Composting made easy

Environmental Justice Discussion Group 2021

Environmental Justice Discussion Group 2021

Education has always been a part of our business. This was surprising to us at first, but it became clear that if we were going to persuade anyone to use our service, we needed to educate them on why our planet needs us to compost. These days we do a lot of educating through our monthly blog on the topics of composting, zero waste and other areas of sustainability.

After the George Floyd uprisings, many book groups popped up focused on reading and discussing books on racism/anti-racism and reading books by authors of color, but we were not aware of one that focused on environmental justice/racism.

So, we decided to start our own.

We’ll use both books and films as a springboard for discussion. We’ve already made our selections for the entire year. Collective Resource Compost will be the host. Librarian Lesley Williams will be our facilitator. We’ll view the films and read the books on our own time. We’ll meet on Zoom on the second Thursday evening of the months of February through November 2021 from 7:00-8:30 pm central standard time. Future dates are May 13, June 10, July 8, Aug. 12, Sept. 9, Oct. 14, Nov. 11.

Our selection for our discussion on May 13 is the documentary The True Cost. Our previous selections were focused on environmental racism in Chicago and the United States. This documentary illuminates international environmental injustices. It spells out the always bad, sometimes tragic, fallout from the fast fashion industry.

For several months this summer into fall, we’ll be reading essays from Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity and the Natural World, edited by Alison H. Deming and Lauret E. Savoy. The introduction and 17 essays in Colors of Nature movingly address the question, “What is the earth to people of color?” Exploring history, displacement, return, and relationship to place, these writers show that the ways Americans have impacted nature are inseparable from racism and inequities in economic and political power. Featured contributors include Jamaica Kincaid, bell hooks, Francisco X. Alarcon, Yusef Komunyakaa, Diane Glancy, and others.

The book is split into four sections. We’ll be discussing the first section, Return, on June 10, the second section, Witness, on July 8, the third section, Encounter, on August 12 and the final section, Praise, on September 9. Join us for all of the sections or pick one that resonates with you.

Everyone is welcome but space is limited. To register for any of the discussions and receive detailed information on ways to obtain all of this year’s selections, email Mary Beth Schaye at

Circularity: Restorative and Regenerative

Circularity: Restorative and Regenerative

April has become Earth Month and the week that includes Earth Day, April 22nd, has become Earth Week. We are heading into this week as I sit down to write. Very soon thereafter, May 2nd–8th, 2021, is a week that does not get quite as much attention around the world: International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW). This year, an organization in which Collective Resource Compost is deeply involved, Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), is creating an online Lunch & Learn Series to celebrate it. This year’s theme, Grow, Eat…COMPOST…Repeat, empowers us to recognize and promote the importance of composting and the use of compost in growing healthier food, supporting healthier soils and, ultimately, creating a more just and sustainable world. You can register here to attend.

I love this year’s theme and not just because it fits in well with my blogpost theme of circularity.

Before today, I had not heard of a woman named Ellen MacArthur. It was only in my research on how exactly I’d approach introducing you to the topic of circularity and the circular economy that her name and the name of her eponymous foundation kept coming up. Their mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, they develop and promote the idea of a circular economy. They work with, and inspire, business, academia, policymakers, and institutions to mobilize systems solutions at scale, globally.

They had me at inspire. I’m so excited about the treasure trove of information that lives on this website that I want the world to go away while I dig into it. But first, let’s start with a definition. A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. It’s a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. Sometimes when trying to wrap your mind around a concept, it’s helpful to think about its opposite. In this case, a linear economy. It goes like this: take, make, use, dispose, pollute. Two pieces of bad news: it’s not sustainable and it’s how most industries operate worldwide, at least since the Industrial Revolution.

In a circular economy, it goes like this: make, use, reuse, remake, recycle. If you watch this short video Explaining the Circular Economy and How Society Can Re-think Progress | Animated Video Essay, you’ll get a good idea of the concept.

The Giving Tree by Amy O. Woodbury

The part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website that is most applicable to what we do here at Collective Resource Compost is a resource called Food and the Circular Economy. Look for the carrots. Coincidence? I think not. If you have time, I’d definitely look at the two sections that precede it: What is the Circular Economy? and The Circular Economy in Detail.

I was taking a walk with a friend recently and we were discussing trees and art. I was telling her about this painting I own that I love but that I intensely dislike its title, The Giving Tree, because it was named after the book by Shel Silverstein with the same title. In this conversation, we discovered that we both disliked the book. For those who are not familiar with the book, it’s about this tree that gives and gives and a boy/man who takes and takes. Someone who likes the book would likely describe it differently.

