Easy Ways to Reduce your Waste in 2018

We are now over one month into 2018! Whether your resolutions are standing strong or maybe need a little help, we’re here to offer some great tips to keep trying to reduce your impact and waste. It’s important to remember that resolutions don’t have to just start in January and there is always something small you can do to preserve the earth and all it offers us. This is especially important now as, according to an article written by Laura Parker for National Geographic, “Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash.” While that’s a daunting number to tackle, here are a few easy ways to reduce your plastic waste in 2018.

Switch to Reusable Water Bottles and Coffee Cups


Sometimes we create plastic waste without realizing it. Shelves in many commercial stores are stocked weekly with packs of plastic water bottles and packaging. Although these bottles can be recycled, they often end up in the trash. Buying reusable water bottles can help reduce your plastic waste imprint and can save you money. It also takes away the demand for plastic water bottle if you stop buying them which can help reduce the number of water bottles produced.

While you’re switching to reusable water bottles, you might as well switch to a reusable thermos or coffee cup as well. If you start every day or even just a few days a week with coffee, think of how many disposable coffee cups that creates! Those coffee cups can’t be composted or recycled either because the inside is lined with plastic. Switching to using a reusable mug, or even deciding to take a seat and have your coffee there, will make a huge difference for the environment.

Begin Carrying Reusable Bags


In many recycling programs, plastic bags are not accepted with regular recyclables. This means recycling plastic bags may not be as accessible or convenient, leading to increased plastic waste. Instead of using plastic bags, invest in reusable bags. One benefit to this, aside from environmental benefits, is that reusable bags are sturdier; your reusable bags should not rip as easily when compared with plastic bags. If you would like to read more about which reusable bags are most sustainable, check out this article. If you forget your reusable bag, opt for paper instead of plastic because paper bags are biodegradable.

Avoid Personal Care Products that have Microbeads

The ocean is polluted by microplastics, which is the term given to very small plastic debris.  Due to the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 retail stores will have stopped carrying "rinse-off" microbead products starting last month. That being said, there is a loophole in this law since the act only applies to "rinse-off" products like face wash and toothpaste. Make sure to avoid all products with microbeads in them by checking out this list.

Read more about microplastics and the ocean here.

Avoid Plastic Straws


Some may look at the size of plastic straws and think the plastic waste is inconsequential, but they would be wrong. According to thelastplasticstraw.org, “In the U.S., we use 500 million straws a day...enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times or to fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year!” As discussed with microbeads, plastic is not biodegradable; it only breaks down into smaller plastic, which is just as harmful to the environment. A few options include not using a straw, using a biodegradable straw, or even buying a snazzy metal one! If you opt to not use a straw just take an extra second when you're ordering at a restaurant to say "No straw, please!" This is becoming more and more common to say especially with pledge campaigns like #SkiptheStraw.

Avoid Excess Packaging

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It’s difficult to reduce your plastic waste when everything in the store seems to be wrapped in plastic on the inside, outside, or even both! There are still ways to reduce your waste, though. Buying in bulk and bringing reusable, cloth pouches are a fantastic option. Plus, buying in bulk is typically cheaper than buying packaged items!

Otherwise, trying to buy things that are in boxes versus plastic bags and opting for brands that don’t have excessive packaging are all great steps to take. This includes not wrapping your produce in a plastic bag and choosing to use a reusable bag, cloth, or nothing at all instead!

Starting with these small steps can make a great difference on the environmental impact we have on the earth. If you already practice these or want to eliminate your plastic waste entirely, then check out these resources like Zero Waste Week and My Plastic Free Life for more ways to reduce your plastic waste.

Good luck reducing your waste and know that every little bit truly does matter! We will be working with and cheering for you.

How to recycle your Christmas Tree

We all love the holidays, and childhood memories are tied around Christmas trees just like the ribbon that adorns them. Whether you are the family that takes your tree down right after Christmas or leaves it up long past New Year’s Day, at some point your tree will be leaving your home. The most sustainable and eco-friendly option is to recycle your beloved tree! Otherwise, it will end up in a landfill amongst non-biodegradable waste. As a result, it won’t decompose properly or allow its nutrients back into the soil. Recycling your tree will also reduce the impact of deforestation! Instead of living, growing trees being cut down for mulch, your recycled tree can be turned into mulch and wood chips instead.

