2020 Sustainability Awards: The show couldn’t go on, but recycling excellence recognition does!

Each year Sustain Charlotte hosts an awards ceremony to celebrate the work that is being done in the community to advance smart growth and sustainability. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reschedule, and ultimately cancel, our planned Earth Day 2020 event. A decision was made to save the 2020 nominee applications for the Individual, Small Business, Large Business, Building Project, Nonprofit, and Government Agency categories for the 2021 Sustain Charlotte Sustainability Awards. Next year we will also encourage additional project submissions for award consideration.

Upon sharing our decision with our Gold Partner, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste, we asked if they would like to take a similar approach for their Recycling Excellence Award. We were delighted to hear they decided to uphold the 2020 competition as the projects submitted were too exciting to wait an entire year to publicly recognize.

Recycling Excellence Award Competition

There was a broad spectrum of nominees for this award that included individuals, non-profits, small businesses and large corporations. The submitted projects had vastly differing levels of resources and thus the outcome impacts differed greatly in scale. The judges had a very difficult time with the award scoring and final verdict. Ultimately, it was clear two projects stood out above the rest and they both needed to receive acknowledgement.

The Recycling Excellent Award Judging Criteria included:

  • Creative/Innovative solutions to waste reduction and/or recycling
  • Inspires/Educates others
  • Benefits the broader community
  • Approach can be scaled up
  • Strengthens the local economy

We would like to announce and congratulate the two 2020 Recycling Excellence Award recipients: Nourish Charlotte and PNC Music Pavilion!

100% Post Consumer recycled glass awards

100% post-consumer recycled glass awards

Recycling Excellence Award Winners

Award announcement made via Zoom with the winners on August 12, 2020

Small Business: Nourish Charlotte

Nourish Charlotte is a small business that employs 10-15 team members and was launched in 2012 by chef/owner, Julia Simon. It is Charlotte’s first plant-based, locally sourced, almost 100% organic, whole-foods based, healthy prepared-food delivery service. They deliver food weekly to 100’s of customers from Mooresville, North Carolina to northern South Carolina (with optimized delivery routes, of course, to minimize CO2 as much as possible.)

Nourish uses a lot of packaged materials weekly! Over the past 8 years, they’ve overcome challenges and put themselves through an ongoing educational process to reduce, reuse, and of course, recycle right. They received three “Green Crown” awards in 2019 in recognition of this journey.

Reusable takeaway containers stacked on counter

They have made huge strides in the past few years to reduce their waste, while also working to educate their customers to do the same.

Through composting, reusing containers and recycling combined, they produce less refuse than 90% of kitchens nationwide (scaled to volume). Their events are also low or no waste.

Nourish educates their customers and the larger community in several ways by:

  • Including sustainability information in every order.
  • Creating blog articles, social media posts and other content to educate the public on waste reduction, recycling and sustainability.
  • Hosting in-person educational events for food vendors.

Large Business: PNC Music Pavilion

At PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte, sustainability is not a fad, it is a way of life.

The amphitheater became the first Live Nation venue to hit zero waste by diverting over 90% of their concert generated waste from the landfill and have maintained their title as the Live Nation venue with the highest diversion rate nationally.

Zero waste stations are installed around the venue offering fans as well as food vendors an easy way to separate recycling, compost, and landfill trash.  Water refill stations are located around the venue to encourage refilling water bottles, reducing the amount of plastic water bottles used.

PNC Pavillion Zero Waste Station

In 2018, the venue eliminated plastic straws, and serves food and beverages in recyclable or compostable containers.  Through a partnership with Earth Farms, the venue composted nearly 97,000 lbs. of food scraps and organic material in 2019. Additionally, they recycled nearly 150,000 lbs., and donated nearly 2,400 lbs. of clothing through fan-supported on-site clothing drives.

There is a zero-waste team of 10 individuals, led by Mac Goodrum, venue Operations Director, and Katrina Pitts, Sustainability Coordinator. Katrina directly manages the on-site zero-waste team, promotes sustainability efforts and tracks all program data.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)

Leaf Burrito Reusable Yard Debris Bag is a revolutionary yard waste collection product invented in Charlotte. This durable mesh bag eliminates the need for single-use plastic bags, diverting thousands of bags from landfills. The company’s goal is to create a Burrito Factory in an Opportunity Zone where it hopes to create over 1,000 jobs. The company also plans on using locally sourced recycled materials to create the product’s components.

Leaf Burrito has partnered with several local sustainability organizations to expand waste reduction awareness, even outside of yard debris. Through visible curbside messaging printed on their bags, they believe  waste reduction education will go viral in Mecklenburg County.

My Mindful Nest is a small business owned by Renee Haywood, a Green Leader through the Sustainable Furnishings Council and a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organization Professionals. Inspired by her personal journey with breast cancer, she took a closer look at the correlation of clutter and quality of life. Their recycling practices include:

  1. Providing Eco Audits to examine household habits to determine how to dramatically decrease the use of single-use plastics.
  2. Offering community presentations on how to set up a low waste kitchen by composting and moving away from prepackaged foods, as well as ways to eliminate single-use plastics outside of the home.
  3. Sharing regular sustainability tips on Facebook

South Park Lions Club is a non-profit that collects used eyeglasses, cell phones, hearing aids, and ink cartridges. The South Park Lions Club collects used eyeglasses from businesses, churches, grocery stores, and more. The eyeglasses are used internationally on clinic mission trips worldwide. Our program focuses on “Reuse”, one of the key tactics “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” to reduce waste.

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