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Page last updated on April 29, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Mow mulching with electric mower - Yard sign in yardMulch Much?

By the September 1, 2021 deadline, 493 eligible households enrolled in this pilot program.


The 1,000 Households Who Mulch project was an expansion and iteration of a 22-household pilot completed in 2020 which challenged households to mulch and compost as much as possible,  put any excess leaves in bags for collection by the yard waste crew, and NOT USE THE VACUUM SERVICE. The motivation for the project was a request by the City Council to look into a method for managing our leaves that costs less and pollutes less than our current vacuum collection method.  You can read about the 2020 effort here.


While the 22-household pilot was largely successful, it was still only 22 households. In 2021, we were looking for 1,000 HOUSEHOLDS to try mulching and composting as much as possible with some added support.

Pilot Activity Calendar


The program included some tasty incentives:


  • Everyone who signed up and wanted them received free yard waste bags.
  • If you were part of the pilot and you set out yard waste bags of leaves, you were not be charged a fee. Note that there is always a $1/bag or City of Bloomington yard waste cart for yard waste like trimmings, sticks, and limbs. 
  • The first 100 households to sign up and specify that they will use yard waste bags also received a free yard waste bag holder like this one.
  • Everyone who signed up got a coupon good for 1/2-off a 4-month subscription to EarthKeepers kitchen waste compost drop-off service (which amounts to $6/month if you choose to subscribe).
  • The two of the neighborhoods with the most folks registered by August 1 (Park Ridge East and a tie between Bryan Park and Elm Heights), had the option of locating an EarthKeepers kitchen waste compost drop-off enclosure in their own neighborhood. UPDATE: The location for the Park Ridge East folks is at Bloomingfoods East; the location for Bryan Park and Elm Heights is in the parking lot of the Bryan Park pool.
  • For folks who were not sure how to mulch or compost, we supplied literature, a bevvy of hands' on demonstrations, and even a yard consult.
  • When registering to participate, some neighborhoods challenged one another as to who could set out the LEAST number of yard waste bags per participating household. Click here to see the results for all neighborhoods. 
  • The top 10 neighborhoods with the biggest difference between challengers were awarded a native plant garden in a box as well as a sign indicating that they won a challenge.




Avers Pizza LogoGRANDVIEW HILLS was the neighborhood with the lowest average # of yard waste bags set out for collection per participating household. They won a grand prize block party with pizza for up to 100 people, sound system supplied by the City (with noise permit) and money for a sno-cone or popcorn machine, with compostable trash service Earthkeepers Compostby EarthKeepers Compost. To be eligible for the grand prize, your neighborhood had to have had at least 13 participating households by September 1. There were 13 neighborhoods who were eligible for the grand prize. Click here to see results for the "lucky 13". 


Indiana Wildlife Federation LogoThe top ten neighborhoods who won their neighborhood challenge (fewest # of yard waste bags per participant) will be gifted a "garden in a box" from the Indiana Wildlife Federation and may select from a native pollinator series or a native rain garden series. The winners were:

Ashwood (v. Spicewood)

Blue Ridge (v. Hoosier Acres)

Bryan Park (v. Elm Heights, Prospect Hill, Park Ridge East, Arden Place)

Gentry Estates (v. Covernanter)

Green Acres (v. Park Ridge)

McDoel Gardens (v. Broadview, Bryan Park)

Park Ridge East (v. Park Ridge, Hoosier Acres, Bryan Park, Prospect Hill)

Pigeon Hill (v. Bryan Park, Maple Heights)

Renwick (v. Arden Place)

Sycamore Knolls (v. Arden Place)




The Library is Open!

REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS: Took a survey to help us establish baseline expectations and had access to the information below. 

1 - Consult the FAQs of Mulching and Composting here. Note: this list continues to grow and change, so check back often for more content. Don't see your question listed? Join the closed Facebook group for the pilot at and post your question there!

2 - Attend a hands-on composting and mulching demonstration. [Nine demos were offered from August 1 - September 25.] 

3 - Get 1:1 help from a yard leader to help you plan or improve your composting. [15 yard consultations were conducted from October 5 - November 13.]

4 - Get a soil health assessment. [132 interested households were sent a sign-up form for this option.]

5 - Free yard waste bags and bag holders were provided for pick-up at the downtown Monroe County Public Library location and at the front desk of City Hall on a variety of days and at a variety of times. 

6 - For those needing physical help raking and/or bagging in October and November, we asked them to read the "Do's and Don'ts" and then sign up for assistance with Helping Hands at their website or by sending them an email. 

7 - Finally, anyone who wanted to try the on-demand vacuum collection for free December 6-23 was asked to sign up for the service using these instructions (




Why do YOU mulch and compost? Did you always manage leaves in this way or did something change? Here are a few stories from our steering team staff:

Devta Kidd - Director of Innovation
Devta Kidd - Director of Innovation
Michael Large - Public Works Special Projects/Operations Manager
Michael Large - Public Works Special Projects / Operations Manager













Why Did We Do This?

In 2020, an interdepartmental group led by the Office of Innovation and the Department of Public Works collaborated with residents to reimagine the City's leaf management system. We did this to see if there was a more cost-effective, less carbon-intensive method to manage leaves and keep them out of streets, storm drains, and off of sidewalks. You can read the full story of their journey here, but here's the gist:

  • 22 pilot households proved that it is possible to not collect leaves by vacuum truck IF residents mulch and compost most of their leaves on-site.
  • Extra leafy yards found that even after mulching and composting as many leaves as possible, they still had excess which they agreed to bag and set out for the yard waste crew to limit leaves blocking storm drains.
  • Extra-extra leafy yards needed more support and said that they would have preferred the option of vacuuming the excess.
  • Many households said that they would have been more successful in their efforts if they had some education and/or support to understand what can be mulched and/or composted and how to do it properly.


But that was just 22 out of ~ 13,000 households in Bloomington. So, we needed a bigger pilot to see if this is really do-able city-wide. 


Who Was on the Steering Team? 

John Kennedy - Spicewood resident (and participant in the original 22-household pilot)

Stephen Hale – Center for Sustainable Living

Lauren Travis - Assistant Director of Sustainability City of Bloomington

Kriste Lindberg - City of Bloomington Utilities

Adam Wason - Director of Public Works, City of Bloomington

Michael Large - Special Projects and Operations Manager, Public Works, City of Bloomington

Rhea Carter - Director of Sanitation Division, Public Works Department, City of Bloomington

Joe Vandeventer - Director of Street Division, Public Works Department, City of Bloomington

Devta Kidd – Director of Innovation, Office of the Mayor, City of Bloomington


Special thanks to all of our sponsors, participating City departments, and community partners! Click here to see all the organizations who have committed their time, talents, and treasures to making this pilot project possible.