Natural Christmas trees may be recycled into mulch or wood chips for parks or residents, composted, or even used for creating healthier habitats for certain fish. Natural Christmas trees are better for the environment in the long-term. Many town collection services will pick up Christmas trees with regular disposal services. Check your local collection information for more on Christmas tree recycling curbside pickup because news may be released within the next few weeks. In general, trees should be stripped of all decorations and often need to be under 6 feet. If your Christmas tree is over 6 feet, check local guidelines to find out if it is acceptable for curbside pickup as is. Unfortunately, artificial Christmas trees cannot be recycled. If you are looking to get rid of an artificial tree, we suggest donating it so that it can be reused or repurposing it for as long as possible to lessen the carbon footprint created by artificial trees.

Here are a few resources to make it easy for you to recycle your tree in the Triangle area:


Chatham County will have free Christmas tree recycling this year between December 28th and January 19th at the Main Facility, located at 28 County Services Road, Pittsboro.

The Main Facility is open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3:30 pm (closed on New Year’s Day and MLK Day). If you go before or after the free recycling timeframe, there will be a charge per weight, with a $2 minimum.



“Yard Waste customers” may place their trees on their curbs between January 3 and February 2 to be collected as part of their regular service.  If you are a “Non-Yard Waste customer,” then you must call Durham One Call at 919-560-1200 to request collection.


Drop-off locations (with decal):

Parkwood: 5928 Highway 55

Redwood: 100 Electra Road

Bahama: 9008 Quail Roost Road

*Yard waste (including Christmas trees) is not available at Rougemont



Trees less than 6 feet are categorized as “yard waste” and accepted at the Landfill/Transfer Station: 5 Landfill Road, Franklinton, Franklin County, NC.

The landfill is the only site that accepts yard waste (Off Timberlake Road off of Highway 56 west).



Residents can bring their Christmas trees to the County Landfill: 680 County Home Road, Smithfield. If you have a Solid Waste Decal, you can bring the tree to the County landfill or any of the twelve Solid Waste Convenience Sites in Johnston county:

McGee's Crossroads: 3805 Stephenson Road, Angier

Meadow: 9349 NC Highway 96 South, Benson

South Johnston: 10580 US Hwy 301 South, Benson

Barber Mill: 369 Barber Mill Road, Clayton

Buffalo Road: 15031 Buffalo Road, Clayton

39/42 Junction: 9527 NC Highway 42 East, Kenly

Oak Grove: 5677 US Highway 301 North, Kenly

701: 820 Stewart Road, Four Oaks

Bentonville: 1096 Scout Road, Four Oaks

Airport: 3505 Swift Creek Road, Smithfield

Brogden: 4141 Steven's Chapel Road, Smithfield

Jones Brothers: 22 Shelter Way, Smithfield

*If you do not have a decal, the tree will be weighed at the landfill. Fee: $18 per ton (minimum fee of $5 usually covers the tree).



Walnut Grove Church Road: at intersection of Hwy 86 North, Hillsborough



Happy Trails Christmas Tree Recycling Program

Wake County Convenience Centers (Hours: 7 days a week from 7 am until 7 pm)

Site 1: 10505 Old Stage Road, Garner

Site 2: 6025 Old Smithfield Road, Apex

Site 4: 3600 Yates Mill Pond Road, Raleigh

Site 11: 5051 Wendell Blvd., Wendell

Wake County Parks (Hours: 7 days a week from 8 am until sunset)

Blue Jay Point County Park: 3200 Pleasant Union Church Road, Raleigh

Harris Lake County Park: 2112 County Park Drive, New Hill

Lake Crabtree County Park: 1400 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville

