Composting made easy

Host a Pumpkin Smash: Halloween Fun That’s Good for the Planet

Host a Pumpkin Smash: Halloween Fun That’s Good for the Planet

Are you looking for a fun fall activity that also happens to be good for the planet?

Host a pumpkin smash!

Halloween is likely to be a bit less fun this year, so why not give the kids something new and exciting to look forward to? And honestly, I’m sure there are some adults who’d also enjoy a little smashing.

Pumpkins are compostable! Imagine if just a fraction of them were composted, how good that would be for the planet.

Just like pumpkins, these pumpkin smashing events can come in all different sizes. This could be something you do on just your block.

If you’re already a customer, we can deliver extra containers that week. Our 32-gallon totes work best for this.

If you’re not yet a customer, now would be a great time to start!

Our friends at SCARCE have a guide you can download to help you in your planning.

Weighing the pumpkins before you smash and reporting the data back to us will help us quantify our collective impact.

These are priced just like other zero waste events, so to get started with the planning, fill out the form on our website, click the box that says  “I want to schedule a Zero Waste Event. Tell me how.” and write “Pumpkin Smash” in the comments.

Happy smashing!

Feeding Hungry People

Feeding Hungry People

We’re clearly very interested in composting food waste here at Collective Resource Compost, but we’re also interested in all of the other levels in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy illustrated in this pyramid. If you’re interested in learning more about the different levels of the pyramid, check out the documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. The pyramid plays a starring role, second only to the somewhat foul-mouthed narrator Anthony Bourdain, of blessed memory.

Feeding Hungry People

Did you know that we offer a tote discount to the organizations that feed people, like food pantries and organizations like Meals on Wheels?

One of the great parts of writing this blog is that I learn so much in the research.

Just now I was exploring the website of our composting customer Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois that is located in Evanston. Hunger, isolation and loneliness are a health hazard to older adults. You can imagine that during this COVID-19 crisis that we are amidst, isolation and loneliness are even more pronounced. Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois is a powerhouse movement of neighbors delivering meals to seniors, individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, veterans, and anyone else who is unable to prepare their own food. They provide short-term services to help during a medical situation like recovering after surgery, or long-term services to support a healthy life.

I’d heard of Meals on Wheels, and though I did not know much about them, I did know that the meals were delivered by volunteers. If you own a car and are able-bodied, this might be the volunteer opportunity for you. If you don’t have time, but do have money, they have several opportunities for you to donate as well.

My dear mother, also of blessed memory, always donated money to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. More than 700 partner agencies and programs form the backbone of their food distribution network. Food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile distributions, and other partnerships serve food and dignity to our neighbors in need across Cook County. They, too, would appreciate your support.

Gift giving

I debated whether or not I should talk about gift giving in this month’s post, but next month feels like it might be too late for the winter holidays. You could give a gift in someone’s honor to an organization that helps alleviate hunger, but there are always going to be people on your gift list that wouldn’t mind if you alleviated their own personal hunger. I was recently made aware of a woman-owned company called Packed with Purpose. A lot of their gifts include food items so that works thematically, right? Right? Packed with Purpose is a woman-owned business that curates super cute gift packages. The packages are filled with products made by what they call purposeful purveyors–organizations that produce high-quality products that create a positive societal impact by transforming lives, uplifting communities and preserving the environment.

Another woman-owned business offering a selection of corporate gifts that has been our composting customer for 7 years is Katherine Anne Confections.

We have two composting customers who can help put dinner on the table and can also send e-gift cards on your behalf. One is Meez Meals located in Evanston. All of the ingredients arrive at your door chopped, prepped, portioned, and ready to cook and they’re ready to eat in only 30 minutes. The other is Eat Purely located in Chicago. These meals arrive ready to heat-and-eat for the truly time-crunched or exhausted.

Just One More

Most months when I’m writing this blog, I run out of time before I run out of ideas. I’m really glad that I did not finish writing yesterday because I got my Baba Bag in the mail today! The Baba Bag is a compact reusable shopping bag. The company donates part of its proceeds to select nonprofit partners. The green and white one that I bought donates $2 towards Action Against Hunger, a humanitarian organization that for more than 40 years, has led the global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. My mom would be proud.

Compost Your Jack-o’-lanterns and Gourds!

Compost Your Jack-o’-lanterns and Gourds!

When the fun of the fall holidays is over, just place your pumpkin and gourds (carved or not carved) on top of your compost bucket on your pickup day.  Small gourds and unwanted candy without its wrapper can also go in the bucket!

Squirrel Issues

Squirrels, Squirrels, everywhere!

It’s that time of year, when the squirrels are doing their best to store up food for the winter and what better than a stash of food in a bright orange bucket! Many of you have been reporting squirrel damage to your compost buckets and we’ve been delivering Squirrel Stopper Lids left and right.  (If you don’t have one, let us know and we can give you one on your next pickup.) In addition to the Squirrel Stopper Lids, Collective Resource, Inc. would like to pass on this helpful advice to dissuade these little buggers:

The simplest thing you can do is keep your bucket inside. Whether it’s inside your back door or the garage, this is one of the most effective ways to keep the squirrels at bay. If you’re concerned about the smell, keep dairy, fish, and meat scraps in a container in the freezer or refrigerator and then place them in your bucket right before you put it out for pickup.

