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Composting for Earth Day

Tue, Apr 28, 2015

Collective Resource, Inc. (CRI), is a woman-owned, award-winning food scrap pickup and composting service founded in June 2010.
Erlene Howard became interested in composting but couldn’t find suitable space to do it in her condo environment in Evanston. “So in that sense I saw a need for my service, so I thought, why don’t I do that,” she recalled.

Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into rich soil.
Basically, backyard composting accelerates the same process nature uses. Carbon and nitrogen react and cause heat that cooks down food scraps and grass. By composting your organic waste you are returning nutrients back into the soil so the cycle of life can continue.
Finished compost is dark brown and crumbly and it smells like a forest floor.
“This matched my values and character,” Howard said. “I love biology and ecology and it felt like a good mission.”

Howard was inspired to start her food scrap recycling service when she realized that “if we made composting easier, more people would do it.” She started with zero customers, and the business has since grown to about 300 residential and 60 commercial customers. Collective Resource collects pre- and post-consumer food scraps weekly in an area that extends from the South Loop north to Lake Forest, along the North Shore.
The amount of organic material Collective Resource collects has been growing exponentially, along with its customer base. The company went from collecting a single ton in the first six months of business to reaching a collection milestone of 500 tons in 2014. Howard expects to collect another 900 tons by the end of this year.
The rate for a five-gallon bucket pickup is: weekly $10.50, biweekly $15.50, and every four weeks $20.50. Moreover, if CRI reaches five or 10 residents on a single block throughout its pickup area, it will discount another 10-20% for those customers. The service Howard provides her customers is hauling the five-gallon buckets to the Harbor View compost site at 122nd and Stony Island.

Howard’s team happily works with a few different churches and temples that provide meals for homeless people. Temple Sholom serves meals on Mondays and Unitarian Church of Evanston does a kitchen on Wednesday nights; both compost their waste.
What really sets Collective Resource apart from other food scrap haulers is the personalized service it provides. CRI offers zero waste event consulting, compost education, as well as event staffing.

In all of Howard’s endeavors, she seeks to promote a “sustainable” society-that is, one that can continue and is repeatable, one which benefits rather than depletes the Earth. “In this case, our service is a very super easy habit to get into, and there is the process that is giving the nutrients back to the soil that we need.”

CRI is offering an Earth Day special to new customers. If you sign up on CRI’s website before April 30 you can get four pick-ups for the price of three: a 25 percent savings. The website is http://www.collectiveresource.us/ You can also e-mail Erlene at erlene@collectiveresource.us for more information.


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