Grinning about greening: Caitlin Gerra, Tyler Miller and Katie Kennedy helped demonstrate composting last weekend at the Green Block Party in River Forest, a program to increase sustainability awareness.Courtesy of Sue Crothers

A grassroots effort in River Forest will allow residents to compost their waste from block parties this summer.

That means items like foods scraps and yard waste won’t have to fill up the Winnebago County landfill that regular garbage is hauled to and could save the village money, organizers say. Residents of the block will decide what to do with the nutrient-rich compost collected.

To inform residents about the new opportunity, a master composter did a demonstration on April 28 during the annual Des Plaines River clean-up.

Sue Crothers, president of the River Forest Parks Foundation, said she was part of a team—now known as PlanItGreen—that has been working toward a sustainability plan for the last few years. After holding some get-togethers to gather ideas, the team realized neighbors wanted an educational component to the sustainability effort.

The group decided composting made a good topic because it reduces waste, and a block party provided the setting for different generations to come together for it.

“We’re greening the community block by block,” Crothers said.

Residents planning to throw a block party can decide if they want it to be green when they fill out the permit application available on the village’s website. If they check “yes,” staff from the Public Works Department will deliver an Earth Machine composter, kitchen caddy and banners that designate the party as a green one, Crothers said. A $5,000 grant from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation is funding the two-year project.

Organizers also have an intern from Dominican University and two volunteers from Oak Park and River Forest High School that they are training to perform demonstrations for the blocks. They’ll show the block’s residents how to use a backyard compost bin, which they can all share or raffle off. Green Home Experts in Oak Park will provide 20 gift certificates for each block so people can buy their own bins.

Currently, the village diverts only 37 percent of its garbage from the landfill, and the rest of it is taken there at a cost of $50 per ton, according to the village website. Compostable waste is mostly water and heavier than non-compostable waste, which would save the village money.

The River Forest Public Library and the park district are already implementing composting, and District 90 is the first in Cook County to have all its schools composting foods scraps and yard waste, the website said.

“We appreciate their efforts, especially at the grassroots level,” said Village Administrator Eric Palm about the PlanItGreen group.

“We don’t have the staff to be very active in sustainability initiatives, so we look to others to help us along.”

Palm said the village would be open to collaborating with Oak Park, which began a composting pilot program last month.

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