Organized by Seven Generations Ahead, SCARCE, the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and Dupage and Kane Counties, the “Getting to the Heart of Better Soil Through Composting” zero waste forum took place Feb. 14 at the Cantigny Golf Club in Wheaton.

The forum focused on the benefits of compost for improving soil quality for landscape and under the turf; how compost impacts the bottom line; best practices and overcoming application challenges and how to identify the right compost for your needs. 

Speakers included Vytas Pabedinskas from Save our Soils and Jim Cowhey from Organix Recyling in addition to park district leaders from Oak Park and Wheaton. The forum gave attendees time to share information, ask questions, and build a stronger network of sustainability. Those in attendance included land managers from golf courses and park districts, along with landscape designers, field experts, homeowners and those in the nonprofit sector.

Land managers discussed methods for fertilizing soil, such as using free biosolids from the Water Reclamation District, worm power tea or extract, and local animal waste.

Those who use compost shared positive outcomes they’ve seen, such as improved soil structure and increased soil fertility. Despite the advantages of compost use, they noted that composting on public sites such as golf courses or parks is still a sensitive process. Developing high-quality compost for playing surfaces that reduces contamination, and deters odors and pests are major challenges.

Park district staff expressed concerns about getting the necessary labor hours and their desire to develop a network of park district green teams. Similarly, homeowners want more collaboration with homeowner associations to provide education and sustainably managed properties. All wanted to see more curbside composting programs throughout the state.

The forum emphasized that using compost is a process that takes time and has a significant learning curve. Even so, it provided valuable information for those wanting to explore compost as a means to improve soil and land.

Join the conversation on how compost can benefit soil quality by visiting the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition’s website and link up with your local park district to see how compost can benefit your community’s soil.