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

page last updated Wednesday, September 22, 2021


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


The 1,000 Households Who Mulch project is an expansion and iteration of a 22-household pilot completed in 2020 which challenged households to mulch and compost as much as possible and only put the excess leaves out for collection by the yard waste crew. 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. This year, we are looking for 1,000 HOUSEHOLDS to try mulching and composting as much as possible with some added support. Here is a link to the info packet for all participants. Don't feel like reading? Watch a recording of the 7/29/21 Community Info meeting that goes over all the basics.


The program includes some tasty incentives:


  • Everyone who signs up and wants them will receive free yard waste bags.
  • If you are part of the pilot and you set out yard waste bags of leaves, you will 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 300 households to sign up and specify that they will use yard waste bags will also receive a free yard waste bag holder like this one.
  • Everyone who signs up will get 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), will have the option of locating an EarthKeepers kitchen waste compost drop-off enclosure right in their own neighborhood. A location between Bryan Park and Elm Heights is being explored.
  • Not sure how to mulch or compost? We supply you with literature, a bevvy of hands' on demonstrations, and even a yard consult if you want it!
  • Got a competitive spirit? Challenge another neighborhood and be tracked on our leaderboard! The top 4 neighborhoods with the LEAST yard waste bags per participating household win bragging rights AND a prize for the neighborhood!
  • The neighborhood with the lowest percentage per participant of yard waste bags left out will win 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. EarthKeepers Compost will take care of your organic waste at the event.


Registration to participate in the program closed at midnight on on September 1st!




The Library is Open!THE LIBRARY IS OPEN! 

FOR REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS ONLY: Please take this survey to help us establish baseline expectations. (One survey per household, please)


What kind of support do you need during the pilot?  You can access these services as many times as you like during the pilot.

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. Choose from MANY options on our calendar here.

3 - Get 1:1 help from a yard leader to help you plan or improve your composting. Sign-up here.

4 - Get a soil health assessment. Sign-up link to come.

5 - Get free yard waste bags and bag holder. Complete this form. Note: You must be one of the first 300 households who signed up to be eligible for the bag holder. You can pick up your bags and bag holder at the Monroe County Public Library main branch 6th and Washington parking lot at these times and days:

******NEW DATES**************

  • Thursday 9/23: 5 - 7 PM
  • Friday 9/24: 9 - 11 AM
  • Saturday 9/25: 1 - 3 PM


6 - Need physical help raking and/or bagging in October and November? Read the "Do's and Don'ts" and then sign up by visiting or send an email to

7 - Want to try on-demand vacuum collection for free December 6-23? Sign-up link to come.




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











Here are the current matchups that will be entered on to the Leaderboard:


  • Arden Place v. Renwick
  • Arden Place v. Sycamore Knolls
  • Ashwood v. Spicewood
  • Blue Ridge v. Hoosier Acres
  • Broadview v. McDoel Gardens
  • Bryan Park  v. Arden Place
  • Bryan  Park v. Elm Heights (reciprocated) 
  • Bryan Park v. Pigeon Hill (reciprocated)
  • Bryan Park  v. Prospect Hill
  • Covenanter v. Gentry  Estates
  • Eastside v. Eastside
  • Eastern Heights v. Eastern Heights
  • Hoosier Acres v. Hyde Park
  • Maple Heights v. Pigeon Hill
  • Matlock Heights v. Blue Ridge (reciprocated)
  • Mayfair v. Mayfair
  • McDoel Gardens v. Bryan Park
  • Near West Side v. Waterman
  • Park Ridge v. Green Acres
  • Park Ridge East v. Hoosier Acres (reciprocated)
  • Park Ridge East v. Park Ridge
  • Park Ridge East v. Prospect Hill
  • SOMAX v. Elm Heights (reciprocated)



BE CREATIVE AND HELP EACH OTHER!  What can your neighborhood do to mulch and compost as much as possible in your own yard and set out the fewest number of yard waste bags? Work together on new and innovative solutions!

Avers Pizza LogoOne grand prize will be awarded to the group who sets out the fewest number of yard waste bags per participant. You must have at least 13 participants registered to be eligible for the award. The winning neighborhood will be gifted a block party featuring Avers pizza for 100 people, a sound system and noise permits provided by the City, composting for the event by EarthKeepers, and a $500 grant from the City of Bloomington Housing and Neighborhood Earthkeepers CompostDevelopment for a bounce house and a sno-cone machine!

The top ten neighborhoods who win their neighborhood challenge (fewest # of yard waste bags per participant) will be gifted a "garden in a box" and may select from a pollinator garden or native plant variety.


Challenge Activity Calendar

  • July 29, 2021; 7-8pm; Informational Meeting online via zoom (watch the recording here)
  • April - September 2021: Challenge registration; Yard Leader registration; Hands' on Demos
  • September - December 2021: Challenge participation; neighborhood competition Leaderboard launched
  • January 2022: Challenge results and winning neighborhood announced


Why Are We Doing 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 need a bigger pilot to see if this is really do-able AND we need to support those extra-extra leafy yards in the process.


Who Is 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.