We’ve been involved with a coalition that used to be called Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) and just recently added Composting to its name to become Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC). It was always about composting, and now the name reflects it.

Back in 2012, our founder Erlene Howard was invited to participate by composting and educating at an event called GreenTown Highland Park hosted by Oak Park–based Seven Generations Ahead. Soon thereafter IFSC was formed by attendees of that conference who have been meeting nearly monthly since.

It’s not unusual for professionals to be active in regional or national groups. It’s just that particularly back in 2012, there weren’t any professional groups for small container-swap food scrap hauling companies. IFSCC has really helped us to have a community centered around commercial composting.

It’s difficult to put into words how much it means to us to have these connections, some over a decade long. The connections really help us to support sustainability efforts and help others to make connections and solve problems.

There are monthly meetings on Zoom that feature mostly local sustainability professionals. Most of the work happens in committees: Communications, Compost Market Development, Education, Policy and We Compost Recognition. You don’t have to be a member to participate, but becoming a member helps support the work.

A couple years ago our founder Erlene Howard joined the Board and now she is the treasurer. I’m co-chair of the We Compost Recognition Committee that began giving recognition to mostly restaurants but expanded to other types of businesses and organizations.

For more info on IFSCC, visit their website at illinoiscomposts.org.

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) May 7–13, 2023

I bet the people whose families have been composting in their yards for generations wonder why an International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is even necessary. This is not a Hallmark holiday but I do think it’d be fantastic if someone designed some greeting cards for it. It’s a CREF holiday: Compost Research & Education Foundation. CREF’s vision is to advance composting technologies, practices, and beneficial uses that support resource conservation and economic and environmental sustainability. The goal of ICAW is to work together to raise public awareness on why we all should be composting and using compost.

ICAW was started in Canada in 1995 by the Compost Council of Canada. It is held the first full week in May.

Since 2008, CREF has included a poster contest based on the year’s theme. This year’s theme is For Healthier Soil, Healthier Food…Compost. This year’s winner is Jun Qi, an illustrator and storyteller from Singapore. (I particularly like this year’s poster because anyone who has seen me tabling knows that I spell out Zero Waste and Compost with wood letters on my table. For whatever reason, some letters have gone missing and in the moment I’ve replaced them with various plastic or wood foods that are also part of my tabling kit. Sometimes the C is a croissant or the O is a tomato slice.)

There is also a video contest for children in 4th–8th grade (ages 10-13). An 11-year-old girl from Argentina, Magna Iacomella Paz, won the contest this year with her video. Spoiler alert: I love how the orange falls into the compost bin, biodegrades and becomes compost. (Scroll down to watch the winning video.)

Since 2020, IFSCC has participated in and supported various ICAW compost celebrations. This one is at the sweet intersection of reading and composting: a call to action to libraries and a list of 170 books about composting on Goodreads! Please share it with your local library and school librarians. (And if you’re not familiar, Goodreads is a book-focused website that helps you keep track of what you’re reading and lets you write book reviews.)

Last year, Collective Resource Compost’s Spring Finished Compost Gift-Back included days that were open to the public, to give everyone the opportunity to purchase finished compost that was made in Illinois. We’ll be doing it again on Wednesday, May 3, 5:00–7:00 pm, Sunday, May 7, 1:00-4:00 pm and Wednesday, May 10, 5:00–7:00 pm. Customer-only days will precede those dates. Be on the lookout for more info on that event as we get closer.

If you decide you’d like to celebrate compost and ICAW in any way, big or small, you can register your event and learn more on CREF’s website. If you are posting to social media, be sure to use IFSCC’s hashtag #ILcomposts 

The banner photo is from last year’s gift-back during International Compost Awareness Week. L-R: Amy Bartucci, IFSCC’s Administrative Coordinator, Mary Beth Schaye and Erlene Howard, Collective Resource Compost.

Author Details
Zero Waste Consultant | Collective Resource, Inc.

Mary Beth strongly believes that, “It’s always better to be doing something rather than nothing.” If you’re thinking of composting at home, she can help you work out what your particular “something” can be.

She’s confident a solution can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs and ambitions. “Anyone who eats can be a CRI customer, whether you are an individual or a large organization. I want you to understand the advantages of composting, and I can show you how CRI can make it easy.” Mary Beth has successfully designed waste diversion strategies for individuals, schools, houses of worship and other communities. She’s received the governor’s Environmental Hero award for her work at her daughter’s school. Whether you’re starting with a backyard bin, a kitchen bucket, a worm farm, or large-scale commercial collection, Mary Beth can be your good-natured guide.