Chapter 7, You Can Start a Home Composting Education Program

drawing of man with a compost pileThe material in this chapter is designed to help you start a local public-private approach to community wide home composting. One or more people can take the initiative to begin a home composting program.

In a community with an established Keep America Beautiful System (KAB) program the home composting program can be put in place almost immediately. The home composting committee or subcommittee can be incorporated into this system because the mission of the home composting group fits in with that of the Keep America Beautiful System (KAB), Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. If there is no program look for another established organization within which to work. Often the Chamber of Commerce or the Garden Club has an environmental concerns committee which would incorporate the effort. An affiliation with an established organization is most helpful and will save time and energy which could otherwise be spent working directly with friends and neighbors to encourage lots of people to start composting at home.

Affiliation with another organization with a similar mission is desirable, but what if this is not possible? How can one or just a few begin a simple but well organized program to encourage composting at home? Each individual is the center of a network of resources, contacts and information. This network can be used to help a small group create a community-wide program. Picture the network as a badly knotted fish net with many cells, linked to all others, directly or indirectly.

One way to explain what to do in order to start a home composting education program is talk about its three parts. In the beginning these parts will be in order, like steps 1, 2 and 3. After the action begins the program will be involved with all three parts simultaneously. Then your program will be a dynamic and effective one. The steps are:

  1. Organization
  2. Planning
  3. Action

Organization

Organization begins with an introductory meeting(s) which puts a leader and team in place. The first meeting(s) with local elected officials and other leaders will acquaint them with home composting and how it can be a cost saver for the government as well as for each home owner. These meetings may be initiated by a local elected official, a citizen interested in a home composting initiative, a civic and/or a special interest group. Endorsement and support of the local elected officials for the mission of reducing the amount of yard trimmings which is collected and buried in landfills is the objective of the first meeting(s). The outcome one expects from these meetings is the appointment by the chief elected officer of at least one person charged with finding ways to accomplish the mission.

At this point spend the time needed to get the first meeting(s) in local media.

A well planned publicity program is an integral part of a home composting initiative.

Even if the action is taken by one person, this aspect of the effort is of primary importance. See the appendix for publicity techniques.

Getting the word out about home composting has four (4) purposes:

  • to create and/or improve the image of a community working together on important solid waste management issues, especially on home composting of yard trimmings
  • to tell the community the negatives of making yard trimmings leave home and the positives of keeping them at home and making them work
  • to provide all media with organized information on home composting and the program on a regular basis
  • to provide recognition for local elected officials and volunteers.

Planning

In a community education program made up of volunteers committed to the orientation of others to home composting, two elements dominate during planning. They are:

  1. Identification and affirmation of the preferences of each volunteer working in the program.
  2. Setting up an annual calendar (plan) of actions which reflects these individual preferences and takes into account other important community activities.

The publicity component, vital at the beginning, continues. It will ensure community awareness of individual and group activities related to composting at home and recruit more participation in the program.

It is worth repeating that the mission of the home composting initiative is to reduce the amount of yard trimmings which is collected and buried in landfills by encouraging individuals to begin composting at home. Build on community acceptance of recycling as you work on home composting. Composting at home is recycling.

Next on the agenda is the writing of a plan. To avoid stalling out and to keep the enthusiasm high when the talk turns to goals, point out that goals are the ideas of an individual or a group about how to accomplish the mission. When these ideas are shared in open discussions with respect for personal preferences, a plan or calendar for the year will soon emerge.

One of the best tools for a home composting initiative is an annual calendar. It is easy to produce and provides a guide for everyone. Although its dates may be tentative at first, this listing helps expose the scope of the initiative to each and all. A quarterly revision may be helpful.

At this point, make a special effort to recognize everyone who has worked to create the calendar (goals). A pat on the back can do wonders to motivate them to start to share their enthusiasm and knowledge about composting at home. Have a covered dish supper, invite the local officials who have been briefed on the contributions made by volunteers. It will provide a media event at which the calendar can be publicized.

