Skip to main content

Want to know how residents are partnering with city departments to re-design the leaf collection program? You are in the right spot!

This page was last updated on Thursday 9/24/20.



Be the First to Volunteer to Participate in the Pilot

Want to be one of the first residents to say that you helped transform the city's leaf management system and get customized attention to your specific leaf situation? Complete the form at the URL below to supply your contact information and join the pilot program. A member of the Innovation Team will confirm you as a volunteer and begin coordinating with you on next steps. 

As of 8am 9/24/20, all of our slots to prototype ideas are FULL! We still have some room to participate in the pilot program, but the word is getting out, so we recommend that you sign up now!


Virtual Community Meetings 

In consultation with neighborhood leadership, the City of Bloomington invites Park Ridge and Spicewood neighbors to participate in a pilot program on leafing. The pilots will also gauge the impact to cost, workload, resident satisfaction, and the climate. Two community meetings were held in September. A third community meeting will be held in early 2021 to evaluate the efficacy of the pilot(s) and discuss recommendations for 2021. While the meetings specifically target the pilot neighborhoods, any interested resident is welcome.

Can't attend the meetings, but want to be involved in some way? No problem!  Email Innovation Director, Devta (DAVE-tuh) Kidd at or call her at 812.349.3552.


Meeting #1 - Setting the Stage - Wednesday, September 9, 2020  7-8pm

This first meeting introduced the problem we are trying to solve together, fielded questions, and provided information about how to be part of the solution.

View a recording of the meeting here.

See questions and comments posted to the Zoom chat here.


Meeting #2 - Brainstorming Solutions - Tuesday, September 15, 2020  7-8:30pm

This second meeting was a working meeting where intensive brainstorming, idea refinement, and confidence voting were done in small groups. Click here to see the ideas generated in this meeting that will move forward for consideration by the innovation team. 


Meeting #3 - Recommendations for 2021 - DATE AND TIME TBD

This third meeting will review the results of the 2020 pilot(s) and begin the discussion of what this group would like to recommend to Public Works for the 2021 leafing season.



To keep leaves from clogging storm drains, causing flooding, and creating unsafe slick sidewalks, the City's Public Works Department uses two methods:

  1. Pick up leaves bagged in yard waste bags or in approved yard waste carts that are set out with one's trash. Pick up of leaves in paper bags or carts is FREE during the months of November and December; pick up of paper bags or carts costs $1 per bag or cart to pick up throughout the year. Leaves in bags or in yard waste carts are transported to a composting site.
  2. Collection of leaves using vacuum-equipped trucks that maneuver the City in November, December, and sometimes into January - depending on the weather. The City is divided into zones that the trucks navigate according to a published schedule and collect leaves that have been raked to the curb by residents. Collection by vacuum is free and these leaves are taken to a composting site.
Vacuum truck in action.
Vacuum truck in action.

While a number of residents are very happy with this valuable service, there are some barriers to it being sustainable long-term:

  • Leaf collection is expensive - costing ~ $520k per year in equipment, labor, fuel, and fees to the compost site.
  • It is very difficult to keep the program sufficiently staffed as the job is intensely physical.
  • Using diesel trucks that are running eight hours/day, five days/week for at least two months of the year is not in keeping with our climate action goals.
  • Leaves fall when they fall and people rake when they rake - neither of which may coordinate with when vacuum trucks are able to collect the leaves.
  • Because the vacuum-equipped trucks are also used as snow plows, a snow in November or December will delay leaf collection and the freeze will make it much harder to suck them up when the collection routes resume.
  • Because of the need to adapt to shifting weather conditions, the inexact schedule for when vacuum trucks will collect leaves is frustrating to most users of the service who call the City wanting to get more accurate information about their pickup date. The increased volume of calls is significant in the months of November and December.


Why Re-design Now?

In addition to barriers listed above preventing the program from being sustainable long-term, the leaf collection program is mostly funded by the Motor Vehicle tax. This is problematic for a few reasons:

  • The City's commitment to reducing green house gas emissions isn't compatible with a service whose existence and growth depends on a large amount of fossil fuel use.
  • As more city residents reduce their consumption of gas - either by converting to alternate transit methods or sheltering in place - the supply exceeds the demand, reducing the cost of gas and therefore the associated Motor Vehicle tax revenues.



Under the direction of the Innovation Director, a group of 12 City employees representing 10 departments assembled in February 2020 to receive training and coaching in user-centered design. This is the work of that group.

Who is on the team?

Click here to see the current members of the team and their interest in the project.

What are the the problems we are trying to solve?

The main problems are the financial and environmental cost of the program as well as misalignment of the city service with climate variability and resident schedules.  

How do we know that's really the problem?

After defining groups of people who were highly interested in the service, greatly impacted by the service, or highly influential in the future of the service, the team set about interviewing these stakeholder groups. Insights from those in-person interviews were combined with results from a survey issued in July 2020 that collected input from 381 residents. Residents who responded to the survey in underrepresented areas of the city (the northwest and southwest quadrants) were contacted by phone for additional comment. Insights from all input confirmed the nature of the problem and offered initial suggestions.

What are we going to do about it?

The Innovation team has done some initial research into what other communities are doing; have conducted stakeholder interviews; have collected information via survey; and will hold two community meetings in September 2020 to begin the process of partnering with two neighborhoods. The presidents of the Park Ridge and Spicewood Neighborhood Associations have volunteered to encourage their participants to help brainstorm, select prototype ideas, refine the prototypes, and implement one or two pilot programs for 2020. People who participate in the pilot program(s) will be asked to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot(s) and help the Innovation Team determine recommendations for 2021 which may include an expansion of the 2020 pilot into other neighborhoods.



  • February 2020 - Innovation Team "bootcamp" - initial user-centered-design training and initial data collection and research into leaf collection in other communities
  • March - June 2020 - Pause due to re-assignment of resources to address needs introduced by COVID-19 
  • July 2020 - Issue resident survey on the leaf collection service and interpret the results
  • August 2020 - Plan for community meetings
  • September 2020 - Community meetings #1 and #2; prototype selections
  • October 2020 - Prototype iterations; pilot selection(s)
  • November - December 2020 - Pilot implementation
  • January 2020 - Community meeting #3, pilot evaluation and recommendation to Public Works for 2021 leaf collection program



Contact Innovation Director Devta (DAVE-tuh) Kidd at or 812.349.3552