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Composting can help mitigate climate change and enhance the quality of our environment

CHICAGO, Ill. - “As the second most populous county in the nation, we believe Cook County can take the lead in reducing methane gas emissions from landfills by diverting organic waste through composting, thus helping to mitigate climate change and enhance the quality of our environment,” says Kathryn Pereira, Extension educator, local food systems and small farms.

University of Illinois Extension Educators have teamed up to form the Cook County Composting Initiative to promote organic waste as a resource and inspire a culture of composting. By changing perceptions of waste, residents will seek out and demand options for organic waste separation, ideally driving policy change throughout the area. An important first step, Sue Gasper, STEM educator, explains, “is to understand exactly where a community is in their lifecycle of composting. We will be working with community members to learn what types of activities and education they may need to encourage a culture of composting to take root.”

The team is approaching the problem from three angles— education, events, and research, each supported by on-going networking and publicity activities. In 2021 the team is implementing community organic waste collection events throughout Cook County and a pilot of a Compost Ambassador education program in Winter 2022. The 4-week class will run Thursday evenings once a month beginning January 13. Registration will open in December.

Team member Amy DeLorenzo, Extension educator Discovery Partners Institute, says: “Composting is an important effort to engage in because it works across multiple aspects of society. Socially, composting is good for communities as it encourages waste reduction and creative forms of reuse. Environmentally, organic material that is composted is material that is kept out of landfills, which is less methane contributing to climate change. Economically, composting is a money saver: it uses materials that you likely already have and is less costly than purchasing chemical fertilizers. It turns food you can’t eat into a resource, by transforming those scraps into a soil amendment.”

Our 2021 Community Compost Collection events will take place throughout Cook County. Households are invited to drop off their yard, garden, and kitchen waste to be composted and pick up finished compost to improve your garden soil. For those who cannot attend an event, composting may still be an option through their local trash provider, private service, or by starting a compost pile.

“Composting can be done on a community level through events or municipal waste collection, but it can also be done on a small scale,” Pereira says. “You can compost in your own backyard using a compost bin or even in your apartment with a worm bin.”

To learn more about compost, download Composting 101, in English or Spanish.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

If you have questions about the Cook County Composting Initiative, please contact Kathryn Pereira.