North Wake Landfill District Park: 9300 Deponie Drive, Raleigh



Buffaloe Wood Recycling Facility: 5525 Wake Academy Drive, Raleigh

Carolina Tree Debris: 1417 Old Watkins Road, Raleigh

City of Raleigh Yard Waste Facility: 900 New Hope Road, Raleigh

Currin Brothers Landfill: 4525 Sunset Lake Road, Holly Springs

Rowland Landfill: 3000 Gresham Lake Road, Raleigh



If you live in Apex and have garbage and recycling pickup, then you can search your address to find out when it can be picked up here: http://www.apexnc.org/277/Garbage-Recycling-Yard-Waste?PREVIEW=YES#!rc-cpage=calendar_search or https://www.apexnc.org/563/Yard-Waste-Collection

Recycle your Christmas tree to mulch trails at Wake County Parks. Drop off your undecorated holiday trees at:

Wake County Convenience Center Site 2: 6025 Old Smithfield Road, Apex



The town of Cary collects Christmas trees on regular curbside yard waste collection day.

Or drop-off location: Citizen's Convenience Center, 313 N. Dixon Ave.



Christmas trees are collected on the regular yard waste collection schedule.



Christmas trees are collected on the regular yard waste collection schedule.



Christmas trees will be collected curbside.

Drop-off location:

Convenience center at Action Park (off Wake Chapel Road)



Recycle your Christmas tree to mulch trails at Wake County Parks. Drop off your undecorated holiday trees at:

Wake County Convenience Center Site 1: 10505 Old Stage Road, Garner


In Garner, there will also be a Christmas Tree Recycling Drive from 12/30/17 through 12/31/17. This drive will support Local Scouts in Troop 10. You can request your online form today at: troop10nc@gmail.com.



Christmas trees are collected on the regular yard waste collection schedule.




Christmas tree pickup will be every Monday in January, starting on Tuesday, January 3rd.



Waste Industries will collect your Christmas trees on your normal yard waste collection days in the month of January.  


Recycle your Christmas tree to mulch trails at Wake County Parks. Drop off your undecorated holiday trees at:

Lake Crabtree County Park: 1400 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville



Recycle your Christmas tree to mulch trails at Wake County Parks. Drop off your undecorated holiday trees at:

Harris Lake County Park: 2112 County Park Drive, New Hill



Recycle your Christmas tree to mulch trails at Wake County Parks. Drop off your undecorated holiday trees at:

Wake County Convenience Center Site 4: 3600 Yates Mill Pond Road, Raleigh

Blue Jay Point County Park: 3200 Pleasant Union Church Road, Raleigh

North Wake Landfill District Park: 9300 Deponie Drive, Raleigh



Recycle your Christmas tree to mulch trails at Wake County Parks.

Drop off your undecorated holiday trees at:

Wake County Convenience Center Site 11: 5051 Wendell Blvd., Wendell


While we all love the holidays, think about also giving to the Earth! Instead of throwing away your tree, choose to help our environment by recycling it. Happy holidays!

Tips for Reducing Waste During the Holidays

The holiday season is a time for joy, when we meet with friends and family and celebrate being together. However, it is also often a time of overindulgence. We may not realize how much waste we create during our celebrations, ultimately harming the environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.” Here are some tips to reduce wastefulness during the holiday season:

Tip No. 1: Recycle your Christmas tree*

If you celebrate Christmas, recycling your tree is the best option for the environment. Your recycled Christmas tree will likely become mulch. Trees that are still living won’t have to be cut down to produce mulch, therefore reducing the impact of deforestation. You can also use a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.

(*We have another blog post coming out in the next week or so for where you can recycle your tree if you live in the Triangle area.)

Tip No. 2: Reuse gift bags or use reusable items as gift wrap

This is one of the most popular tips I have seen going around. We waste a lot of paper on wrapping presents during the holiday season. If you already have gift bags from previous seasons, you can continue to reuse those for as long as possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.” There are many sustainable options out there for wrapping gifts. You can use something as simple and accessible as a bandana or a scarf (which is also a gift in itself) or you can buy reusable fabric gift wrap (for example, www.lilywrap.com or www.enfoldgiftwrap.com). It’s easier to use fabric gift wrap as well because it’s malleable compared to paper (which often rips)! Also, no tape needed!

