Composting is a truly simple and highly beneficial process. Yet often, many individuals choose instead simply to dispose of food scraps and other compostable materials into the garbage. Statistically, organic materials are the largest component of municipal waste, with paper and paperboard making up 31% of waste, and yard trimmings and food scraps comprising an additional 26% of total waste. Sent away to landfills, these substances must decompose anaerobically, releasing harmful methane gas into the environment and taking years to break down. In reality, none of these organic materials needs to end up in a landfill, where nutrients that could otherwise offer great enrichment to soil are instead trapped indefinitely. An easy and positive alternative, composting offers a way for every individual to tread a little more lightly upon the environment, and to contribute to rich, healthy soil instead of growing, unmanageable heaps of garbage.
Inspired by the popular card game UNO®, Compost Pile UpTM is designed in pursuit of the idea that perhaps the first step to encouraging individuals to compost is to introduce them to the behavior through a simple and enjoyable game. In particular, teaching habits to children from an early age with a game offers not only a way to encourage environmentally conscious behaviors for many years to come, but also provides a manner by which children might be able to take their learning home to share with parents and older siblings. Motivation for developing the game was sparked first in a multidisciplinary course focused on promoting agricultural sustainability in Gujarat, India, concluding in a service-learning trip over our winter break. Tasked with handling education on sustainable practices in schools in conjunction with an established NGO in the region, we found that a simple game using pictures and colors would allow a way to make connections across cultural, age, and language barriers. We developed the game over the course of an academic quarter and then printed the cards, taking several decks abroad with us to share with children in the schools we visited. Upon returning, we also introduced the game to the coordinators of the Cincinnati Civic Center, and plans are currently underway to incorporate the game into their Compost Kids field trip program.