Cookies for Compost makes composting more accessible along with a sweet incentive


Victoria Benefield/Daily Senior Staffer

Janis Post, left, and Maia Roothaan, right, are at the Robert Crown Community Center for the launch of the Cookies for Compost program on Sunday, Nov. 7. They receive free Insomnia cookies and a bucket for compost. If they fill the bucket with compost, they can bring it back every Saturday between 2 and 4 p.m. in exchange for more cookies.

Shveta Shah, Reporter

Compost old food. Get new food — specifically, a cookie.

That’s the premise of Cookies for Compost, an initiative encouraging Evanston residents to start composting. Evanston Township High School senior Maia Roothaan created the project, which launched Saturday at the Robert Crown Community Center and will be held every week through mid-March.

“I was really surprised we reached 75 participants,” Roothaan said. “We had so many people interested to the point where we had to waitlist people.”

Cookies for Compost is partnering with Collective Resource Compost, a composting program in the Chicago area. The organization supplies five-gallon buckets to participants who then bring their compost to the community center each Saturday. As a reward for their composting efforts, participants receive free cookies.

Roothaan said composting has always been a part of her life. Since her family has always had an interest in living sustainably, she was exposed to activities like composting, recycling and vegetarianism from a young age. So when she won a grant from the U.S. Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund to create a service project, starting a composting program seemed only natural.

ETHS sophomore Vivian Zhu creates graphics on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to promote the program. 

“Cookies for Compost is a great opportunity for people to participate in composting, especially if they haven’t done it before,” Zhu said. “It’s a great introduction.”

Roothaan said she was inspired to start the program because she believes composting should be accessible to everyone. She recognizes the privilege she has to be able to compost, especially since composting services in Evanston can be expensive, she said.

Composting services with Collective Resource normally cost around $300 per year. Cookies for Compost would provide a free alternative to those who want to positively impact the environment but don’t have the means to do so.

“A lot of people think if you put things like banana peels into a landfill, then they will decompose, but that’s not actually what happens,” Roothaan said. 

Roothaan’s environmental science teacher, Dr. Adriane Slaton, helped spark her interest in educating people about the importance of composting.

Slaton said she believes it is difficult to make a difference with individual actions when it comes to the environment, but education and advocacy can spark bigger change.

“This is where we really see the multiplication and exponential impact of one individual,” Slaton said.

Cookies for Compost is fully funded by the grant Roothaan received. But she said she is already thinking about ways to fundraise so she can keep the program running, even after the service project is over.

Roothaan said she is excited about the program’s launch, and hopes it will inspire a wide range of Evanston residents to make a difference. 

“Seeing how kids were excited as well as their parents was really cool,” Roothaan said. “Cookies really make kids excited, but their parents also realized what they can do as a family to be more sustainable.”

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Twitter: @shvetashah17

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