Tip No. 3: When shopping, carpool or use public transportation and buy locally

Carpooling and using public transportation lessens carbon emissions. It’s also more fun to shop and spend time with family and friends! Even better, consider biking. In Durham, we have a few bike sharing programs that recently began (for example, Spin and LimeBike), so check out what Durham has to offer. Shop locally at a store that prioritizes sustainability and reusing items. When shopping online, try to determine how far your packages must travel to reach you and minimize long-distance purchases as much as possible. If you do shop online, remember that cardboard boxes should be broken down so they take up minimal space (otherwise, recycling trucks may have to make multiple trips) and recycled. Additionally, when you go shopping, use reusable bags to reduce plastic waste.

Tip No. 4: Give and receive gifts that do not have negative impacts on the environment

Let people who may buy a gift for you know that you would appreciate something environmentally friendly. Oftentimes, family and friends will ask what you would like for Christmas or what you need. If you request something that is better for the environment, you will feel better about the gift as well. It may even open a discussion about sustainable gift giving. Remember that the most personal gift you can give is your time. Following this, giving experiences, such as hiking or seeing a movie together, can be impactful gifts that do not harm the environment. Experiences are often easy to tailor to an individual’s unique interests. Another option is making donations in someone’s name to a charity or non-profit organization. If you would like to give a physical gift, consider something reusable or upcycled (such as upcycled jewelry). You can also give plants as gifts, which is beneficial for the receiver and the environment.

Tip No. 5: Turn off holiday lights during the day and/or use a timer

Having lights on during the day is mostly a waste of energy. We have beautiful natural light during the day. If you want to have your lights on from dusk until dawn, you can buy a timer with a sensor on it to conserve as much energy as possible or you can set timers to be on for only a few hours at night. In addition, if you do decorate with holiday lights, try to use LED lights because they are more energy efficient.

Tip No. 6: Send holiday cards online

First and foremost, e-cards are easier to store and save. One of the major concerns with e-cards is that they are impersonal. However, adding pictures of your family and writing personal messages to go along with each e-card may help to resolve that. If you still want to send physical cards, be selective with who you send them to and the type of card you use. You can recycle plain paper cards, but shiny, glossy, and glittery Christmas cards must go in the trash, creating more paper waste and further contributing to deforestation. According to the Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage, “consumers send and dispose of 2.6 billion holiday cards . . . each year.”

Tip No. 7: Compost food to prevent avoidable waste from going to the landfill

There are many tutorials online for how to compost, and composting promotes long-term sustainability. It’s a good practice to start now (when there’s often a lot of food waste) and continue throughout the year.

Tip No. 8: Donating your leftovers that you don’t plan to eat is another way to prevent waste from going to the landfill

Consider contacting your local food pantry or food bank to see if they will accept holiday leftovers. (Here’s a website to help you find local food pantries: https://www.foodpantries.org/ci/nc-durham and local food banks: http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/.) Homeless shelters or non-profit organizations may accept leftover food as well. It is encouraged that you call ahead to ensure they accept food that is not canned or packaged. You can read more about food waste and recovery in NC here: https://localfood.ces.ncsu.edu/local-food-resource-waste-recovery/.

Tip No. 9: Plan out how much food you will need in advance to avoid waste

Here’s a Thanksgiving food calculator that can be used for other holidays as well: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/thanksgiving-food-planning-calculator. Additionally, use reusable tableware (including cloth napkins). This will cut down on plastic waste and can be reused as much as you want.

Tip No. 10: When decorating your tree, keep it environmentally friendly

You can buy ornaments from thrift stores or make your own. DIY crafts are always a fun way to get into the holiday spirit and bond with family and friends! You could also decorate a tree in your yard, but make sure you use decorations that are safe for wildlife. Research food that is safe for animals and the environment to sustainably decorate a tree in your yard.

This holiday season, let’s enjoy spending time with our families, friends, and neighbors while also keeping the health of the environment in our minds and hearts. We all share the Earth as our home, so let’s make sure we show how grateful we are to be alive and give back through living in a sustainable manner. Happy Holidays!

Give Creatively, Give Sustainably

Moving into the holiday season we're excited about spending time with family and friends, getting to find exactly the right gift, and maybe even traveling to go see everyone. In the process, it is easy to forget about reducing your waste this time of year. Let's try to give a gift to Earth this year as well. In many cases, following these steps make gift giving more thoughtful, intentional, and personal.