Action

The activities on the calendar must reflect the personal preferences of volunteers that are involved. Each volunteer will have talents which can be used in the program. Two primary kinds of activities they can choose from are:

  • Preparation of materials: writing, typing, copying, organizing, graphics, photography;
  • Organizing: workshops/conferences/phone consulting
  • Teaching/talking: on the phone, at meetings, workshops, at the demonstration site (this may be in a yard in the neighborhood)

The guiding principle for effectiveness in this volunteer work is to know yourself, express your personal preferences and to begin right away in activities in which you are comfortable. You are composting at home because you are convinced that it is in your best interest as well as being a way you make a positive contribution to efforts to address one of the greatest challenges of the late twentieth century: solid waste management. Your sincerity will win others in the settings of your choice.

Seek assistance in organizing the home composting education. Contact a KAB Executive Director in a nearby county for ideas and support if you are “on your own”. If she cannot provide what you need she will suggest another contact. Above all, keep the mission in mind. Involve yourself in actions which encourage others to reduce the amount of yard trimmings which are going into the landfills by composting at home.

Getting Started

Putting together a program to encourage composting at home is a simple process which requires organization, planning and action. The process involves getting answers to key questions and asking local elected officials as well as friends and neighbors for their support.

The work begins when you start composting at home and decide to share your conviction that composting at home should be promoted as an alternative to burying yard trimmings in landfills. You will begin to encourage others to begin composting at home and at the same time be on the look out for others who will join you in the mission until lots of volunteers are involved.

Recognition of volunteers working with you is an essential part of an effective home composting program. Your efforts to find ways to praise, say thanks and provide recognition to the others must be unceasing. Studies show that recognition by peers is the single most important motivator in organizations, even those that provide salaries for work.

You are an expert on your community. You know its unique characteristics, the preferences and attitudes of these people. Use this knowledge. It will lead you to people that can help get the program started.

Hold on to your vision. “Think globally. Act locally” is a slogan which applies to a home composting education program. You will be joining millions of others on Earth who are concerned about the management of solid waste. You can give credibility to the mission.

Suggestion: Make a list of “movers and shakers”. Ask some of them this question. “Who can help give the home composting message clout?”

There are groups in your community that have a vested interest in this project. These are people that think it can benefit them. These are also people who think it can hurt them. Remember that self interest is working in all of us. Find out which organizations are likely to benefit. These will be a source of all kinds ofsupport for your program. Be alert to actions and talk which are negative for your program. Know your opposition.

Suggestion: Make a list of organizations already involved in solid waste issues and waste reduction.

Continue to meet with the persons you have found to be helpful, widen your network. Communication with them will get your program going and keep it lively.

In the beginning the most important output of information on home composting will be personal and local. Spreading the word on a personal and local level will remain important throughout the life of the program. You start your publicity program when you begin to talk with your closest supporters about composting at home. In order to encourage lots of people to compost at home an organized publicity plan will be needed. Suggestions on how to create one can be found later in the chapter.

Publicity

I. Purpose

The purpose of the publicity program is two-fold:

  • To provide public information on home composting as a means of recycling and therefore a way of reducing costs of collection and landfilling yard trimmings.
  • To encourage all citizens to begin recycling yard trimmings right away.

When the mission of the individual or group involved in the home composting program is successfully communicated, the entire community will learn how to participate in its activities and/or how to begin composting at home. The most effective kind of publicity is happening when each volunteer talks about home composting with friends, at work, meetings, church during the day’s routine. However, a publicity plan is very important inall kinds of public education initiatives, including that relating to solid waste management. Home composting activities should be presented in various ways in order to let all citizens know that home composting is easy and is an important part of the solid waste management program in the community.

Citizens who do not yet participate may still make valuable contributions by making suggestions to those who are active, if they are kept well informed. Citizen involvement in community activities is directly related to the quality of communication available to them about the positive activities of those promoting home composting. A well-designed publicity program can raise the level of awareness and interest in solid waste management issues such as home composting within the community and with other communities.

