Knowing which waste items can go into the recycle or compost bin doesn’t come naturally. We could all live a lot greener if we just knew where to get the proper waste reduction information and tips.

RecyclingExtravaganzaPlanItGreen intends to make that happen with a new initiative it’s launching in early 2016. A communications network being called Green Guides, it will facilitate neighbors helping neighbors build a more resilient community.

“Green Guides are residents who will communicate with their neighbors, to point them in the right direction for resources on waste reduction, water conservation, energy efficiency and more,” says Jen Nelson, Zero Waste program manager for Seven Generations Ahead. “We are not expecting Green Guides to be experts in any or all areas. They will simply be links, connecting their neighbors to green resources in our communities.”

PlanItGreen and Seven Generations have looked at various ways to get more people engaged in reducing, recycling and composting. They realized that education had to be part of any program.

“It can be confusing to know what can be recycled and what can be composted,” Jen says. “Our goal is to make it easier for residents to participate in these programs.”

Green Community Connections (GCC) is organizing the Green Guides, who will be “sustainable knowledge resources,” says Sally Stovall. A recruitment effort is on to sign up the volunteer Guides, who will responsible for their block or a neighborhood-wide area.

Green Guides will spend a couple of hours a month chatting or emailing with their neighbors and connecting them with the information and resources they need to be more sustainable, Sally says. They “will occasionally get together to share stories and successes.”
Through Green Guides, residents can get clarity and answers about waste reduction.

Sally tells a story about an Oak Park neighbor who had written her wanting to know where he could recycle clothes hangers. She contacted people in her network. Julie Mollerof the River Forest Sustainability Committee responded by saying that she returns her hangers to the dry cleaners. Then Oak Park’s environmental services manager Karen Rozmus referred Sally to Beyond the Bin, a recycling resource guide that had a list of dry cleaners that accept hangers. “I was then able to write the [neighbor] back with specific suggestions,” Sally says. “One of my images of Green Guides is to be able to help those who want do the right thing and support them.”

The Guides will share tips and resources. They will communicate with their neighbors through email, and in some cases, knock on doors, Sally says. A Green Guides kickoff event is planned for some time in January, she adds. Details will be announced soon.

PlanItGreen also is making an educational guide to hang on refrigerators, which illustrates what can be composted, recycled, or as a last resort, sent to landfill. Green Guides will distribute this information to their respective blocks.

Oak Park and River Forest residents interested in being a Green Guide can sign up at

—Cassandra West