We are all so busy and I'm sure you've sent plenty of "Let's catch up some time!" texts. How about instead of catching up over coffee you can go camping, to a concert, or to your favorite city.


While it's exciting to find exactly what you are looking for at the store, why not make it exactly how you want? When you give a handmade gift, you are giving not just a present, but a token of appreciation, love, and friendship through taking time to make it yourself. In many cases, this feels more special and thoughtful than a gift from the department store, no matter how perfect it is.


If you reading through this, chances are you have some like-minded friends and family that are passionate about the world around them. Why not donate to their favorite charity? By donating you can both support their passion and let them know that other people think its important, too. If you want to give to Keep Durham Beautiful, just go here.


Make your wrapping part of your gift with Furoshiki.

Make your wrapping part of your gift with Furoshiki.

Love or hate wrapping presents, you know that A LOT of wrapping paper goes to waste this year. You put it on only to be undone and thrown away in a few minutes. This year make your wrapping paper part of the gift. Either use cloth and learn the art of Furoshiki, use newspaper and dress it up with some dried flowers, or use recycled wrapping paper.

Check out some of our favorite tips and articles on giving sustainably!

Outside the Wrapping Paper by The Durham Originals
Last Minute Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts by MindBodyGreen
3 Eco-Conscious Ways to Wrap Gifts this Christmas by EcoWarrior Princess

Happy holidays and have fun getting creative!

Let's Band Together Against Cankerworms!


When the air is crisp and the leaves are turning colors and piling up in my yard, Spring seems so far away. But it’s just the right time to protect our trees from the pesky, springtime pest – the cankerworm.  These little green inchworms fall from the trees in early spring, covering everything – your hair, car, pet and sidewalks - for a few weeks making walking around outside a little less enjoyable.  Not only are cankerworms a nuisance, they also eat the new leaves off trees like the Hungry Caterpillar on steroids.  This makes it harder for the trees to make food for themselves just as they are trying to get their growth-spurt on.  The trees have to expend more energy to make more leaves, leaving the trees vulnerable to attacks from pests, diseases, drought, and other hazards.

One way to control cankerworms is to catch the female moths before they lay their eggs, thus thwarting the hungry caterpillars before they are ever born.  Female cankerworm moths are wingless, so they have to crawl up the tree trunk to lay their eggs. Putting a band around the tree covered with sticky glue will catch these moths, stopping them from laying their eggs in the trees which means fewer caterpillars are born in the spring.  Banding works best when most of the trees in an area are banded, so it’s important that neighbors help each other to band most of the trees in their neighborhoods.


You may have seen some of these bands around trees in town.  For the past few years, a coalition called Trees Across Durham has spread the word through the “Band Together” campaign by providing education workshops, materials, and support for people to band their trees. Tree Across Durham provides kits that you can pick up for free at our offices in the General Services Department at 2011 Fay Street. The kits include fabric for the tree binding layer, tar paper, instructions, and a tag to leave with your band to inform and inspire others! Due to demand we are not able to provide staplers or spreaders this year. Materials for tree bands can also be found at various local stores like Stone Bros & Byrd, Durham Garden Center, and the Scrap Exchange.

Unfortunately, this year there is a shortage of Tanglefoot, the sticky glue that you put on the bands to catch the moths. So band together with your neighbors and friends and share Tanglefoot. If you can’t find Tanglefoot, here are some alternative suggestions:

  • Turn Guerrilla Tape or duct tape sticky side out and wrap it around the tree band.
  • Vaseline – use sparingly and reapply as needed.  You may want to create a barrier to keep the Vaseline from running down the tree as it gets weathered.

Remember, it’s important to take the tree bands down no later than May 1st to avoid tree rot under the band as the weather gets hotter and more humid.

For more information, including a locally made video on how to band your tree, go to www.TreesAcrossDurham.org and click on “cankerworms”. Please call 919-560-4197 ext 21269 or email info@keepdurhambeautiful.org for more questions or to reserve your kit!

Feeling Gratitude

This time of year we like to reflect on all of the positive changes we have made to communities in Durham. We would not be able to accomplish our many tree plantings, stream and neighborhood clean-ups, garden installations, and more without you!