To me, it sounds a lot like the linear economy.

*Main image © Copyright 2021 Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Spring Finished Compost Gift-Back

Spring Finished Compost Gift-Back

Every spring, Collective Resource offers free finished compost to the customers who helped make it!

We’re able to do this with the help of Healthy Soil Compost transporting the finished compost to The Talking Farm, who graciously hosts our gift-back event at their Howard Street Farm. The finished compost has been processed by Organix Recycling, a state-certified, US Composting Council-certified processor, located on the far south side of Chicago.

This compost, packed with microorganisms and fungi, is ready for any type of crop, your victory garden or soil rehabilitation project! Mix it with 30–50% of another soil blend or apply 1-2 inches on top of existing soil.

The first 10 gallons of compost are our gift to you. Additional compost is $5/5 gallons (cash or check only). Wheelbarrows are made available for moving the compost from the pile to your vehicle.

Stay tuned for information on next finished compost gift-back. Call with questions at 847-733-7665 or email

Thanks to Elenaweinhardt for a great photo posted on

Last Chance to Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Last Chance to Lower Your Carbon Footprint

I’m reading a midlife memoir written by musician Ben Folds called A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons. I love his explanation of the title that is about an actual dream he had when he was little, wherein he was catching lightning bugs in a jar and showing them to others. In the dream, he was the only one who could see them to catch them. He felt that the dream was a pretty accurate depiction of his life as an artist. Showing others what he finds luminous.

That’s how I feel about this blog. It’s about the illuminating ideas that have fluttered by me in the month that precedes my sitting down with my laptop to write.

In last month’s blog post Rethinking Waste, I asked if any of the readers had encountered any other businesses that practiced extender user responsibility. Reader Christine Sorich, owner of tinyshop in Chicago, let us know that her new business does! It’s a shop where you can buy exclusively organic dry goods and ethical home and hygiene products. She packs them up in jars that have a deposit and come back to the shop for sanitizing and reusing! For right now, you order online and she’s popping up in different places for pickups like Daisies Market in Logan Square, but there are plans to have a brick-and-mortar store in Fulton Market sometime in the near future. I recommend signing up for her newsletter to get all of the news. It’s pretty easy to catch an idea that lands in your inbox.

I don’t know if you can tell how much fun I have writing this from your side of the page, but when I come up with an amusing segue, it makes me very, very happy.

Cradle to Grave

Cradle to Grave is another way of describing a linear economy. Linear and circular economies are opposites. The linear economy has gotten us into the trouble we’re in, for we have too many products that cannot be easily disposed of. I know I said that I’d write about circular economies this month, but then this happened:

Earlier this week I heard a fascinating program on NPR called 1A with this topic: Natural Causes: Why Some Are Choosing An Eco-Friendly End Of Life. Spoiler alert: There’s a funeral home named Recompose in the state of Washington that has developed a way to compost human remains! The process that they are calling natural organic reduction has a smaller carbon footprint compared to both embalming, which uses toxic chemicals, and cremation which emits carbon dioxide and other pollutants. It’s also slightly less expensive than the average burial. I found an article on Gizmodo about the company if you prefer reading to listening.

Green Death Movement

Composting is not the only green burial option. You might find the Green Burial Council to be a helpful resource in finding alternatives.

I remember hearing a joke once about dying being the best way to lower your carbon footprint.

You may be reading this in April, the month in which Earth Day is celebrated. It’s a natural time of year to make personal changes to benefit the Earth. How about exploring some of these green death options to see if one of them feels right for you?

Rethinking Waste

Rethinking Waste

I thought I was going to write about the circular economy but it’s going to have to wait until next month. There is one particular part of a circular economy that I do want to write about: extended producer responsibility. It’s when the producer is responsible for disposing of the waste created by their product instead of the end-user being responsible. Our composting customer Village Farmstand has begun taking back their packaging, reusing what can be reused, composting what is compostable, and recycling. Do you know of any other businesses that do this? You might also recognize their name as one of the retail stores that host a food scrap drop-off program using our Neighbor Totes. Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse has also started one!

Earlier this month, I was watching a webinar called Moving Beyond Plastics: Restaurant Solutions put on by Shedd Aquarium that featured a company called Dispatch Goods, a California-based company that provides reusable to-go containers to restaurants. I’m intrigued by them because the containers are made from metal with silicone lids. I like that they are not plastic. I’d seen other companies that used plastic and though I was happy their product was reusable, I wasn’t thrilled that they were creating a market for more petroleum-based plastic. Dispatch Goods is hoping to break into the Chicago market. You can support their efforts by signing this petition. I would like to see a program like theirs in Evanston. If you think your municipality would support having this option for carry-out, I’m sure that Dispatch Goods would be happy to hear from you.

