Greenwich Can Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em: Composting Initiative Okayed by Selectmen

leaf collectionAt Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Conservation Commission director Denise Savageau and Senior Analyst Aleksandra Moch outlined a new, voluntary leaf composting initiative for the Town they hope the Selectmen will formally endorse.

The program, modeled after the Westchester County’s Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em program to reduce organic yard waste. Though the Westchester program has focused on landscapers, Ms.Moch said in Greenwich the initiative will be more intense.

The goal is for residents to mulch their lawn with composted leaves. This would reduce the amount of leaves the Town would  have to pick up.

Savageau reminded the Selectmen that years ago the Town did leaf composting at Holly Hill Resource Recovery Facility.

“For various reasons and regulations we did not have the land area any more. We now truck most of our leaves out of town. We have a valuable resource being trucked out of town at tremendous expense,” Savageau said, going on to describe the leaves as a hidden resource. “When you mulch them in they provide a lot of nutrients to your lawn.”

The composting initiative is strictly voluntary. The Town will continue the leaf pick-up program.

Ms. Savageau, reading the resolution that was adopted by the Conservation Commission, summed up the shortcomings of the current system. First, she said trucking leaves out of Town is not in keeping with with long term sustainability of natural resources.

Second, the leaf disposal program often has a negative impact on human health, safety and the natural environment. Piles of leaves left at the curb cause slippery conditions, absorb oil and grease from cars, clog storm drains, and narrow the lanes of traffic. Once contaminated, this valuable resource turns into waste and takes pollutants with them when they travel downstream.

Third, dust kicked-up when the town workers blow the leaves as they collect them triggers allergies and asthma.

Savageau said leaves are a valuable resource for soil amendment, protection and fertilization.

Currently, the annual cost to the town to truck away the leaves collected is on average $325,000.

Steering Committee
Ms. Moch said a steering committee has begun meeting, including the Greenwich Schools (a PTAC committee), the Greenwich Tree Conservancy, Greenwich Community Gardens, Greenwich Recycling Advisory Board (GRAB), Dept. of Public Works, Garden Education Center, various garden clubs, Greenwich Green & Clean, Parks & Recreation, and, of course, the Conservation Commission.

Moch said the program will begin with a survey of residents’ current habits for leaf disposal, and determine what it will take to motivate people change their habits.

Moch said $20,000 of grants are being sought to fund the initiative. The plan is to locate compost bins outside Eastern Middle School and Riverside School.  Workshops on those school grounds will be conducted and composting will be done on those sites. She said Parks & Rec staff are on board.

Seventh graders will have composting in their curriculum. Second graders will learn how to maintain worms. Also, the 7th graders will have the opportunity to join composting clubs.

Moch said the steering committee will include the Garden Education Center and take advantage of the Fairchild Challenge.

Moch said the program’s success is measurable in terms of how many truckloads of leaves are hauled out of town.

The Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the resolution.