Our Green Journey

Collective Resource, Inc. (a.k.a. Collective Resource Compost or CRI) began when Erlene Howard, an Evanston resident, became interested in composting but couldn't find a good place to do it in her condo environment. Howard, a bookkeeper by trade, is a frequent consumer of organic fruits and vegetables. She was inspired to start a food scrap recycling service when she realized that, if composting were made more convenient, more people would do it.

Her first pickups started with three customers, using her Toyota Camry for collection. Howard's customer base has since grown to over 1400 residential and nearly 300 commercial customers. The company now uses seven cargo vans to collect pre and post-consumer food scraps weekly in an area that extends to over 60 communities encompassing Chicago's entire north side as well as near south and southwest side neighborhoods and the suburbs north to Lake Bluff and extending west to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights and Buffalo Grove.

During their first six months of business, Collective Resource collected a single ton. Now they collect at least twice that amount every day, averaging 20 tons per week. In June of 2019, the company celebrated a total collection milestone of 5,000 tons.

Meet the Leadership Team

Erlene Howard, owner at Collective Resource

Erlene Howard

Founder & Owner

Long fascinated by the biology of our ecosystems, and an avid recycler since "way before curbside pickup," Erlene Howard initially came to composting by way of her organic diet." I was teaching someone about raw food prep, and she asked for my food scraps to add to her compost bin. Once I learned about composting, I was really drawn to making it work for me." Though the theoretical part came easily, living in a condo without a backyard made the practical application more difficult. "I thought, ‘more people would do this if it were easy.’"


Mary Beth Schaye zero waste event consultant

Mary Beth Schaye

Zero Waste Consultant

From the moment she hosted her first event using compostable products in 2010, Mary Beth Schaye has been hooked on zero waste. She joined Collective Resource on Earth Day the following year and has been an enthusiastic evangelist for composting ever since.

Her passion for educating people about waste diversion makes her an ideal product and event planning consultant for CRI. "Hosting a zero-waste event is a great way to spread the word about the benefits of composting. It's environmentalism in action."


Becky Brodsky zero waste event consultant

Becky Brodsky

Zero Waste Consultant 

As a child, Becky Brodsky spent a lot of time outdoors. She traces her enthusiasm for composting and other environmental issues to having had this connection with the natural world early on. Her parents also introduced her to the concept of sustainability through their work with food co-ops and Greenpeace. As a result, Becky says, "I've always been aware of what I use and how I'm using it."

At CRI, Becky is a Zero Waste Consultant with a focus on organizations, particularly schools and businesses.


Next Steps...

Ready to start composting? After just a few quick steps you'll be on your way to composting in your home, at your next event, or at your office. You won't believe how much your landfill waste will be reduced.


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