A directory of all local and regional media which lists contact persons, addresses, phone numbers and deadlines is basic to a good publicity program.

II. When To Start

A publicity plan (calendar) should be in place within a couple of weeks after the decision is made by one or more persons that home composting is a worthy community improvement effort. A segment of a publicity calendar (plan) is provided below to indicate that publicity should be regular, often and varied for best results. Like any effective plan it should include input from the volunteers interested in and willing to work on the home composting project.

  • Home Composting Program
  • Publicity Plan
  • Example

Apr 20 News releases to local/regional newspapers; re: Special home composting workshop including April grand opening dates for all demonstration sites in Texas

Apr 30 Tape report on workshop for local radio station.

May 4 Invite local media to cover the workshop presented to local elected officials; provide brochures on home composting, mulching and grasscycling prior to the meeting

May 8 Report to City Council; ask for support and propose appointment (have list of name(s) prepared in case its asked for) of persons interested in home composting to a home composting committee

May10 Radio Station plays PSAs on home composting made by local elected official if possible.

May 20 News release/Pictures of people appointed with local elected official to local print media

May 25 Radio Tapes produced – PSA’s for promotion of home composting

Jun 16 News release; re: calendar of activities planned in Fall; special feature on grasscycling and other kinds of mulching with grass clippings

Jun 17 Fall poster contests at schools arranged with elementary principals; re: home composting, landfills

Jun 25 TV arrangements complete for August filming re: Chief Elected Official filling his compost bin at home

Jul 30 Feature in magazine section of regional newspaper; pictures of local officials, Home Composting Committee.

Publicity Techniques

Newspapers … How to Use Them

The printed word in the columns of the daily and weekly newspapers is the most accepted form of indirect communication. Figure out which newspaper(s) are actually read in your community. In dealing with the working press, there are nine good rules to follow in establishing “good press relations.”

  1. Know the newspaper’s deadlines. Send your news release at least four days before the date of the event you are publicizing.
  2. Do not ask the editor to take your notice over the phone. Write names, facts and figures down for him … fewer mistakes!
  3. Have some ideas of your own before calling the paper to ask for a feature or pictures. If the editor likes your ideas, he will help you develop the story.
  4. Keep your copy clean (short and to the point). Don’t add a lot of extra details just to fill up space.
  5. Don’t complain to the editor that other community projects get more headlines than yours but do write or call with a thank you when a story does appear even when your story is not published as submitted.
  6. Do not send a follow-up story about a meeting unless asked. If an event or speech is outstanding, thenewspaper will send a reporter to cover it after your first announcement.
  7. If a major project is slow in reaching completion, don’t keep sending the same information to the editor. Create fresh news angles, generate news by stressing the people involved.
  8. Remember that editors are human. A thank you for good press coverage is always appreciated.
  9. Contact only one person about the story. Don’t give the story to the society editor on Monday and then call the news editor the next day and give him the same item.

How to Write a News Release

Here are some specific suggestions concerning the physical preparation of a news story. A professional appearance will get better reception for your release. Just give the facts! A good news release is written in simple, readable style. It is short, factual, easy to read, easy to understand and must be accurate.

To write a news release, follow the five “W’s.” Tell: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and in most cases, How. When you answer the five “W’s,” you have a news story! Incorporate these facts in your first paragraph. Other information that follows should be arranged in order of “decreasing importance” so that the release may be cut from the bottom up if necessary.

When in doubt, ask a one of the newspaper staff. See example below:

For more information contact:
Mr. Marty Baker
Associate Professor & Extension Specialist
P.O. Box 220 Overton, Texas 75684
(XXX/XXX-XXXX)

For Immediate Release:

Nacogdoches County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jane Doe announced today that the county’s public education program in solid waste reduction was given a boost on March 2, 1993, when the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) in Austin awarded a grant to Nacogdoches County for the construction of a permanent home composting demonstration site. The grant has been made possible by funding from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and the Texas Water Commission for the purpose of encouraging the recycling of yard clippings in Texas through the Texas Home Composting Project, Clean Cities 2000 Program and Texas Master Gardener’s.

