Everyday Hero: Meet “Nature” Jack Marine, Bala Cynwyd’s relentless composter

story by Missy SteinbergEven in December, “Nature” Jack Marine’s Bala Cynwyd home is surrounded by dozens of pumpkins. These former jack-o-lanterns, some of which are as large as 200 pounds, rest in Marine’s seven compost bins, undergoing a natural, three-month metamorphosis. Over time the pumpkins will become organic soil that Marine will use in his home garden to grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and yes, more pumpkins.

Marine has been collecting his neighbors’ unwanted jack-o-lanterns for the past 10 years—not a glamorous task, but one he feels compelled to do since there is no formal composting center nearby.

“I was already composting so much and I noticed that people were throwing out pumpkins. I think something inside of me clicked and I said, ‘I’m going to take some of these pumpkins home and put them in my garden,’” explains Marine, who began by going door-to-door gathering gourds.

Whenever the opportunity for sustainable improvements arises, Marine tends to step in. Whether it’s on his drive to his job teaching science at Buerger Early Learning Center in Center City or to his part-time gig at Sweet Greens—where he helps to compost 90 percent of the business’ food waste—Marine is constantly skimming the streets for recyclable litter.

It’s a tendency Marine developed at a young age growing up in Erdenheim, where his father and grandfather practiced composting in their own gardens. Soon after his son and daughter were born, Marine began teaching science to young children. In 1995, he turned his backyard garden into a classroom for neighborhood youth and offered “KinderGarden”, 10 weekly summer sessions on organic gardening. Since then, Marine has taught science classes at various schools and summer camps throughout Pennsylvania—even starting his own youth program, “Science with Nature Jack”—earning his nickname along the way. 

In his teaching and all his sustainable practices Marine is always looking to protect the environment. “If we don’t become stewards of the earth,” he says, “how are we going to change this planet for the better?”

Story by Missy Steinberg

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