If you need to keep your bucket outside, always make sure your hands are clean when you handle it. Squirrels will be attracted by the smell of the food residue on the outside of your bucket and will start chewing to find out what’s inside. Also, keep vigilant and clean up any spills down the side and around the rim of your bucket. Place newspaper under your bucket when tipping items into it so that any spills or splatters will happen on the newspaper and not the area around your bucket. Immediately after you’re finished, place the newspaper in your bucket.

Other options for keeping your bucket outside are to purchase Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray or a Behrens 10-gallon Stainless Steel Locking Lid Can. Place the plastic bucket we provide inside of the metal one and give us a heads-up so we can make a note to your service driver to look for the metal can on pickup days. Spray Bitter Apple on the outside of your bucket. As its name implies, the bitter taste will have the area squirrels making lemon-faces and scurrying away.

These measures will help us keep the damage to our buckets this Fall to a minimum. Thank you for this and all your efforts to create a sustainable relationship with our environment.

Taking Back Their Future: Youth Climate Activism

Taking Back Their Future: Youth Climate Activism

By this point, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of Greta Thunberg and her eco-activism. If her name is unfamiliar, you can learn about her in this picture book. Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter. We talked about her in our Better Living Through Trees blogpost.

This back-to-school time of year has me thinking about her and (spoiler alert) how every Friday she’d ditch school and go sit in front of the parliament building silently protesting her country’s response to climate change: not strong or swift enough. I wanted to learn more about and amplify the youth climate activism happening closer to home.

The Sunrise Movement

The Sunrise Movement is an American youth-led political movement coordinated by Sunrise, a 501(c)(4) political action organization that advocates political action on climate change. Though it is stated that the participants are under 35 years old, most of the participants are actually in their teens or 20s.

The first person I knew personally who was involved in the Sunrise Movement was Grace Hahn, who you may remember as our former zero waste event coordinator. She started working with us straight out of college. She used her top-notch production skills to help produce a Sunrise Chicago event, a stop on the Road to a Green New Deal Tour in May 2019.

There is a lot to be gleaned about the movement by just checking out their website. The first time I logged on, I felt inspired to donate to their postcard campaign for getting out the vote. Then when I logged on again because I’m writing this blog post, I felt inspired to actually order 100 GOTV postcards to send out. So, be careful, you too may be inspired.

As an organization, we found an opportunity on their website and felt inspired to sign on to the  Green New Deal Supporting Group.

Sunrise has local chapters or what they call hubs. There are several hubs in the Chicagoland area. Etown Sunrise based in Evanston. Chicago Sunrise and Sunrise Southside Chicago are based in Chicago. Sunrise North Shore Chicago and Sunrise New Trier Township are both based in Winnetka, and Sunrise Park Ridge is based in Park Ridge. Some Chicago and Chicagoland schools and universities like DePaul, Northwestern and Jones College Prep have their own hubs. You can join an existing hub or start your own. You can click on the respective icon on the hub map to contact the hubs or join them.

Etown Sunrise

I spoke to Lily Aaron who began her involvement in Etown Sunrise last year and has since moved into more of a leadership role. I asked her what they are working on and how we could help.

They are focusing on mayoral elections because they don’t feel that the current mayor of Evanston has prioritized the implementation of the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan. They are also not very happy with his responses to the Black community’s concerns and requests.

She told me that Sunrise focuses on storytelling and the different motives and special circumstances that have led participants to put their activist energy in this area. Of course after she told me that, I wanted to know her story, her aha moment. She told me that she participated in a coral reef restoration program in Bonaire in the Carribean and saw firsthand how the local people depended on the coral reef and how they were not responsible for its degradation. As a 16-year-old white girl who lives in an affluent suburb, she is quite aware of her privilege and feels as though she ought to use it in a way that helps others who are not as privileged.

I asked her how we could help. And when I say we, I mean those of us over 35. She asks that you take them seriously, listen to them, and try to understand their passion, not write them off as radical or naive. She also encourages us to consider taking the courses that Sunrise offers through the online Sunrise School.

You can learn more about Etown Sunrise in this article from The Daily Northwestern.

Wide Awake Campaigns

The Sunrise Movement’s  Wide Awake campaigns began this past summer. Borrowing a technique used over a hundred years ago to sway anti-abolitionist politicians by banging on pots and pans outside their homes in the wee hours of the morning, Sunrise Movement members have begun gathering at politicians’ homes to wake them up to the reality of the climate crisis and other pressing social justice issues.

The younger generation, in general, understands the connection between racism and climate change, especially where they intersect in environmental justice issues. Sunrise’s latest campaign reflects this. In the description on their website, the lead paragraph ends with this simple, but firm sentence:

Our generation is done asking nicely.

