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Naperville neighborhood’s block party goes green by reducing the amount of waste headed to landfill – Chicago Tribune

This year’s block party in the Thornberry Woods subdivision near 75th Street and Greene Road had all the trappings of a neighborly Naperville get-together, including plenty of food, conversation and games.

Missing from the party were cans and cans of garbage, which typically are sent to a landfill after a gathering like that.

Block party organizer Anu Verma says she has been on a grassroots mission to reduce the carbon footprint of her household and then her neighborhood.

Party invitations included a request for neighbors to go green by bringing reusable or compostable plates, glasses, utensils and napkins to cut back on the waste.

In return, the homeowners association picked up the tab for pizza.

Verma said the pizza boxes were recycled and compost containers put out for neighbors to toss any food scraps into.

It’s part of Verma’s plan to show neighbors in her 65-home subdivision how they, too, can take small, easy steps to make the community and world more sustainable.

“If you put your mind to it, you can do it,” she said.

She also is hopeful her go-green block party inspires others in the Naperville area to do the same.

But despite Verma’s persuasion, not everyone is moved to action.

“Change isn’t easy,” she said. “I can’t do anything beyond that to change people.”

The irony that Thornberry Woods sits in the shadows of what once was the Greene Valley landfill is not lost on Verma, a scientist whose goal, she says, is to change government policies around the use of plastics.

“I really don’t think it’s fair to throw my waste into someone else’s backyard,” Verma said, which is why she urges her neighbors to join her in composting food scraps.

“We don’t want to throw any more things into the landfill. Nothing disintegrates in a landfill, and it just produces more methane,” she said.

That even includes banana peels and other food waste, Verma said.

While some of her neighbors have embraced backyard composting bins, others like themselves prefer to have scraps hauled away, and Verma found fifth-generation Naperville native Steve Heeley of Our Sustainable Journey is able to handle that duty.

Heeley said residential customers, including 130 Naperville households, are given a five-gallon bucket with a lid to place their compostables, including all plant matter from avocado pits to zucchini skins; breads and baked goods; bones leftover from cooking; eggshells; coffee and tea grinds and their filters (staples removed); and any paper towels or napkins as long as no chemical agents were used.

On Fridays, Heeley picks up the buckets and drops off clean ones.

Households have the option of swapping out buckets weekly for $5.50, biweekly for $8.25 and $11 for once a month.

There is a one-time $10 setup fee for the bucket and to be added to the pickup schedule.

For his business clients — like coffee shops, a test kitchen and a hemp processor — Heeley offers a 50-gallon bin with a weekly pickup cost of $55 or $82.50 biweekly.

Heeley said the scraps collected in DuPage, Kane and parts of Will counties are taken to his farm west of LaSalle-Peru area where worms breakdown the waste into compost so it can be returned to the soil as nutrients.

Other easy-to-apply ideas Verma encourages others to consider include using refillable water bottles, shopping with reusable bags and asking restaurants not to provide plastic utensils with carryout orders.

Verma has gone so far as to ask restaurants to put up signs telling customers that utensils won’t be provided unless requested.

“You can think of hundreds of ways,” Verma said. “It’s just a mindset.”

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