How to Organize a Successful Pumpkin Composting Event
By: Meredith Sweeney
Pumpkins make for festive decor during the holidays, but every year, most of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. end up in the trash. This not only adds tons of waste to overflowing landfills, but also contributes significantly to global warming as the organic waste decomposes and releases methane—a harmful greenhouse gas—into the environment.
This year, instead of tossing your jack-o-lantern or Thanksgiving centerpiece into the trash, consider organizing a neighborhood-wide “Pumpkin Pitch” to encourage your community to compost. Below are five easy steps to get your neighborhood on board and host a successful event.
1. Contact Your Local Waste Hauler.
Before you rally your community to collect pumpkins, you need a place to compost them. Contact your local waste hauler to find out if they have a connection to a commercial composting facility, and check out this list of composting facilities certified by the U.S. Composting Council.
Once you identify a facility near you, ask them if they have a composting bin set up or if they would be willing to donate a roll-off dumpster for your composting event. “Most waste haulers are trying to promote the use of their organic waste programs and will be happy to donate a dumpster in exchange for the free publicity from your composting event,” says Jennifer Kainz, who helps facilitate an annual Pumpkin Pitch as well as food recovery and composting programs in Illinois through her organization, Mindful Waste.
2. Get the Word Out.
Once you have a designated place to compost your pumpkins, let your community know! Create an event on Facebook and share it with neighborhood-specific groups or contact local schools and businesses to spread the word.
Be prepared to get some questions. People are going to want to know why they should go through the effort of composting their pumpkin when they could just throw it away, says Kainz. Here are a few facts you can share:
- Municipal solid waste from landfills is the third largest producer of methane in the United States.
- Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up about 30 percent of what we throw away. Composting, meanwhile, can return nutrients and water back to the soil.
- Pumpkins are 90 percent water, which is good for soil but bad for landfills.
Pro tip: Let people know to remove stickers, googly eyes, candles and any other non-compostable material from pumpkins before composting them.
3. Collect Pumpkins.
While you can rely on people to contribute their own pumpkin or two to the compost bin, you can really fill your dumpster by collecting excess gourds from big retailer stores like Home Depot or Walmart—they’ll be eager to give them to you after the holidays to make room for new inventory, says Kainz. Encourage people to not only bring their pumpkins, but also other compostable decorations they might be trying to get rid of after the holidays—hay bales, corn stalks and plant based garland are all acceptable examples.
4. Make it Fun.
With all of the logistics in place, it’s time to make your Pumpkin Pitch an event people will remember. “The idea isn’t for people to just come and drop their pumpkins and leave—you want to make the event both fun and educational,” says Kainz. “If you have a dumpster where one side opens up, you can add a target to the back so that people can try to hit it when they throw their pumpkin into the bin.” Other ideas include: pumpkin bowling, pumpkin flinging and even pumpkin baseball if you are feeling brave.
5. Clean Up.
After the Pumpkin Pitch is complete, ask the waste hauler to come pick up the compost bin and deliver your pumpkins to the composting facility.
Every composted pumpkin makes a difference in the fight against climate change. A Pumpkin Pitch can be a lot of fun, but even if you aren’t able to host a full-fledged event, encourage your immediate family and friends to compost. They simply have to leave their pumpkins in the backyard or a nearby wooded area and it will compost on its own.
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