Whether it has been the gift of funding or the gift of time, we thank you for your generosity. Even more, we want you to know that your effort has made a huge difference. Here are just a few things you accomplished in the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year.


None of this would have been possible without your help! You make these events both extremely rewarding and also impactful. Let's see if we can push these numbers even higher for this coming year!

Thank you, 

The Keep Durham Beautiful Team

How will you celebrate America Recycles Day?

America Recycles day is this Wednesday the 15th! What are you doing to celebrate? Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Did you know that plastic bags and film CAN be recycled, just not in your curbside bin? You can bring your used grocery bags, Ziplocs, bread bags, case wrap, or any other clean, dry, stretchy plastic film to any participating grocery store with a collection bin. This Wednesday the Duke Coastal Society is hosting a Plastic Bag Collection at Environmental Hall on Duke Campus. They’ll be giving away free reuseable tote bags to everyone who brings at least 10 plastic bags or one bag full of film! Find more information on the Facebook event page. You can also read up on why plastic bags are so devastating for our environment. 

Participating stores like Harris Teeter provide recycling bins for plastic film.

Participating stores like Harris Teeter provide recycling bins for plastic film.

Our own signature event for America Recycles Day is going to be a tour of the Sonoco Recycling Facility this Friday the 17th! This large facility services the City of Raleigh, City of Durham, Orange County, Chatham County, as well as some additional smaller communities and several private haulers. As you can imagine, they receive a lot of trash! Get the skinny on what is and is not accepted by your local recycling program, as well as the reasons why. You might be putting items in your bin that are dangerous for the facility workers, or maybe even not recycling everything you could! Spots for tour will fill up fast, so please register on our website. If you can’t make the tour, consider organizing your own! Just contact Sonoco for more information. 

A mountain of recycling at the Sonoco Recycling Facility.

A mountain of recycling at the Sonoco Recycling Facility.

On Friday evening in Durham Central Park, our friends from The Durham Originals and Don’t Waste Durham are hosting a documentary screening of REUSE! Because You Can't Recycle the Planet. The film follows Reuse Pro Alex Eaves' cross-country adventure to the 48 contiguous U.S. states. On his journey, he finds endless reuse solutions for our waste problem that are not only sustainable, but many of which are easy and fun! And he learns just how reuse truly benefits "people, planet, and wallet." There will be food trucks, a reuse apparel popup shop, and a Q + A with the director himself! We’ll be there too, so come hang out with us! Watch the film trailer here, and find more details on the Facebook event page.

Lastly, get a jump on your sustainable seasonal shopping at the Multiple Choices Holiday Market this Saturday the 18th! Don’t Waste Durham will be present with some clever zero-waste gift options, along with several other amazing vendors. You can also find some other zero-waste gift ideas here.

If you'd like to learn more about recycling, including what more YOU could be recycling at home, check out Keep America Beautiful. Change happens when people like you get involved by organizing recycling events, educating friends and family about the importance of recycling, and being an ambassador for waste reduction. #getrecycled

The 3rd Annual Monarch Festival- A Retrospective

A Monarch Butterfly enjoys some Milkweed at the Festival. Photo by volunteer Caroline Gilmore.

A Monarch Butterfly enjoys some Milkweed at the Festival. Photo by volunteer Caroline Gilmore.

It was finally happening. After months of planning and a few ever-so-short weeks of frenzied preparation, the day of the third annual Durham Monarch Festival had arrived. And conditions were perfect. When I arrived at the crack of dawn to help set up, the cool morning dew was still condensed on the grassy field that would be our base of operations for the next 9 hours. A few volunteers had beaten me to Sandy Creek Park and were quietly munching on donuts, saving energy for the festivities ahead. I stopped for a moment to take in the park, and then walked over to greet our first round of volunteers and begin converting the verdant expanse into a sea of tents.

The Durham Monarch Festival is a celebration of monarchs. Not the royalty of Europe, but that of the insect kingdom: the monarch butterfly. This is a bug worth celebrating. Each year, its species undertakes an extraordinary migration from the southern boundaries of Canada to the heart of Mexico. And it’s a societal journey: each year, four different generations of monarchs hatch and die while travelling. Imagine if you were about to arrive in a place after a roadtrip that had started when your great grandparents were your age! This is truly one of the most amazing migrations on our planet.

