Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Compost Queen’ lives up to local nickname

In October 2009, Erlene Howard decided to provide a compost service to the Evanston area. Howard had no way to compost at her condominium, so she reached out to Ken Dunn, founder of Chicago’s Resource Center.

Dunn told her about Chicago’s only commercial composting site, Land and Lakes. Howard made her first composting pickup in her 2002 Toyota Camry on June 16, 2010, and Collective Resource Inc. was born, as was her nickname, “Erlene the Compost Queen.”

“If you compost your scraps, you create no CO2, and if you put them in the landfill, it’s a huge amount of poison, toxic going into the air, so I see myself being involved for a really long time, whether I am the hauler or the educator,” Howard said. “I think that there’s a lot of good options for people to compost, and I really encourage people to find and do what works for their family.”

In May, Howard stopped making pickups in her Camry and purchased a truck to reach her customers in Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Lincolnwood and Chicago’s North Side. She now serves clients from Howard Street to Ohio Street and the lakefront to Kimball Avenue.

“My goal is to expand to whatever opportunities present themselves,” Howard said. “People are catching on in smaller groups.”

Howard and Zero Waste consultant Mary Beth Schaye worked to make Dewey Elementary School sustainable by composting at all of its community events. Howard also composts for the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 55 residences, three cafes and two full-service restaurants.

Jacky’s on Prairie, which uses organic and sustainable resources regularly, decided to compost through Collective Resource four weeks ago when the restaurant was looking for a way to dispose of food scraps in an environmentally friendly way.

“Erlene provided us with the ability to do that in a really very efficient, very simple mechanism,” Jacky’s manager Marybeth Gallivan said. “She’s taken something that a lot of people think is difficult and time-consuming to do, and it isn’t. It really is no more of a difficulty or chore than what we would normally do anyway. I highly recommend it to anybody.”

Working with her son, Kevin Macica, as the driver and hauler, Howard hopes to continue to growing Collective Resource and educating the public.

“It’s our planet, so obviously we should take care of it,” Macica said. “It’s all my mom’s vision, and I’m mainly the muscle of the organization.”

Aside from providing a composting service in the area, Howard and Schaye are involved in educating the community as well as being active in the Business Alliance for a Sustainable Evanston.

“It’s a group of businesses who have tried to make Evanston as green as possible,” Howard said. “It’s either businesses that will help people get greener or have really made some efforts to making their businesses sustainable.”

As Evanston works to reduce its carbon footprint through the city’s Climate Action Plan, Collective Resource provides a service that helps citizens live more sustainable lives.

“Erlene’s current efforts are providing a great opportunity for residences and businesses to have the opportunity to contribute to reducing the material going into our landfills by separating kitchen scraps and making them available for composting,” sustainable programs coordinator Catherine Hurley said. “Her efforts are definitely contributing to Evanston, influencing the Climate Action Plan and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Howard said she would love to have a commercial composting site that would directly benefit her customers in which “the end product was also a resource for Evanston and for the county,” but for now, she looks to grow in the Chicago area.

“I really don’t see there being an end limit,” Howard said. “I would like to see myself be active county-wide eventually.”

Collective Resource will be at Evanston’s Recycling Fair at the Civic Center on Sunday to educate citizens about composting, and Howard will be at the Skokie’s Farmers Market as well.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Compost Queen’ lives up to local nickname