Thinking of Composting?

Tips for composting at home and Earth Day Launch of Beth Emet Zero Waste Initiative

Our monthly blog, edited by Dayenu (climate action and environmental justice) Circle members Chris Wynn and Sharon Smaller,  will give you ideas, information, resources, and things you can do to make this world a better place environmentally, tikkun olam. As a community, we can learn from each other, so we welcome your ideas and questions. Please share with us your successes in your endeavors to “go green.”

Composting? No way.

Why would I want to compost? It’s too complicated, you need to follow a recipe, and it takes way too much time. And besides it’s messy, stinky, and attracts rodents. Right?


The only recipe you need is a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of motivation, and this blog post, and you can be composting in no time. But true, it’s definitely more steps than just tossing our food scraps into the garbage.

So why bother?

When food is put into landfills, it creates methane (a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change). But when we compost our food, we reduce the amount of methane produced, thus lessening its impact on the climate.

Why does this matter from a Jewish perspective? The Jewish value of Bal Tashcit, which commands us not to destroy or waste, is a primary tenet of the Jewish environmental movement. In addition to Bal Tashcit, we also have a responsibility to practice Tikkun OlamWorking to reduce our waste is our Jewish responsibility. In addition to being a Jewish responsibility, Beth Emet as an Evanston congregation has a responsibility to support the city’s CARP (Climate Action and Resiliency Plan) and its goal to increase waste diversion 50% by 2025 (and to zero waste by 2050).

All of these reasons have led to the Dayenu Circle helping to launch Beth Emet’s Zero Waste Initiative (composting and reducing single-use plastic) on Earth Day, which took place last weekend. We have begun rolling out this initiative with Friday night Kiddush. We are now using glass kiddush cups that can be easily washed and reused, rather than single-use plastic cups. Then in mid-may, we will begin introducing composting in the soup kitchen and using either compostable tableware or washable items whenever possible. Over the spring and fall, we will gradually bring the Zero-Waste Initiative into other parts of Beth Emet.

Changing our behavior doesn’t mean making things more difficult, just different. Many of Beth Emet’s peers and other Evanston organizations have composting programs, including JRC, the Unitarian Church of Evanston, and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. In addition, Evanston/Skokie District 65, and ETHS (in a limited capacity) compost as well, so many Beit Sefer students are already familiar with it. Here is a short video about St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church composting program, which the Evanston congregation started seven years ago.

Now, what if you want to try composting at home to reduce your waste and impact on the environment? What are the different ways to go about it?

  1. Sign up for your communities Food Scrap and Organics Composting Program. They will deliver a cart to you and instructions about what you can put into the cart.
  2. Sign up with a residential composting service, such as Collective Resource of Evanston, that provides door-to-door pickup service depending on your needs.
  3. Create your own composting bin for your property. Many simple instructions are online. Save a pile of dead leaves to incorporate as you empty your inside container. Let Mother Nature do the rest.

All options require a collection vessel in your kitchen. The most common is a stainless steel container with a lid that can be placed under a sink or on a countertop.

With option 3, you can only compost plant-based material in a compost bin on your property. Options 1 and 2 above allow you to compost a larger variety of food scraps (anything that was alive) and other compostable matter. This is because the food scraps are taken to an industrial composter which has a pre-processing phase that allows those additional items to break down with other easily compostable items.

Let’s hear from some members of Beth Emet about their experiences with composting.

“Composting was much easier than I expected. Transferring food to a small bin in my kitchen and then periodically to a bucket on my back deck was no different than taking out the trash, which I didn’t have to do as often due to the reduced food waste. I was able to downsize the trash can in my alley, creating savings that offset the nominal cost of composting.” 

– Jeff Mann (uses Collective Resource)

“We’ve participated in Wilmette’s composting program for three years. Here’s how it works: we put all our food scraps, flowers that are past their prime, paper towels, and more into a container on our kitchen counter. When that container gets filled, we empty it into a special bin in our alley. And when that gets filled- every month or two- we put a sticker on it, and it is picked up and transported to a composting facility. It could not be easier, and it is truly gratifying to see the reduction in trash, and how rarely we run the garbage disposal. It’s even caused us to move to ‘pour over’ coffee instead of pods, because the coffee filter and grounds can be composted.”

– Karen and Mike Isaacson

And here’s my own experience with composting: “I have been composting for years. I have a bucket under my sink which collects fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee and paper tea bags, and plant-based matter. When it’s full, I empty it in my outside compost bin which is in my alley. I add dried leaves and mix it all in. This year, I used the finished compost to give nutrients to my garden.”

– Chris Wynn

If you are still on the fence about composting, as an added bonus, Collective Resource gives 10 free gallons of finished compost each year to their customers who helped to make it. And of course, if you make your own compost, you can apply it to your landscape whenever it is ready.

No matter how you obtain your nutrient- rich finished compost, your garden will thank you for it.