If it's hard to teach old dogs new tricks, teaching old gardeners might be tricky.
But improving the environment means rethinking the way yard waste is handled.
Portage, like other communities, now expects residents to either haul their grass clippings to a drop-off location, gather them for composting, or simply leave the clippings on the lawn to act as fertilizer -- a policy that requires mowing the lawn more often.
Rather than see this as an inconvenience, residents should look at this as their contribution to the environment, keeping material out of landfills that doesn't belong there.
Portage's new policy calls for a fee of $25 per pickup for collecting grass clippings left at the curb.
The city has two motivations behind the new policy, said Randy Reeder, assistant street department superintendent. The first is to reduce injuries for workers who had to pick up bags of grass clippings that averaged 64 pounds each. The second is to cut costs. Taking grass clippings to landfills last year cost the city $180,000.
Residents who drop off grass clippings at the street department dumpster won't be filling landfills; that yard waste goes to the city's compost site.
The second-best solution is to compost the clippings in the resident's backyard for use in gardens and elsewhere.
The best solution requires a new mindset, but it's environmentally much better to solve this problem by keeping the grass clippings in the same yard where they were created. Let the clips fall where they may.
"We even teach it in backyard composting classes. Leaving it on the lawn is the best action," said Therese Davis, executive director of the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County.
The "not in my backyard" landfill opponents should take up this cause and teach residents that "in my backyard" is best when it comes to grass clippings.