Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Extreme Compost Makeover: Organizing Community Composting Sites

Posted in Garden News on January 13 2020, by Jodie Colón

Jodie Colón is the Compost Project Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.

Photo of NYC Compost Project volunteers

When it comes to organizing your closets, the latest trend is to only keep items that spark joy. Many gardeners in Bronx Green-Up gardens apply that principle to their compost bins. But often they happily keep every leaf, branch, weed, and kitchen scrap out of the landfill. When an overflow of joy accumulates, they know who to call—our NYC Compost Project. We swoop in to help reorganize compost bins, tame piles of plant materials, and give sites a fresh start. Yet, just like on those reality shows, the clutter inevitably creeps back.

To address this, our team developed the Extreme Compost Makeover (XCM) program as a way to ensure our staff invested in building compost teams instead of compost piles. XCM includes customized coaching and community building activities. These are designed to create and celebrate behaviors that improve a site’s physical, social, and communications systems.

To apply for a makeover, a site forms a compost team by listing the names of group members who will participate. Next, they select the one training and one technical assistance activity that will give their group the biggest boost. Lastly, they tell us how these activities will help them.

In the pilot phase, 15 sites were selected. To facilitate each site’s efforts to start or improve their compost operations, we customized XCM to a “T”.

Our XCM Kick-off Event guided each team to collaborate on identifying their goals and writing up a Compost Action Plan to achieve them. The Plan included a timeframe for completing specific tasks and inviting us back.

A hands-on training modeled how to use tools safely, organize a workday, make compost, and transfer new skills to others. Successful groups earned rewards including a set of laminated tip sheets; new XCM tool kits with hand pruners, work gloves, a shovel, and more; and technical assistance of compost deliveries and new compost bins.

Join us as XCM expands to more sites with an official kick-off on February 16, 2020, at our annual Crazy for Composting event.

This article originally appeared as part of the Fall 2019-Winter 2020 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about current programs and undertaking at the Garden.