Nov 15, 2022 - News

Green advocates to lead city's compost pilot

Guy holding a coffee cup and wearing a suit

Carter O'Brien. Photo by Monica Eng/Axios

Many green Chicagoans are still angry about Mayor Lightfoot's broken campaign promise to relaunch the Department of the Environment, but they got good news Monday from a different department.

Why it matters: Organic waste makes up nearly 20% of Chicago garbage. Composting it reduces powerful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The intrigue: The program will be run by longtime activist and DSS gadfly Carter O'Brien, who recently left his job as a sustainability officer at The Field Museum to become an assistant DSS commissioner.

What they're saying: "This is what I came on board for," O'Brien tells Axios. "This is what got me interested in the job, that (DSS) is taking composting and the waste strategy seriously."

How it works: Six community gardens run by nonprofit NeighborSpace will accept "garden trimmings, fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags" in their drop off bins at:

  • Stockyard Garden, 5136-58 S. Carpenter St.
  • El Paseo Garden, 944 W. 21st St.
  • Merchant Park Community Garden, 4200 W. Addison St.
  • Hermitage Street Community Garden, 5647 S. Hermitage Ave.
  • Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden, 4427 W. Fulton St.
  • Montrose Metra Community Gardens, 4386 N. Ravenswood Ave.

What's next: The city and NeighborSpace will work with DePaul Steans Center to evaluate the results of the pilot, with an eye toward expansion in 2023.

💭 Monica's thought bubble: This pilot may be small, but I'm super encouraged by the hiring of O'Brien and Casey — whose good work I've covered for years.

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