City of Bloomington launches “1,000 households who mulch” challenge to improve city service delivery

BLOOMINGTON – In a report to the Bloomington City Council Wednesday evening, the City’s Director of Innovation Devta Kidd announced an expansion of a 2020 pilot program designed to evaluate and improve the City’s leaf collection system. 

The 1,000 Households Who Mulch Challenge seeks 1,000 Bloomington households to commit to mulching and composting most of the leaves on their property and opting for a new on-demand vacuum-based leaf collection only if needed at the very end of the leafing season.   

The Challenge expands a 2020 pilot in which 22 households worked with an interdepartmental group led by the Office of Innovation and the Department of Public Works to reimagine the City’s leaf management system in better alignment with the City’s goals for environmental and economic sustainability, as captured in Mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative.  The pilot demonstrated that mulching and composting most leaves on-site can eliminate or reduce the need for leaf collection by a vacuum truck. 

At The Challenge site, residents may register to participate, serve as a Yard Leader, or challenge other neighborhoods.  Through a partnership with EarthKeepers Compost, officially registered participants in The Challenge qualify for a 50 percent discount off unlimited kitchen waste compost collection from September through December.  Additionally, the two neighborhoods with the highest percentage of participating households will be offered the opportunity to have a kitchen waste compost drop-off location in their neighborhood. 

Results of the The 1,000 Households Who Mulch Challenge will be collected and evaluated by a Steering Team comprising City staff from across departments, a participant in the 2020 pilot, and a representative from the Center for Sustainable Living.  EarthKeepers Compost and the Monroe County Solid Waste District Citizens’ Advisory Council will serve in an advisory capacity.  The team will provide recommendations to City leadership regarding the future of the leaf management system.  

Mayor John Hamilton

“This expansion of our leafing pilot is how we innovate to deliver a basic City service more efficiently and sustainably,” said Mayor John Hamilton.  “We know change can be challenging, but also rewarding.  Nurturing innovation helps us rethink and improve existing processes so they better align with our community’s goals.”

Established by Mayor Hamilton in late 2016, the City’s Office of Innovation helps City departments increase organizational effectiveness, creates a culture of collaboration and innovation, and prepares for future needs. 

Devta Kidd

“Innovation at the City of Bloomington can be the creation of a tool, or modifying an existing tool; it can be questioning whether the way we’ve always done things meets the needs of the day; or it could be using an existing capability like our wastewater analysis for a new purpose,” said Kidd in her presentation to Council June 16.  “City employees have always been innovative — long before we had a Director of Innovation — but the results of their creativity were happening in pockets, and it wasn’t being shared throughout the organization.  Through our success stories documentation, our innovation celebrations, and our innovation training groups, we’re sending the message that not only can anyone in the organization innovate, we want you to.”

To learn more about innovative tools, processes, and collaborations that have improved the delivery of City services, please visit the Innovation Success Stories page on the City website or watch the Innovation Celebration