Each year in Texas, over one million tons of material from our yards are buried in landfills which are costly to the taxpayer and may cause environmental concerns. Yard clippings can be an asset instead of a liability. Texas citizens, recycling yard clippings in every region, can help reach the statewide goal of reducing the amount of material deposited in landfills by 25%.

Many residents of Nacogdoches and other Texas counties will participate in the Texas Clean Cities 2000 Program and the Home Composting Project according to Extension Specialist M. L. “Marty” Baker, TAEX. A strong impact on the region’s population is expected because of the sites. In addition, a regional educational program in recycling by home composting will be centered at the site.

Grants from TAEX and TNRCC were also provided to establish home composting demonstration sites in other communities. They include Nacogdoches (TNRCC sponsored “Clean Cities 2000″ city in East Texas), Conroe, Beaumont and research site at the Texas Agricultural Research and Extension Center, District 5 & 9, Rusk County, Overton.

Each site will carry the message that whereas burying materials from our yards and gardens in landfills carries a high cost, recycling them by mulching and composting is easy, low in cost and highly beneficial to all soils and plants, including grass. Inexpensive homemade compost bins and a variety of purchased composting containers will be on display. The uses and benefits of mulch and compost will be visible in areas planted with shrubs and flowers. Signs and other educational materials such as hand outs will offer information to visitors of all ages. Also, information showing them how to start a system at home which will turn their yard clippings into mulch and/or compost will be available.

To further expand home composting education throughout the state, TAEX will provide regional home composting workshops this Spring. Volunteers willing to provide 40 hours of home composting training in their communities will also be trained in Master Gardener’s schools sponsored by TAEX.

Some news story suggestions:

  1. Develop a series: “Composting at Home and—Local Elected Officials, Garden Club Members, etc.”
  2. Special events, Grand Openings, Workshops, Reports to local elected officials.
  3. Profiles of team leader or other volunteers.
  4. Recognition by local elected official,awards of composting team members.
  5. Editorials –the front page is important but people read the editorials, too. Letters to the editor and classified ads are read closely, especially in smaller communities.
  6. Picture stories –it’s still true ” A picture is worth a thousand words”.

The Wire Service and Community News

Most news stories on community topics are of interest to local citizens only. But, there are times when a story will have regional or national appeal. This is where the national wire services come into the picture. These wire services include the Associated Press and the United Press International. You local newspaper editor can give you the phone numbers and addresses of the wire service offices in your area. Remember that wire services are a communications tool for your community.

Radio and TV … How to Use Them

There are three types of program publicity available to you from radio and TV stations in your community: news broadcasts, spot announcements and interviews. Rely on radio and TV for the speed they offer in getting your message to the community. Take advantage of community service notices provided by Cable TV.

Steps to Follow in Preparing News Releases for Radio and TV:

  1. Copy should be brief. Give only the key facts.
  2. Writing style should be conversational. Use easilyunderstood words and short sentences.
  3. For radio and TV, the heart of the story is usually in the middle rather than at the beginning.
  4. Opening sentences must lead to the core of the story so that people who are “half listening” will still catch the story when the commentator presents it.
  5. Spot announcements should be short and lively! No announcement should be longer than one minute; 20-30 second spots are preferred.
  6. For TV, furnish a 35mm slide (2″ by 2″ mount) when possible with your story. If your local station has a mobile camera unit, get film coverage when possible. Call assignment editor in advance to give schedule of composting event.

Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

Examples

Ask city officials, team members and other leading citizens to make tapes. The radio and TV stations will cooperate.

Script examples:

“Why make your leaves leave home? Make them work for you by composting and mulching at home. Support the statewide goal of reducing the amount of material buried in landfills by 25% by 1996. Help make this happen. Do your part by composting at home.”

