Top 6 Reasons Durham N.C. is the Zero Waste Capital of the U.S.

Today we are writing to those of you who have been wondering why Durham is our home and where we fit in this unlikely hub of waste-battling activism. Durham, North Carolina is bustling with groups taking action with big thinking ideas to combat waste. True to our community’s nature, these groups are tackling our day-to-day problems such as throwing things out that could be reused, recycled or composted or getting takeout in single-use containers. There is no glamour in this work and yet a handful of groups have battled away at these issues to create beauty where there was waste, and smart solutions to the harmful byproducts of our everyday habits that respond to our need for convenience in our busy lives.

Photo courtesy of the Scrap Exchange

#1) The Re-Use Arts District & The Scrap Exchange
 
The Re-Use Arts District is a beautiful illustration of waste and re-use as fuel for creativity, which is at the heart of Durham’s secret power to lead the country in zero waste and reuse activity. The Scrap Exchange predates the arts district taking most any type of item people usually toss out and fill our landfills with. They sort, organize, and house them in a fun, creative space where people can come and gather supplies to build, make and craft. The Scrap Exchange even offers sewing classes and hosts crafting workshops for parties utilizing the materials that were destined for the landfill.

Photo courtesy of Freeman's Creative

This big idea grew and now the Scrap Exchange has taken over the shopping center. You can park your car (or bicycle!) and walk from place to place, picking up materials like fabric from the Scrap Exchange, home decorating items and clothing from their new thrift store and walk them over to an amazing community gem–the Freeman’s Creative–where you can top your items off with crafting supplies you need or attend workshops on sewing or fabric dying, or participate in a fantastic clothing swap where there is screen printing and machines for repairs.

 

Photo courtesy of GreenTogo

#2) GreenTogo/Don’t Waste Durham
 
GreenTogo is the waste-fighting hero for Durham’s foodies who fret over the impact their single-use to go containers are having on Mother Earth. Their unstoppable team has pioneered a subscription service where you pick up your to go food in reusable, BPA-free boxes, and return containers to drop off boxes around town. After successfully battling innumerable challenges launching GreenTogo in Durham, GreenTogo is now fielding requests from cities around the country to bring this Durham-based solution to their communities. Fillaree proudly serves on the Don’t Waste Durham/GreenTogo board and has a business membership to keep our team waste-free as we fuel up with local goodies throughout the day. 

#3) Fillaree(!)
 
Fillaree is beyond proud to be born and raised in Durham. Fillaree came to life with the support of Durham’s progressive, caring, sustainability-minded community members. Reuse through Refill seemed like a brand new idea back in 2013 and the people of Durham told us: “Bring it on!” We make all of our products here in Durham and work our butts off to deliver our innovative solution to keep household plastic waste out of our landfills and oceans and toxins off our bodies and out of our water systems. Like our waste-fighting allies, we sought to create beauty and use creativity to fight the major challenges we saw in the world by creating aromatic, naturally scented bath, body and cleaning products. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any roadmap to follow when building our refillable model for our products. We took it one bottle, one challenge at a time and built our vision. After all, we are Durhamites!  Fillaree is the only company is the U.S. that creates and hand-makes our products with a clear mission to make reuse and refill accessible and convenient for all.  We Love our Bull City.

Green Team Leader, Muriel Williman (right) and super-volunteer, Sandy Skolochenko (left) 

#4) The Green Team: Zero Waste Events
 
An often-overlooked area of waste reduction is events. Can you picture a time when you’ve walked by the trash area at a festival and saw overflowing trash bins from water bottles, soda cups and bits of trash from food vendors exploding onto the ground? Yep, you know as well as we do that events create a lot of trash. Thankfully in Durham, we have dozens of volunteers that work their tails off with the Green Team. The Green Team arrives at events and quite literally works around the clock to divert tons of waste from going to landfills from events such as The Full Frame Film Festival or the Durham-based Eno River Festival, mother of all trash-free festivals in the U.S. Literally.   

Photo courtesy of Compost Now

#5) Compost Services
 
Several local businesses are working on the huge problem of sending compostable food waste to the landfills which simultaneously contributes to green house gas emissions and the degradation of soil quality. Compost Now picks up both residential and commercial compost in the area, originally on bicycles though their operation has now expanded. (Fillaree is a commercial member!) Food Forward provides composting for businesses and events. These groups are using their passion for the environment as fuel to make sure no banana peel or coffee grind heads for the landfill pits. As a result, the practice of composting abounds in Durham, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Photo courtesy of Ungraded Produce

#6) Food Waste
 
We have groups working on trash and food waste, reusing, recycling, repurposing, refilling, but how about all that food that gets wasted? Ungraded Produce takes the “ugly” but delicious and nutritious farm fresh fruits and vegetables and delivers them to your door at 30% less than you would pay at the grocery store. Perhaps better than getting great-tasting food delivered conveniently to your home on the cheap: for each box they deliver they donate a proportion of produce to community pantries to make farm fresh produce accessible to community members in need.
Thank you for being a part of what makes our community great and to those allies in other parts of the U.S. in our work to reduce waste on this beautiful planet we share together. Durham is only one incredible city among many others dedicated to sustainability thanks to resilient community members throughout the world who never give up on Mother Earth. 
 
Does reading this inspire you to start reducing waste in your own home? Let Fillaree help you start your own refill revolution by subscribing to our zero waste subscription service.

As a thank you and welcome to our Fillaree family, here is the discount code you have been waiting for:

Use this link to take $5 off anything in our online shop with the FILLAREEFAMILY discount. 
 
Happy Refilling to our fellow waste warriors taking action to Reduce & Reuse!

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