And then there are the rituals of getting groups together to jump-start the decomposition process … yes, we’re talking about smashing pumpkins. In Tucson, Arizona, residents enjoy the spectacle of pumpkins getting flung into the air via giant slings. The first pumpkin-smashing event in Newton, Massachusetts, used pumpkins for basketball and target practice—but the most popular event, as the Boston College newspaper noted, is an open field where people simply throw their pumpkins on the ground. (The remains are collected and composted after the fun is over.)
When Hudson River Park’s Community Compost Program held its first pumpkin-smashing event last year in New York City, it brought more than 500 people together to break down about 1,000 pounds of organic waste. The city of Elgin, Illinois—35 miles northwest of Chicago—meanwhile, has held such an event for the past four years, and said its 2018 event kept 3.72 tons of pumpkin out of the landfill, up from 2.96 tons in 2017, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Saving pumpkins from the landfill can also help tackle food insecurity. Howden pumpkins, the variety used in carving projects, aren’t the tastiest on their own, but can nonetheless be used as ingredients in soups and desserts. In Washington, D.C., the company Compost Cab, which offers composting services to residents and businesses, hosts a program each year where it collects whole, uncarved pumpkins and donates them to community anti-hunger organizations. In 2018, Compost Cab collected five tons of pumpkins, 3,000 pounds of which went to hunger-fighting groups. The company also provides educational programs that teach kids and their families how they can cook their own pumpkins.
As for carved pumpkins, they can still be a treat for farm and zoo animals. In Missoula, Montana, members of the nonprofit compost group Soil Cycle have gone from house to house, knocking on doors and collecting unwanted pumpkins to send to a local farm to be used as animal feed. Last year, according to the organization, the group collected 2,000 pounds of gourds. In Little Rock, Arkansas, the city zoo is asking for pumpkin donations to give to its animals. The Oakland Zoo in California also lets its animals destroy and devour leftover pumpkins.
A whole, uncarved pumpkin can last a long time—up to 12 weeks, by some estimates. Its usefulness is usually much shorter than that after Halloween, but there are plenty of ways to keep it from becoming just another piece of produce rotting in a landfill.
This post appears courtesy of CityLab.
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