Start Small but Think Big: Composting Around The Country

Start Small but Think Big: Composting Around The Country

You may have heard the phrase “start small but think big” either here from me or from someone else. In my case, the “start small” usually refers to changing habits and reducing waste in your own household, and “think big” refers to helping to pass legislation that leads to greater impact.

There has been some recent good news in that regard, so good that it has trickled into the mainstream news. I first heard about Vermont’s Food Waste Ban because my colleague’s husband saw it on Instagram. I loved that! We thought you might like to know about what’s been happening vis-à-vis food waste legislation around the country.

The different states that have enacted food waste bans and organics recycling laws have had stepped approaches, starting small but thinking big. Many of them started with the bigger producers of organic waste, mandating them to find a solution other than landfilling. The Vermont ban seemed to come out of nowhere but it is actually something they’d been working on for at least four years. Though Vermont did actually work its way up to a 100% ban, I think that the word restriction might be more accurate for the policies that occurred before that point.

Four states have enacted food waste bans: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. California has a mandatory organics recycling law.

You may notice that Illinois is not yet on this list. We realize that most of our readers are in Chicagoland. We want to empower you to help pass composting and food waste legislation in Illinois. It begins by registering to vote and electing officials who have a record of supporting environmental initiatives. We sometimes forget that the officials we elect work for us. It is our responsibility to let them know what matters to us and why. The squeaky wheel often does get the grease. You can be vocal about what you’d like to see happen in your community with your local officials. Here in Evanston, I’d start with contacting my alderman. It really is better if the message comes from both you and us.

Illinois Food Scrap Coalition is an organization in which we actively participate. In fact, our founder/owner Erlene Howard just joined the board.  On their website is a list of composting legislation that has been passed in Illinois.

ReFED’s website was very helpful in my research for this blogpost. As the only U.S. nonprofit wholly dedicated to reducing food waste, it is ReFED’s vision to eliminate food waste in order to increase food security, spur economic growth and protect the environment. I love maps and theirs shows very clearly the states and municipalities that have food waste laws. Their U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder allows you to find the state in their pulldown section and get up-to-date info on the policies in that state.

If you are very interested in the particulars of each of the five states that have passed laws to keep food out of landfills, you can download a report created by Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) that has a chart called State Organic Waste Bans & Recycling Laws Currently in Effect. You can do that by using the link above for ReFED’s U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder map and clicking on the type at the bottom of the map that reads: Download the full policy matrix. It has the following information for each state: food waste generators covered, waste production threshold to be covered, and distance exemptions. It’s on pages 12 and 13 of that report. Also included in that comprehensive report are statistics on States Regulating Date Labeling, States Regulating Food Sales Past Some Label Dates, State Liability Protection Laws, State Tax Incentives for Food Donation, and State Laws for Feeding Food Scraps to Swine. I did not make that one up.

In July 2019, FLPC created a toolkit titled Bans and Beyond: Designing and Implementing Organic Waste Bans and Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws.

Biocycle magazine is another great source for nationwide composting news. Their tagline is: The Organics Recycling Authority since 1960. Their article titled Organic Waste Bans and Recycling Laws To Tackle Food Waste is from September 2018 but does a good job of explaining what the considerations are in designing policy.

When I saw this article on Sustainable America’s website: Are Food Waste Bans Working?, I’ll admit that I crossed my fingers and hoped the answer was yes. Spoiler alert: the short answer is yes. The amount of overall waste is going down and composting and food recovery and donations are going up.

This also seemed like a great time to explain some waste industry terminology.

Tipping Fee: You’d need to know that we are not talking about gratuities here. Tipping in waste hauling terms means dumping off material. Our trucks are weighed before and after tipping and based on that weight, we are charged a tipping fee.

Pay as you throw (PAYT): This system of charging for waste hauling has been very successful in the US and in other parts of the world. It has been known to reduce the overall amount of waste. Instead of everyone paying the same flat fee, you pay more or less depending on how much waste you generate. Waste is treated like utilities like electricity and gas. The EPA has a page in their archive that explains this further.

Yard waste tagalong: Many municipalities choose this option because it’s easy to implement. During the yard waste season, food scraps are allowed to tag along in the same receptacles often at no extra charge. This is a good residential solution for people who have and use their yard waste bins and find it difficult to work the cost of a separate food scrap hauling service into their budget. It has some downsides in that the yard waste season is only 8 months. Also participation in the program is hard to track and underutilized. We encourage people who have chosen this option to use our container-swap service during the winter and early spring months in order to keep up the sustainable habit of diverting their food scraps from the landfill.

There is a good chance that you are already one of our customers. Congratulations! You’ve already started small! What could be your next step? Could you talk to your neighbors, either on your block or in your multi-unit building? Could you host one of our Neighbor Totes? Could you write to your city or state representatives? Could you write a letter to the editor or an opinion piece on the topic? Here is a guide on how to do that from Sierra Club’s website. Who do you know who would like to know about us?