Member Accomplishment: Little Village Environmental Justice Organization Hosts Composting Workshops

Community members adding compost to a garden plotThe mission of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) of Chicago, IL is to organize with the community to accomplish environmental justice in Little Village and achieve the self-determination of immigrant, low-income, and working-class families. Their vision is to build a sustainable community that promotes the healthy development of youth and families, provides economic justice, and practices participatory democracy and self-determination. The group’s 1.5 acre Semillas de Justicia garden began five years ago, when a strong oil smell was detected emanating from the Troy street site and brought to LVEJO's attention. It was discovered that site was being used to deposit leftover oil barrels. LVEJO organized with Troy street neighbors to demand that this site be cleaned up and transformed into a community garden. Today, the Troy garden blooms with a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and flowers for the enjoyment of the community. The garden is a center for community dinners, bike repair workshops, art classes for children, a Fall Harvest Fest, and several other educational workshops.

LVEJO shared with IFSC their recent experience with offering composting workshops. "Composting at our Semillas de Justicia Community Garden in Little Village wasn't the most efficient at the beginning of the year," a representative noted. "We decided to partner up with NeighborSpace and Nance Klehm to clean up our system and start new in a communal way. We hosted a series of Community Composting 101 workshops that consisted of understanding the basics of composting as it relates to gardening and neighbors waste. We walked around our garden, studied the ways our old system could be improved and highlighted the other different forms of composting already existing at the garden such as our vermicomposting boxes, and our passive dry leaves bin."

"Tclose up of person mending wire around compost binhese series of workshops led to more Semillas gardeners becoming invested in our composting system. Thanks to the Community Composting 101 workshops, we were able to communally repair a 5 Cubic Yard composting bin, along with a couple of smaller bins which has tremendously upgraded our ability to compost food scraps, and yard waste at the Semillas de Justicia Community Garden in a clean, odorless, and efficient way. This educational system is set-up so all Semillas gardeners, including youth, can participate in garden composting all year round. We had between 7 and 15 gardeners present at all Community Composting workshops. The garden went from 3 people actively composting to about 10 who are currently managing our different composting systems."

It’s great to see this community group making composting a more communal effort! If you’re interested in learning more about LVEJO, visit their web site at http://lvejo.org/.

 

multiple people repairing a compost bin

DeKalb County Green Living Festival

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Michelle Gibson, Solid Waste Specialist for DeKalb County Health Department

Caring for the environment is not just for elite, well-educated people. Caring for the environment is everyone's duty. Environmental stewardship should unite people regardless of class, race, social economic status or education level. The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition seeks to elevate all efforts to promote environmental stewardship as it relates to composting food scraps. IFSC would like to highlight the DeKalb Green County Living Festival. This event is significant because it took place at the DeKalb County Health Department. The location is important because the Health Department's population encompasses the whole County. Everyone, at some point in their life, will need to visit the Health Department because of the wide range of services offered.  

DeKalb Green Living FestivalThe Green Living Festival's aim was to bring environmental stewardship to populations who otherwise, would not be exposed to it. Over half of the clientele at the Health Department receive government subsidized food assistance know as WIC (Women Infant and Children Supplemental Food Program). Low-income families don't always have environmental stewardship at the forefront of their mind. The intent of the festival was to introduce them to composting as well as other aspects of environmental stewardship. Families attended seminars and visited booths teaching them about environmental stewardship. Families were shown how they can be more involved in the food cycle, beyond shopping at the grocery store and discardiFood cycle diagramng food waste. They started by touring the community gardens located on the Health Department's campus.Community gardens are open to anyone and produce is offered for free to WIC clients. After picking out fresh produce, they were shown healthy recipe demonstrations from the food they picked up. In line with the major mission of IFSC, they were given a seminar on composting food scraps and using them to help in their own gardens. The families who did not wish to participate in the community garden program were offered buckets to collect food scraps. They can drop the buckets off at the community gardens and exchange them weekly. These food scraps will provide vital nutrients for the gardens.  Families also received tips on energy efficiency from Com Ed, Nicor and the Citizen's Utility Board. The DeKalb Public Library bought out children's books on environmental stewardship and healthy living. Other groups such as the YMCA, Adventure Works and Live Healthy DeKalb provided hands on kid's activities to promote physical activity and healthy eating. Families who attended this event left with lots of great information about composting food scraps, gardening and environmental stewardship.  Attendees at green living festival

