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Portland Composting Pilot: Empowering Climate Action

Casey Zorn, Sustainability Fellow, discusses the launch of the City of Portland Food Composting Drop Off Pilot.



It’s not something I often admit, but after four years of dousing myself in knowledge on climate change, climate policy, and environmental engineering solutions at college, I still can fall into a fatalistic mindset when thinking about combatting climate change. Sometimes it seems like the more I learn about the climate crisis and the necessary coordination and scale in approaching solutions, the more overwhelmed and helpless I feel about it all. And I know I am not alone in this feeling.


One of the most impressive qualities of Portland and South Portland’s joint climate action plan, One Climate Future, is how it puts the power of climate action back in the hands of the people. Over the past five months, I have had the honor of serving with the One Climate Future team as the Resilience Corps Sustainability Fellow with the City of Portland Sustainability Office. One of the main focuses for our team these past few weeks has been making our outreach and engagement more meaningful. Even with a plan that emphasizes community engagement and ownership, it’s still all too easy to fall into the habit of prioritizing internal action over community involvement.


This past Earth Day, the City of Portland launched the Portland Food Composting Drop Off Pilot, a year-long program in which the City will host food waste collection containers at the following locations around the city: the North St. Community Garden, Boyd St. Community Garden, Clark St. Community Garden, Libbytown Community Garden, and Riverside Recycling Center. Residents need only collect food scraps in an air-tight container, empty their containers at one of the collection locations, rinse their containers, and repeat.


Maine is ranked 12th in the nation and 1st in New England for food insecurity; meanwhile, we throw away around 40% of our food ("Food Waste"). As part of this pilot program, our Portland Sustainability Office will also be embarking on a year-long campaign with the help of the University of Maine Mitchell Center to educate the public on the Food Recovery Hierarchy, which prioritizes reducing the amount of wasted food through careful shopping, feeding hungry people, feeding animals, composting, and only as a last resort disposing of unutilized food in a waste-to-energy plant or landfill.


While I know that composting my own food scraps is quite literally just a drop in the bucket, I also know that this program is more than what meets the eye. This program is first and foremost an opportunity to put the city’s climate future back in the hands of its citizens. This program exemplifies the spirit of One Climate Future. This program is pure empowerment. I have already walked down the block from my house to use the collection bins at the North St. Community Garden multiple times since the program launched, and I can feel the strength in our community grow as I see the bins fill. We build resilience together.


To read more about the City of Portland Food Composting Pilot, visit the Sustainability Office’s website.


References


“Food Waste.” Natural Resources Council of Maine, 2 Nov. 2020, www.nrcm.org/programs/sustainability/recycling-waste-management/food-waste/.

About Casey Zorn


Casey grew up in Somers, New York. She later moved to Medford, Massachusetts, where she attended Tufts University and studied Environmental Engineering and English. Casey enjoys hiking and mountaineering, having summited mountains including Mt. Rainier and Mt. Kilimanjaro. She is very excited to hike Maine and New Hampshire’s local treks now that she lives in Portland. She also enjoys reading and writing short stories and poetry. Casey is excited about joining the Resilience Corps because this is an opportunity to have a tangible impact on environmental health and sustainability. She is also excited to learn about how government and nonprofit organizations function in order to create lasting change.




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