requiring all municipalities to reduce organic waste going to landfills by 75% by the year 2025. To help accomplish this goal, Explore Ecology has installed and manages large-scale worm composting bins at nine school gardens. These bins measure 5’ x 10’ and are capable of handling 30 to 50 gallons of green waste per week. 

Please help us meet our $80,000 fundraising goal to provide garden education and additional composting systems to more schools. Your support makes it possible for children to continue to learn and grow in healthy school gardens.


The mission of Explore Ecology is to promote a greater understanding of the connections between people and their environment and to encourage creative thinking through hands-on environmental education and artistic expression. We empower our community to protect and preserve the environment through environmental education and creative exploration.

(805) 884-0459 x3
Development and Finance Director: Melissa Brooks

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School garden activities inspire kids to adopt better nutrition at school and at home. Students pass on what they’ve learned to the entire family, so it’s really a double benefit.
Jane and Paul Orfalea
Audacious Foundation

Key Supporters

American Riviera Bank
Audacious Foundation
Cottage Children’s Hospital
Deckers Brands
Garden Club of Santa Barbara
Christine Green
Hutton Parker Foundation
Johnson Ohana Foundation
Janet Loughlin
Mission Wealth
Tracy Mongold
Montecito Bank & Trust
Michel Saint-Sulpice
Sansum Clinic
Santa Barbara Foundation
SB County Office of Arts
and Culture/City of SB
Towbes Foundation
UCSB Coastal Fund
Union Bank
Tisha Weber-Ford
Village Properties
Williams-Corbett Foundation