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🌱 A Chicagoan’s guide to composting

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


This International Compost Awareness Week, we’re looking at the state of composting in the city: the what, the why, the how-to. 

But first, let’s talk about waste — and how much there is.  

  • In Cook County, a year’s worth of food waste could create a pile the size of the United Center, Tristyn von Berg of WasteNot Compost, a local composting service, told City Cast.
  • In Chicago, about 20% of waste sent to landfills is organic, foods and plants that could be composted, according to a University of Illinois Chicago report

What’s composting? It’s when that organic material is put back into the soil as a natural fertilizer. 

Why compost? When food and plants are lumped in with other landfill materials, they rot and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, von Berg said. 

How can you compost? A lot of ways.

🪱 Vermicomposting, aka small worm bins
🌿 Outdoors with a compost bin or pile
♻️ Collection services and drop-off sites 

That last option might be particularly appealing to city dwellers without a lot of space, or to people who want a less hands-on process. 

But the city doesn’t yet offer a composting service, despite past talks from city officials and research showing it could reduce Chicago’s food waste by 25%, WBEZ reported. Department of Streets and Sanitation officials did not respond to questions about the status of a city composting service before publication. 

The city collects yard waste from 311 calls, but “don’t put it out on the same day as your refuse otherwise that too can get sent to landfills!” von Berg said.

But Chicagoans do have other options.

👉 Pickup services like Block Bins and WasteNot Compost
👉 Drop-offs at The Plant in Back of the Yards and El Paseo Garden in Pilsen

We’re just scratching the surface about how to compost — learn more!

Black-and-white portraits of a woman laughing and a man smiling.
Mahalia Jackson in 1971. Thomas Dorsey in 1960. (Keystone / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty)

Chicago staked its claim as the birthplace of modern gospel music thanks to Bronzeville’s Pilgrim Baptist Church’s longtime choir director Thomas Dorsey. 

In the 1930s, Dorsey blended the style and chords of blues music with the praise and worship of traditional gospel hymns, and iconic singers like Mahalia Jackson took the sound global. 

📺 Watch WTTW’s new “Birth of Gospel” documentary Friday at 8 p.m.
🎧 Writer and producer Stacy Robinson tells us about Chicago’s place in music history.


▪️ Will a judge oust the owner of a Kenwood apartment building? City attorneys and federal officials want Apex Chicago gone after months of reported unsafe living conditions at the affordable housing complex. [Block Club Chicago]

▪️ Saba has gotten national attention for music that ranges from joy to sadness to loss. The Austin native talks about how his family inspired his latest album and more ahead of his homecoming at the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown tonight. [WBEZ]

▪️ Do the Jean Banchet Restaurant Awards still hold the weight they once did in the Chicago culinary world? [Eater Chicago]

▪️ Score Ravinia tickets to see Diana Ross, Stevie Nicks, Erykah Badu, and more this summer!

▪️ Cinco de Mayo is more than a day to get Mexican food and drinks — it’s an integral part of American history that more people should learn about, CPS teacher Froylan Jimenez writes. [Chicago Sun-Times]


Mother’s Day is just around the corner. If you’re looking for a last-minute gift before Sunday, we have some ideas for moms and mom-like figures! 

🥧 For the sweet tooth. Pick up pies, quiches, and other treats at the Justice of the Pies bake sale on the Near West Side Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

🌷 For the gardener. Get flowers and plants at the Englewood sale Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You could also get free soil and trees! 

🚢 For the boater. Hop aboard a Mother’s Day cruise on Lake Michigan Sunday. You could even book a special brunch or dinner for your ride.

Pssst, know that City Cast is a network of newsletters and podcasts in cities nationwide? Now you do! Plus, we’re on a hiring spree. Come work with us!

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