This Monarch Festival isn’t just an abstract celebration of this migration, though. The festival’s location, Sandy Creek Park, carried special significance as a certified Monarch waystation. The park is full of plants designed to attract pollinator species, and its location in North Carolina means it’s the point where some of the fourth Monarch generation, the group that makes the flight to Mexico, begin their journey.

Scanning the field that morning, it was difficult to imagine that this beautiful preserve was once a sewer treatment plant. The site was abandoned in 1984 and sat for almost 2 decades before being bought by the city in the early 2000s. Beyond a few amenities structures: a bathroom, pavilion, and paved trail, however, almost the entirety of the work done on the park has been done by nonprofits and volunteers. The park now hosts a butterfly garden, miles of trails, a wildlife viewing area, and much, much more. And behind a lot of this work is one dedicated individual: John Goebel.

It wasn’t long after had arrived that I spotted John walking quickly across the field with a look that spoke to both anxiety and excitement. “Are you ready for the festival?” I asked as he got closer. He responded jokingly, “Ask me again at 4.” Such a response might’ve provoked a stab of fear from me from any other person, but I knew John was prepared. While the city holds the deed, Sandy Creek is really John’s park. Almost every project inside the park was initiated by him, including the Monarch Festival. He works at least 10 hours a week in park upkeep, and it’s John, not the city, that holds on to the key to the park gate. For his efforts to protect the park, John was awarded Durham’s neighbor spotlight award in June.


John and his wife walk through the festival

John and his wife walk through the festival

I saw John later on at the festival, this time grinning ear to ear as he walked hand in hand with his wife across the grassy lawn. He had reason to be jovial: the festival was in full swing now, and what had been an empty field only a few hours ago was now a sea of people. The nonprofit vendors provided fantastic displays where visitors could interact with a multitude of animals- from snakes to birds to, of course, the monarch butterfly. The Mexican and Canadian Consuls gave speeches about the importance of the butterfly and how it represented the unity of the continent. What followed the speeches was the most memorable, and perhaps most important part of the entire festival: a release of recently hatched Monarch butterflies into the wild. As John walked with the butterfly cage towards the main event tent, he was soon thronged by eager children and intrigued adults. At the count of three he had some children pull open the wire door to the cage. Butterflies soon began fluttering out, sometimes in droves and sometimes one at a time, each one followed by the “ooo”s and “aaah”s of the crowd and enthusiastic applause. This is why the Monarch Festival is special. There are plenty of festivals that celebrate fauna, but few can lay claim to contributing to a mass migration as uniquely amazing as that of the Monarch Butterfly.  

Soon after the butterfly release the crowds began to disperse. The vendors took down there tents. The food trucks drove off.  As we packed our Keep Durham Beautiful tent into our white Astro van, I looked out onto the again empty field, now covered in the long shadows of an autumn evening, and knew one thing: I could not wait until next year.



Travel the Recycling Loop with Us: Three Events for the Three Rs!

America Recycles Day, a program of Keep America Beautiful, is a nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Every year on or around November 15, event organizers educate neighbors, friends, and colleagues about the importance of recycling through thousands of events.

Keep Durham Beautiful is participating in America Recycles Day with three separate events throughout October and November, one for each of the three Rs (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle).


On Saturday, October 21st from 8am to 2pm we’re inviting the community to join us at the Durham County Stadium for our second ReUse Rodeo, which provides residents the opportunity to drop off gently used items to be repurposed back into the community. Donating items rather than throwing them away not only helps to divert waste from the landfill, it helps support your local community!

Accepted items include books, clothing, furniture, working electronics, household appliances, cookware, tools, craft supplies, miscellaneous household items, toys, wood, non-perishable food and more. A complete list of accepted items can be found on the ReUse Rodeo event page.  All items donated on-site will be given to participating non-profits, which include TROSA, First Pages, The Scrap Exchange, Recyclique, Durham Rescue Mission and Holt Elementary PTA. Donation receipts will be available for tax purposes.

