Celebrities Duped By Sewage Sludge Industry’s “Compost”

Hollywood is notorious for producing celebrity scandals, but they don’t ususally involve toxic sludge and school children.

Multiple media outlets are reporting that celebrities recruited by the Environmental Media Association (EMA) unknowingly advocated the use of fertilizer products that contain Los Angeles and Inland Empire sewage sludge.

In 2009 the EMA launched its School Gardens Program which has been widely acclaimed as way to introduce kids to “organic” gardening. Since then, stars like Rosario Dawson, Amy Smart, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Nicole Ritchie have participated in the program, generously adopting Los Angeles schools and helping the children garden.

What the celebs didn’t know, writes Jill Richardson for the Center for Media & Democracy, is that Kellogg Garden Products — an EMA corporate donor –- would be supplying “compost” made from LA’s sewer waste for these garden products.

Kellogg calls its products “quality organics” and deceptively labels bags sold at the garden store as “garden soil” made from “compost” — with no mention that they are made from industrial and human waste.

Sewage sludge is hazardous material containing dioxins, PCBs, medical waste, industrial solvents, flame retardants, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors and other contaminants. That’s why federal law bars the use of sewage sludge-based products in organic gardens. 

According to Richardson, the Center for Media & Democracy (CMD) wrote to EMA in March, alerting them that Kellogg products contain sludge, which may jeopardize the safety and the organic status of the gardens.

As a result of the letter, John Stauber, founder of CMD, then met with Ed Begley, Jr., famous environmentalist and EMA board member, who was concerned about the possibility that sludge was used on the gardens. Following that meeting, a reply came back from EMA’s President, Debbie Levin, who has been called “Hollywood’s Conscience,” asking CMD to stop communicating with Ed Begley, Jr. and to call off its public campaign against the use of Kellogg products on the LA school gardens.

She asserted that her organization never claimed the gardens were organic. Then, in the next week, EMA removed the word “organic” from its webpage about its school garden program… but left it in on some pages (see screenshots here).

But when Rosario Dawson showed up for a photo shoot at one of EMA’s gardens, a bag of Kellog’s Amend was strategically placed in the picture (see here) Amend is made from sewage sludge and known to be contaminated with dioxins and other hazardous material.

Even if “no Kellogg Amend was ever actually applied to EMA’s gardens” as Levin claims, it’s sad to see a so-called environmental organization providing free advertising to a product that’s in direct opposition to its mission.

Lisa Graves, executive director of CMD, says, “We are demanding that EMA end the greenwashing now, and end its relationship with Kellogg and any other organization that refuses to clearly label its products as ‘derived from sewage sludge.’ We are also asking that EMA notify the children, the schools, and the donors who contributed money for the “organic” gardens. Last, EMA must remediate the gardens that have been contaminated.”

Sign the petition to demand that Hollywood stop the greenwashing of sewage sludge now!

Related Reading:

Organic Gardening For Less

A People’s Garden

Coke Project Helps Urban Farms Harvest Rainwater

Urban Businesses Cater To A Growing Crop Of City Farmers

Image Credit: Flickr - keo 101


William C
William Cabout a year ago


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

jessica w.
jessica w6 years ago


Alison Personal Messages
Alison A6 years ago

Thanks for posting, petition signed.

Ira Mizdoch
Ira Mizdoch6 years ago

I am schocked of EMA's practices. The are pretending to be enviromentalist but what is really behind???

Elizabeth O.
.6 years ago

I voted 'no!'

Bob P.

thanks for the info

David N.
David N6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

dve d.
aa b6 years ago

the Victorian had a good idea ,they used the gas for lighting lamps.
there still one working of sewage gas in London. why cant we still use this method.