Curbside Composting = Food Recycling

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Melissa Markay, Environemental Division Intern for DuPage County, IL

Throughout the United States roughly forty-percent of food generated annually is not eaten. The majority of this food waste is taken to landfills to rot, but what if there was a way to limit the food waste going to landfills? Composting is a natural solution that can reduce the waste filtered into landfills while producing an organic fertilizer as an end product. In Illinois there are several communities that have sought to incorporate food scrap collection in their refuse programs in order to make composting convenient for their residents. One community in DuPage County recently decided to begin a pilot composting program for their residents, and was generous enough to talk me through the process.

Setting up the Program

Glen Ellyn, a Chicago suburb located in DuPage County saw that there was potential in the composting industry, and decided to Republic Services Bin determine if composting was a feasible option for their municipality. The Village of Glen Ellyn worked with their waste contractor, Republic Services, to create a composting pilot program to coincide with their existing yard waste collection. In the spring of 2016, residents in incorporated Glen Ellyn that were already enrolled in the village's refuse program were offered an option to enlist in the pilot program. The voluntary aspect of the program allowed the cost of the program to only fall onto those who choose to participate, rather than the community at large.

Of the 7,400 homes located in Glen Ellyn, it was expected that roughly 75 homes would participate in the initial pilot program; however, 203 homes have enrolled in the composting program, exceeded expectations. This, initially, was a challenge due to the shortage of bins available, but the delay was only temporary and was resolved.

Program Logistics

The program runs seasonally with the yard waste collection program, therefore the compost is picked up on Mondays from April-November in conjunction with curbside yard waste. The program does NOT run year round, however, residents may choose to have their container picked up, cleaned, stored December-March, and then returned in the spring for an additional $16.50. Furthermore, residents may choose their bin size from the three available options; 35, 65, or 95 gal. Once these program basics were determined, Republic Services was able to calculate a per resident cost that would cover the bin rental as well as hauling and composting costs, the costs per bin are as follows:

Republic bin ratesRates were agreed upon by Republic Services and negotiated by the Village, in terms of what seemed appropriate compared to other program costs. The composting site, Midwest Compost LLC in Elgin, accepts the organic food scraps such as bread, vegetable, coffee grounds, dairy etc.; however, they do not accept items such as meat or sanitary products such as diapers. Therefore, Glen Ellyn has drawn up a list of what is and is not allowed to be composted, and posted it online, in order to limit the amount of contamination. Read the list at http://www.glenellyn.org/billing/Curbside%20Composting%20FAQ.pdf.

Upon signing up, residents will receive a cart of their choosing, small kitchen container, and bio-degradable bags for the kitchen to make composting more convenient. Additionally, the composting program allows residents to have the added benefit of placing yard waste within the cart, without the need for additional stickers.

Future Outlook

The Village of Glen Ellyn has promoted the program through the village e-blast system and through their website, and may promote it further to help expand the program to not only include more residents, but hopefully schools in the near future. In order for this expansion, however, village representatives state that the variety of items accepted must first increase to include other food waste, such as meat. Additionally, in order for the program to become year round the demand for composting must increase so that the facility would be able to afford the additional operation costs. The Glen Ellyn refuse contract with Republic Services is up for negotiation in August of 2017, and the Village hopes to include composting within the contract, in some form.
 
Has this article sparked your interest? Composting in Glen Ellyn is easy! You can sign up online at https://glenellynil.seamlessdocs.com/f/composting or at the Civic Center in downtown Glen Ellyn at 535 Duane Street.

Special Thank you to Jennifer Umlauf and Albert Stonitsch of Glen Ellyn for assisting with this post.