Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington compost, mulch pilot program addresses local environmental concerns

<p>The sun sets Oct. 10, 2020, behind the leaves of a tree on Seventh Street. The Bloomington Office of Innovation and Department of Public Works is sponsoring &quot;The 1,000 Households Who Can Mulch&quot; project, which encourages Bloomington residents to compost as much private yard waste as possible before the end of December.</p>

The sun sets Oct. 10, 2020, behind the leaves of a tree on Seventh Street. The Bloomington Office of Innovation and Department of Public Works is sponsoring "The 1,000 Households Who Can Mulch" project, which encourages Bloomington residents to compost as much private yard waste as possible before the end of December.

The Bloomington Office of Innovation and Department of Public Works is teaming up with local residents to reduce the number of stray leaves on public and private property through eco-friendly methods such as composting and mulching. 

The 1,000 Households Who Can Mulch project is a continuation of the pilot program from last year where residents were asked to mulch and compost as much private yard waste as possible before the end of December. The rules of the challenge said residents can’t request vacuum services and are highly discouraged from using yard waste bags. 

This city-wide effort aims to reduce the reliance on vacuum trucks and government services for a cost-effective, eco-friendly method of yard maintenance.

The City of Bloomington monitors the amount of waste bags used throughout the competition. The honor of being the most innovative and eco-friendly in Bloomington goes to those who use the least amount of waste bags and can efficiently compost and mulch. The results will be announced in January 2022. 

The neighborhood with the most winners also gets a block party complete with pizza, a sound system, kitchen waste composting for the event and a $500 grant from the City of Bloomington Housing and Neighborhood Development for a bounce house and snow-cone machine. 

Participation in the pilot program increased significantly with 493 local residents signed up to participate this year compared to the pilot program’s 22 participants last year.

John M. Kennedy was a participant in the original pilot program and a leader in volunteer recruitment for the program. In the pilot last year, he said, about 17 households were committed to the project and more than half of neighborhoods had at least one participant.

“These people had a stake in it and that made a difference in engagement and how much utility they saw in the initiative,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said some of the increase in turnout this year is due to platforms like NextDoor and Facebook. With the participant demographics varying slightly from last year, he said the organization needs a more engaging social media presence to increase turnout in the future.

“A lot of people who are attracted to the program are people who already have a certain degree of experience with composting and mulching,” Devta Kidd, City of Bloomington director of innovation, said.

Kidd said the Office of Innovation partnered with local Monroe County and Bloomington departments to educate residents on Bloomington ecology and landscaping. 

She said the pilot’s training and education subcommittee offers in-person, hands-on demonstrations at various locations to model reliable composting and mulching solutions for residents to implement at home. 

This year’s program included incentives to sign up, such as free waste bags, a waste bag stand and a discount with EarthKeeper’s Compost. This corporation helps Bloomington residents compost kitchen waste, which requires a different procedure than traditional yard composting. 

Kennedy and Kidd said they were looking forward to seeing if more households could interact and create sustainable solutions with the new resources. 

“In any change initiative, if there’s no support for the change, it’s never going to gain traction,” Kidd said.

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