School Composting Initiative in Chicago

By Mary Rasic for SUST 240

There is an intricacy of science involved in the process of composting, but you don’t have to be a scientist to compost.  Chicago has come a long way, in respects to the reprehensible amount of food waste that has been making its way into the landfill.  Fortunately, officials are continuously devising systems to reduce our environmental impacts and composting is becoming more prevalent in public and private sectors.

Rasic - Garbage to GardenIn 2007, the City of Chicago Council passed a Composting Ordinance to regulate small-scale compost operations.  The city has a plethora of Home Composting and Commercial Composting resources and services to aid the public in returning vital nutrients to the Earth.  The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Composting Initiative is an amazing environmental action plan to inspire Chicago schools to compost. Students, teachers, parents, and the general public are increasingly becoming environmental stewards because the CPS emboldens individuals to defend their urban environment.  Sustainability-promoting messages are further reinforced by the learning opportunities made available.

Thanks to the publication of a step-by step action plan, the CPS Composting Initiative makes it easier for everyone to be involved in composting, at some level, which galvanizes good ecological habits across the board.  To establish a successful composting program, the leaders at each school must appreciate their institution’s unique variables and clearly define the scope of their prospective program.  It is very important to educate all participants, using tailored communication vehicles, depending on the individual. Responsibilities are delegated amongst staff and students, and the required materials and equipment are obtained.  Of course, there is inevitably going to be a learning curve.  The idea is to troubleshoot, as good systems require constant evaluation and fine-tuning.

The collective lesson is, although composting may be an intimidating endeavor, with proper forethought and adaptation, it is manageable.  Keeping the greater purpose up front in our daily consciousness is a wise and proactive approach.  The average school can prevent about 3,000 pounds of food waste each year from going into a landfill.  With that in mind, we have a responsibility to implement composting programs in all Illinois schools.

Each week during the Fall 2013 semester, students in the SUST 240 Waste Schaumburg class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website. Also see this discussion of food waste here in previous articles on this blog and in this section of the website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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