How you can stop using single-use plastics and more

If you’re not using plastic bags, you’re on the right track, according to the panelists at our November Grow Smart CLT event. Same if you’re working to reduce your food wasted, or reading up on which products can actually be recycled curbside.

David Valder speaks

Photos by Grant Baldwin Photography

But it can’t stop there. We need to share the information we learn with our friends, family, neighbors, and we need to be advocates to local government and product manufacturers. That was the message that rang out loud and clear when our panel of waste experts came together to talk about the challenges Charlotte faces, and ways audience members can help. We were excited to have Jeffrey Smithberger, Director of Mecklenburg County Solid Waste, Rob Phocas, Director of the City of Charlotte’s Sustainability Office, Damon Barron with Carolina Urban Lumber, David Valder with Crown Town Compost, and Marc Mataya of Leaf Burrito to share their knowledge, insights, and ideas with our attendees.

Audience question

Photos by Grant Baldwin Photography

Jeffrey shared insights about what recycling truly is for Mecklenburg County, and stressed that most residents have no idea what happens to trash or recyclables when they’re taken “away”. Rob shared the exciting new Green Seal program that Charlotte has launched, which certifies businesses as sustainable. (Free Range Brewing, where our event happened, is one of the first three to be certified!) Marc demonstrated his unique invention, the Leaf Burrito, which eliminates the need for single-use plastic bags for yard and leaf waste, and which is now permitted to be used across Charlotte. David made a compelling case for the need to reduce food waste and to compost, and Damon shared why he chose to start Carolina Urban Lumber and recycle trees that reach the end of their lives.

At the end of the discussion our panelists left audience members with some simple ways they can each make an impact to reduce waste.

David: Try composting your food for a week, you’ll be surprised how much you throw away. If you don’t want to smell it, freeze it.

Marc: Stop buying plastic bags for leaves, use a Leaf Burrito instead!

Rob: Be advocates for this topic, share your thoughts with elected officials as well as your networks.

Damon: Plant a tree. It may not be reach the end of its life during our lifetimes, but it will be there for future generations.

Jeffrey: Visit to learn more about what can be recycled, and don’t use plastic bags.

Grow Smart questions

Photos by Grant Baldwin Photography

As Charlotte continues to grow by 44 people every day, the problem of what to do with our waste isn’t going away. That’s why we’re so excited about these innovative ways to reduce waste, right here in our community. Make sure to check out each of our panelists’ websites to learn more!

If you want to see the whole panel discussion, you can view the video here.

Thanks for reading!

As a nonprofit, community support is essential for us to keep doing what we do — including providing free articles like this. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting Sustain Charlotte.

Want to stay in the loop? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.