When Wilmette resident Nicole Boomgaarden saw all the annual Halloween pumpkins go on sale in early September, she decided this was the year to act on an idea that had been brewing for years.
In her North Shore community of more than 10,000 households, Boomgaarden wanted to prevent at least some of the pumpkins from going to landfill after Halloween.
She contacted Wilmette Public Works Assistant Director Kate Amoruso and together, the two women came up with a plan to collect pumpkins and gourds for composting at the Wilmette Village Hall.
Dubbed the “Pumpkin Pitch” (a play on “pumpkin patch,” that has residents essentially pitching their unwanted pumpkins into a dumpster), the event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 9.
Candles and any decorations should be removed first, though acrylic paint is not a problem. Boomgaarden says they hope to keep a tally of the number of items collected.
An advocate of low waste living and a board member of Go Green Wilmette, Boomgarden knew that she would already be able to compost her own pumpkins through the Village’s new Curbside Food Scrap Composting program.
“Because I opted in to the Village’s compost service, I knew that there was a working model for Village composting and hoped that it could be extended to a one-off pumpkin collection,” explains Boomgaarden, crediting several other community members for bringing the project to life. “Kate Amoruso and Wilmette Public Works made it happen; May Allen of S.W.A.N.C.C. helped verify what we could and could not accept; and Beth Drucker and Go Green Wilmette colleagues organized the volunteers and publicity. It was a team effort.”
Composting is an aerobic process that breaks down organic matter in a way that reduces or prevents the release of methane. While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat in the first two decades after its release, says Boomgarden.
That effect can be anywhere from 72 to 121 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Proper composting creates nutrient-rich organic matter, an important part of healthy soil, without the release of methane.
Wilmette Public Works employee Alex Arteaga says that he has received more requests for information about the Wilmette Public Works’ composting program since the announcement of the“Pumpkin Pitch.”
“I hope this means that we’ll get a good turnout,”Arteaga adds. “But I think the real importance of the event is that it will increase awareness of the need to compost organic waste. And it will be great if it encourages more people to opt for the Village’s compost program as well.”
What should you do if you can’t make it to the “Pumpkin Pitch”?
Boomgaarden suggests home composting.“Chop it up and throw it in your backyard compost, or sign up for the Village program,” she says. Arteaga seconded that suggestion, emphasizing that villagers should not throw pumpkins into curbside leaf collection piles.
“It causes a mess for cars and people and if a pumpkin gets stuck in the vacuum, it can cause serious damage to the machinery,” he explains.