“Composting at home helps make Texaston an attractive and Progressive city, a good all around place to live and work. Help make this happen. Do your part by composting at home.”

“A good solid waste reduction effort means pulling our community together. Everyone can take part in composting at home. It can make a difference in our community. Do your part.”

“Visit the Texaston Home Composting Demonstration Site. The Grand Opening is April 28 at the Neighborhood Service Center on Central Avenue. Learn how easy composting at home can be. You can do it”.

“Making Texaston the best. That’s the goal of our local officials, the Garden Council, and the Clean Community Commission. They are joining together to carry out our city’s Integrated Solid Waste Management program. Congratulations to all involved for working together to improve our community and good luck.”

Mayor:

“Texaston is a fine city. Working together, we can make it better, even the best. Our present goal for progress is reducing the amount of materials going into the landfill. Each resident can begin composting at home. It’s the right thing to do.”

President, Chamber of Commerce:

“Texaston is a thriving city. Together, we can really put it on the map. Our goal for progress is recognition as a well managed community. Do your part to make it happen. Recycle yard trimmings. Call the Chamber office for more information.”

City Clerk:

“Texaston is a great hometown. We can improve it for ourselves and new residents by working together. Our goal for progress is involvement of all citizens. Do your part by composting at home. It saves tax money and makes the town more beautiful. Call City Hall for more information.”

Garden Council:

“Texaston is a lovely city. Working together, we can give it a lift by composting at home. Join in the effort to reduce the amount of yard trimmings the city must collect and bury in the landfill. Use the compost in the garden. It’s great for our sandy soil and saves on the water bill. Do your part. Call for more information.”

In all cases, when working with radio and TV stations, give them as much advance time as possible. Their programming schedules are developed weeks in advance. Get to know your station manager and the program director. These people are valuable members of your publicity team. Keep records of the use of radio and TV because you won’t have clippings to show. Record the date, type of program and subject matter of each radio and TV exposure.

Magazines

There are quarterly and monthly magazines which accept well-written articles about small town community development efforts. Examples are: Urban Ga., GMA, ACCG, Small Town. This is an excellent means of promoting your community efforts in home composting.

Newsletters

Many local groups (don’t overlook the churches, industries and businesses) publish newsletters that are read closely by their members. It is a rare newsletter editor who won’t welcome a short article about members involved in the home composting effort. Use this source.

Popular Direct Mail Formats

Direct mailings of booklets, bulletins and leaflets are useful after projects are started.

Public Speaking

Speaking before clubs, business groups and other community organizations is a most effective and desirable method for reaching audiences with specific information. The Publicity Chairperson may wish to establish a “Speakers Bureau” and prepare a list of knowledgeable persons who will speak to groups on CDC activities. This communications approach will raise community awareness and promote active citizen participation.

Educational Films and Visual Aids

The use of 8 and 16mm films, slide presentations, VCRs and other visual aids such as posters and charts is an effective and often dramatic way of telling the good news about local people composting at home.

In addition, educational films relating to home composting may be motivating.

  1. The county library will have lists of films available from State and Federal agencies.
  2. Slide presentations can be assembled by arranging 35mm slides in sequence to complement your script for the presentation. Slide projectors can be rented from audio/visual supply shops or borrowed from civic clubs, churches and schools.
  3. Posters and charts on civic improvements make good projects for school art classes … and good viewing for your audience. It gets young people involved, too!
  4. Engage a local video enthusiast to film your meetings, local recognition dinner and other activities.

Other Ways to “Toot Your Horn”

  1. Window Displays … get your local merchants in on the act. Put a display on composting and mulching in a shop window for a week or month. This might be a good way to use an empty store front.
  2. Bumper Stickers and Car Tags … novel ways to remind everyone that your community is on the move.
  3. Theater/Motel/Bank Marquee Signs or Portable Signs … get the manager to spell out your message once a month when the group meets.
  4. Church Sermons … get the local church groups behind your efforts, especially during stewardship programs.

The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service is implied.

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

Publication Revised February 2009

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