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Block by Block, The "Greening of River Forest"

Summer gatherings will cut down on waste, introduce composting to neighbors.

, we told you a little about the effort to bring "green" block parties to neighborhoods throughout River Forest.

We've had a chance to talk with one of the project's organizers, River Forest Park Foundation president Sue Crothers, who offered a lot more insight about the project, which will bring composting machines, demonstrations and a zero-waste ethos to a handful of the village's estimated 60 summer block parties.

Turns out, the idea for the block parties has its roots in the simple notion of neighborhood camaraderie and a shared call to action. Crothers said it all started when a few residents volunteering for the Plan It Green initiative, the ongoing civic effort among local institutions and residents, wanted to get their neighbors more involved.

That led to coffee sessions in various River Forest homes — a neighborly gathering if there ever was one, but the events carried the added bonus of introducing residents who wouldn't normally cross paths.

"It wasn't just your social fabric," Crothers said. "It was intergenerational and a big variety. We were engaging different generations."

Here, Crothers said, is where the ideas became action.

"What's one thing people like to do together?" she asked.

Party.

More specifically, thousands of River Forest families will gather this summer season for dozens of block parties. But those congenial gatherings, with their plastic silverware, paper plates and food scraps, can produce lots of waste.

And within the village boundaries, household waste adds up. According to village figures, residents created over 4,300 tons of municipal solid waste in 2009. Only 37 percent of that — culled from yard waste and curbside recycling — was diverted away from a landfill.

That was an opportunity.

Out of PlanIt Green's three main goals — education, waste and energy — they decided to target education, so composting demonstrations at block parties would be a perfect fit.

Armed with a plan, Crothers and other volunteers approached the Community Foundation of Oak Park-River Forest, one of PlanItGreen's biggest sponsors, for grant funding for a two-year pilot program. Here's how it will work:

Applicants for block parties in River Forest will have the opportunity to check off a "green" option. By doing so, you'll get a backyard composting machine, a composting caddy, 20 compost coupons for Green Home Experts in Oak Park, and a zero waste facts sheet that includes a kids coloring book designed by Willard Elementary students.

Village crews will drop off signs to attach to waste bins, along with a banner designating the party as "green." Trained interns, funded by the River Forest Service Club, will show up to the parties to lead composting demonstrations.

When it's over, public works crews will collected the signs and banners. But the backyard "Earth Machine" composter machines will stay with the party host, who can do with as they see fit: keep it, share it, raffle it off, whatever.

"It's the greening of River Forest," Crothers said. "Block by block."

The block parties will kick off with a composting demonstration at the Des Plaines River cleanup on April 28. Interested in throwing a Green Block Party? See the village's permit application page.

Casey Cora (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 05:17 PM
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