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Supporters Pile On for Ravenswood Composting Idea

By David Byrnes | April 10, 2015 8:12am
 Ross Outten discusses his plans for the composting program and its inclusion in this summer's Greener Ravenswood Festival.
Ross Outten discusses his plans for the composting program and its inclusion in this summer's Greener Ravenswood Festival.
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DNAinfo/David Byrnes

RAVENSWOOD — Cans, you can recycle. Same with glass and paper and most plastics.

But what's the natural solution for the other stuff? Composting, where organic waste such as food scraps are allowed to break down and become fertilizer.

The Ravenswood Community Council’s Greening committee recently met with local business owners to discuss plans for a neighborhood composting initiative.

The plans, say RCC Director of Events Gene Wagendorf, have been discussed for several years but some members are now pressing to have something operating by June.

Ross Outten, owner of Dolce Casa and one of the members of the Greening committee who is spear-heading the compost initiative, says a number of restaurants are interested in contributing to a project.

“As a chef, I’m painfully aware of just how much food waste is involved with running a restaurant,” he said. “There are a handful of chefs who would want to get involved right off the bat.”

Among the businesses represented at the meeting were Compass(x) Strategy, Moss Architecture, Alibi Fine Art, and Noktivo Spa.

There is still debate over exactly what form the compost project will take, and how it will be implemented. Some committee members believe that there should be a neighborhood compost pile or garden where anyone can take their kitchen waste, while others want to focus more on subsidizing businesses’ compost production by giving it to a processing plant.

These are not mutually exclusive plans, but according to Erlene Howard, founder and owner of Collective Resource composting company, different composting programs require different services, and entail different operating costs.

“If I’m moving compost within this two-mile by two-mile block,” she said, “or if I’m picking it up here and taking it somewhere else, those are obviously two different pricing structures.”

Several people at the meeting suggested that the project should begin as a purely commercial undertaking, but can move into a community-based initiative as it gains funding and neighborhood awareness. Education on composting and its importance, said Outten, is an important part of that transition.

“It could be an evolving thing…” he said. “If [businesses] are composting, that’s great — it’s a sales point for the institution. But it’s also prolonging the conversation, it’s engaging people and involving them in education about composting.”

Regardless of what shape this composting initiative takes, Outten and the other Greening Committee members want to have some plan to reveal at this year’s Greener Ravenswood festival, which will take place in June.

“The question for the composting program is, what can we do to get something off the ground this year?” said Outten. “Hopefully we’ll have some more tangible next steps we can talk about taking in a month or so.”

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