*Registration button is for individuals. See "Bulk Enrollment" section below for group instructions.
The 131° School's Compost Operator Certificate is a two-month online program focused on composting fundamentals and best management practices. It is designed for composting practitioners of all scales and skill levels (above the backyard-scale), as well as technical professionals, composting educators, students, and anyone interested in building a working knowledge of compost production systems. This course is especially applicable to those working with food scraps and will address critical strategies for transforming this challenging feedstock into a valuable resource.
The course is taught by James McSweeney, a composting consultant, educator, and author of Community-Scale Composting Systems, a comprehensive designer’s and practitioner’s manual that is included with the course. Through his work at the Highfields Center for Composting and current consultancy, Compost Technical Services, James has worked with hundreds of composters, large and small, on everything from site planning, design, and management to compost heat recovery and livestock feeding systems. The 131° School’s Compost Operator Certificate curriculum was adapted from the Vermont Compost Operator Certification Training, which James has played a lead role in developing and has taught and updated since 2011, providing certificates to over 300 operators.
Live Sessions are the Third and Fourth Thursday of each month at 1:31 PM Eastern Time
Principles of Composting
Compost Recipe Development
Materials (Feedstocks) & Blending
Pile Monitoring & Management
Trouble Shooting & Neighbor Relations
Storm Water & Leachate Management
$325/person for 1-3 students
$300/person for 4-9 students
$290/person for 10+ students
Follow these steps to register as a group:
We are limiting the number of students enrolled in each session and will be opening enrollment for future courses soon. In the meantime, if you know which session you'd like to attend, please join the course waitlist below.
Monthly Live Sessions
1:31 pm EST 3rd and 4th Thursdays
Session schedule is subject to change. We will update any changes here and notify enrolled students.
Video Lectures and Quizzes
Day 1 of Course – Course content is live!
Format: Pre-recorded Videos
Unit I – Compost Process and Principles
Unit II – Recipe Development, Feedstocks, & Blending
Unit III – Pile Formation, Monitoring, Management, and Maturity
Unit IV – Troubleshooting & Neighbor Relations
Unit V – Compost Site Maintenance & Storm Water Management
Complete before 3rd Thursday of Month One: Units I & II Review Quizzes – Open Book; submit any questions!
Complete before 3rd Thursday of Month Two - Units III, IV, & V Review Quizzes – Open Book; submit any questions!
All course content must be completed by the end of the Month 2!
3rd Thursday of Month One – 1:31 pm EST - Live group discussion with Instructor James McSweeney (focus on Units I & II)
4th Thursday of Month One – 1:31 pm EST - Operator Discussion and Q&A: Live group discussion with Eileen Banyra
3rd Thursday of Month Two – 1:31 pm EST - Operator Discussion and Q&A: Live group discussion with Michael Martinez
4th Thursday of Month Two – 1:31 pm EST - Live group discussion with Instructor James McSweeney (focus on Units III, IV, & V)
What does "131°" have to do with composting?
131°F (55° C) is the accepted heat treatment standard for pathogen inactivation in the U.S. (all particles maintained at or above for at least 3 days). Although pathogen inactivation happens at a wide variety of temperatures and by multiple mechanisms other than "thermal destruction", the name has a symbolic meaning to us, signifying the high product quality and management standards we teach at the school. Composting is a mysterious science and the industry often feels foreign to new comers. We understand that the name comes off as "insider-ish", but that's the point, we want to open the door to people who are new to this work and bring you inside. We expect that no-one will forget the number 131° F by the end of our courses or after visiting our website for that matter. (Our apologies for those of you who are in the metric system, we admit that this is a very US centric approach, but in our defense, "The 55° C School" just doesn't have the same ring to it).
Are other Compost Operator Certificate courses being offered this year?
Currently we are anticipating one course per year running in the winter months, which are quieter for most composters and farmers. We are limiting the number of students enrolled in each session and will be opening enrollment for future courses soon after the current one ends. In the meantime, if you'd like to attend a session that is not currently open for enrollment, please join the course waiting list by copying the following link into you browser: https://forms.gle/rvcRPZDMwCEpUTnD9
Can The 131° School help our State or Region offer training to local composters?
Yes. Some options available to States, institutions, and non-profit groups include: 1) Courses can be purchased in bulk and offered to a specific group of composters; 2) Courses can be customized to a specific State or region; 3) We can bring the course to you and offer hands-on learning (in combination with remote or in-person lectures as requested), and; 4) We can speak about customized topics. Please inquire to learn more by emailing: Tech(at)CompostTechnicalServices.com
What is the history of the course, curriculum, and certificate?
The 131° School’s Compost Operator Certificate curriculum was adapted from the Vermont Compost Operator Certification Training, with permission from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation Solid Waste Management Program. The certificate meets the State of Vermont’s requirements for permitted small, medium, and large compost facility site operators. James McSweeney played a lead role in developing the original operator training curriculum (while working at the Highfields Center for Composting) and has taught and updated the course since 2011, providing certificates to over 300 operators. If you would like your State or other licensing body to recognize this certificate, please reach out to us at: [email protected]
How does this course compare to other compost training courses?
This is a course for serious composter's (you know who you are!). But we want to take a moment to acknowledge that no amount of virtual learning can adequately replace face-to-face, hands-on learning. If you have compost to touch, feel, and connect the course material to as you are learning, you will definitely get a lot more out of the curriculum. There are several other advantages to offering this course remotely. It's making an advanced operator curriculum available to a geographically distributed audience at an affordable cost (not to mention bringing together lots of amazing people over large distances!). It's also allowing our lectures to be fine tuned to a level that would be hard to replicate consistently in live presentations. That said, we'd love to bring The 131° School to your operation, state, or region, so please reach out ([email protected]) to discuss making that happen. For those seeking a multi-day in-person training course, we highly recommend checking out the Maine Compost School or the USCC's Compost Operation Training Courses. Also, for composting at the community level, we definitely recommend looking into The Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders (NSR) Composter Training Program offered by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Do I need a certificate to operate a compost site?
This depends on where you're operating and at what scale. Although most States do not have any compost operator training requirements, we recommend looking into your State regulations or contacting someone in the appropriate State agency (likely solid waste and/or agricultural agencies). The course does meet the training requirements for State of Vermont Solid Waste permitted and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) registered compost facility operators. If you would like your State or other licensing body to recognize The 131° School’s Compost Operator Certificate, please reach out to us at: [email protected]
How do I know my State's requirements for composting?
It's always best to go straight to the source to find your State's composting regulations (Google: "State name" composting regulations, add "solid waste" or "agricultural"). The US Composting Council is also a great resource for some regulatory and other compost related information. A list of regulations by State can be found here: https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/StateRegulations
What if I can't afford this course right now?
In order to create equitable and regenerative communities and food systems, we need every compost champion to be equipped with the tools to capture and retain organic materials in their communities. Our hope is that The 131° School can provide some of those tools and that our educational resources are getting to the right people in the right places. If you are serious about composting and want to participate in the school, know that we believe in you, and money is not a barrier. We have a no questions asked equity policy. Let us know what you can pay, even if that number is zero. Of course, this school cannot exist without paying students and we need everyone who can pay to do so. And if you have thoughts about ways we can make the school a more open and equitable environment, we'd be grateful for your ideas. Every student who joins our school community plays a valuable role in moving this work forward and we are excited you're here!!! Please reach out to us at: Compost(at)The131School.com
What if I need more time to access course materials?
We offer an additional month of access to course content for a one time charge of $25 (to cover admin fees).