I’ve been very torn this year, as I’m sure many of you have been, in wanting to support beloved local restaurants but knowing that how I’ll receive the food (in plastic and styrofoam) does not align with my values. If they were using a reuse system like Dispatch Goods, I definitely would have ordered out more.

Sheila Morovati, founder of the non-profit organization Habits of Waste, also presented at that webinar. Using an email campaign, her organization convinced Uber Eats and Postmates to change the default so that plastic utensils were available only upon request. The organization is working on persuading others. You can help by going to their website and selecting the #CutOutCutlery campaign and they’ll help you send an email to other food delivery companies.

In her presentation on the webinar, Dispatch Goods Co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer Jessica Heiges used the term “re-earth” to describe composting. Love it! Others have tried to replace the term for composting with one that fits better with reduce, reuse and recycle but the best they could come up with was rot. Re-earth sounds so much better!

Earth Month is Coming

Next month is Earth Month and I’ve been talking to others about what their online celebrations will look like. Have you taken any of the climate quizzes that are in the New York Times like this one entitled: Think You’re Making Good Climate Choices? Take This Mini-Quiz or this one: How Does Your Diet Contribute to Climate Change? The quizzes remind me of waste audits that give you a baseline of where you are now so you can discover where you need to go.

If you’ve aced those two, check out the website of Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN). This is some serious climate curriculum here. They have a Climate Literacy Quiz and an Energy Literacy Quiz.

Doing an actual waste audit or waste assessment is something you could do to celebrate the earth. There are step-by-step guides all over the internet. If you’d like to have the data but not actually do the audit yourself, our friends at Zero Waste Chicago would be happy to assist you. Make sure to order some buckets from us so that you can divert the food scraps from your audit.

You’re probably not going to believe me on this one, but the other day we finally made vegan bacon using organic banana peels, and it was good! The recipe we tried is from a food blog called It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken—such a funny name. I love eating parts of fruits and vegetables that I used to automatically compost. I pride myself on eating all the stems on vegetables like kale, Swiss chard and collard greens and will tell anyone who’ll listen. You chop them up fine if you’re going to eat them raw and if you’re going to sauté them, you can keep them bigger. I don’t eat everything. I know some people make carrot top pesto, but I’m not into that. I just found another new-to-me website called Fork In The Road that has some recipes for them that I’ll try, like this carrot top chimichurri. She suggests using carrot tops in place of parsley. After looking at her website, I’m going to consider sautéing radish greens which I find too prickly to eat raw. In fact, now I kind of wish I hadn’t composted carrot tops and radish greens earlier this week.

Spicing Things Up

Gneiss Spice (pronounced nice spice) is another new-to-me, woman-owned and-operated company. I rarely buy anything these days but I am considering buying one of their magnetic spice racks. They are so beautiful. You can buy jars filled with their organic spices or buy just the jars and fill them yourself.

They are striving to attain zero waste in how they fulfill their orders. They also sell other zero waste stuff like Swedish dishcloths and pepper grinders. There’s a lot to look at on their website.

Buy Nothing Project

I just joined a Buy Nothing Group. I know I just told you I want to buy something, but that doesn’t mean I actually will. Have you heard of the Buy Nothing Project?

I love how they describe themselves: The Buy Nothing Project is about setting the scarcity model of our cash economy aside in favor of creatively and collaboratively sharing the abundance around us. I love this statistic: As of January, 2020 the Buy Nothing Project has at least 1.2 million participants in at least 25 countries, led by at least 6,000 volunteers. I joined because I need a hair dryer and because I know there must be so many hiding in linen closets, waiting to be tossed when it’s time to downsize.

The Year of the Icicle

I assume that most of the readers of this blog are our customers in Chicagoland. We got a lot of snow this year, which created a lot of snow dams, in a lot of gutters, which created a lot of icicles. At least, I think that’s how that works. I know they can be dangerous when they fall but I think they are so lovely, particularly when the sun is shining through them. All those icicles reminded me of the documentary Rivers and Tides that showcases the work of British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy, who produces site-specific sculptures and land art situated in natural and urban settings. There are several trailers for the film but this one shows you some of the icicle art being made. Watching it would be another beautiful way to celebrate Earth Month.