Keep Durham Beautiful has partnered with the City of Durham Solid Waste Management Department, and the Durham County Division of Solid Waste Management to provide free electronics recycling and paper shredding at the event. Plastic film and bags, which cannot go into curbside recycling containers, may also be recycled at the event.


On Friday, November 3rd, Keep Durham Beautiful has organized a Waste Audit within the Durham General Services Department where we are housed. A waste audit is an analysis of your facility's waste stream. It can identify what types of recyclable materials and waste your facility generates and how much of each category is recovered for recycling or discarded.

As part of the Bull City Workplace Challenge, the “Green Team” of the General Services Department, which includes KDB staff members, has been working to make changes to the amount of waste our facility sends to the landfill. As of this year, our facility not only provides bins for separating recyclables, but compostables as well! Having an audit will help us to further reduce the amount of waste being improperly disposed of in our facility. Stay tuned for the results!


On Friday, November 17th we’ve organized a tour of the Sonoco Recycling Facility on Industry Lane in Durham. We will be inviting members of the public to take the tour with us, so stay tuned to our website and Facebook as these spaces fill up quickly.

Interested in organizing your own America Recycles Day event? It’s easy! Keep American Beautiful has this handy toolkit to help you plan a successful event for your school, office, or neighborhood. When we all pitch in a little, we can make a big difference. Happy Recycling!

Durham Originals Sustainability Tips: Food, Fashion, Awareness


One step at a time, I spiral up the carpeted staircase making my way up to the third floor. I pass by glass windows looking down carpeted hallways as my hand slides up the stair railing. Looking side to side, a paper sign with handwritten directions guides me to a wooden door of Suite 303. As I knock, the wood reverberates and I hear it click open, unveiling the cozy space that is the Orange St. Collective. Its name automatically makes the idea of a space with just energy and ideas coming together bubble up in my mind. As I step inside, I find this to be reality with diagrams drawn on whiteboards, cheery posters about upcoming projects scattered on tables, and an expansive, handcrafted diagram of the feminine economy that spans from the floor to the ceiling on a back wall.

Wearing a beautiful, deep navy dress with stitches of white embroidery is Daria, with her unwaveringly calm but enthusiastic energy. This energy and passion for her work has taken her far as she is the founder of The Durham Originals and a board member for Keep Durham Beautiful. Behind her on a shelf are a few pieces of her work, organic cotton shirts that she has designed. The colors are light, mossy greens, soft creams, and gentle blues with smooth, rounded letters spelling “The Durham Originals” in a loose cursive.

As we move towards a back room to talk, the coziness of the dimly lit sitting space gives way to the eclectic as we take a seat at a worktable made from an upcycled white door. I try to shift myself so that I don’t bump into the faded golden doorknob near my elbow.

 Daria has brought a cutting board and X-Acto knife with her so she can continue her work while we talk. While busy, she loves her work and was inspired to become an entrepreneur after being a bartender and going back to school for graphic design. She united these skills with her desire to take action as she learned more and more about humanity’s effect on the environment.

 “This was at a time when climate change was being able to be talked about more,” she tells me. “And so I started watching all these Netflix documentaries and realizing what is actually happening in the world.”

Prior to this self-education, she felt like most of us do as we move through our daily lives. We use plastic water bottles or partake in “fast fashion” without thinking or even knowing about the consequences of those actions. These unknown facts can be staggering, though. It is not often that we think about how 13.1 million tons of textiles are trashed each year or that nearly half of that said trash is completely reusable. It was through her awareness of these issues that The Durham Originals was born.

“Durham Originals is a way to connect with people and promote sustainable living, a sustainable lifestyle, and to show people there are very easy, simple steps that make a huge difference,” Daria explains to me. “Fashion is one of the most wasteful industries and is overproducing cheap stuff that’s single-use. Having organic cotton benefits everything: who wears it, who makes it, etcetera.”

While it can be overwhelming to think about the sourcing of every piece of your clothing, and sometimes you may not have the option to be selective, there are plenty of other ways that small actions can add up. I asked Daria what people should focus on in their daily lives if they want to make a shift. Her answer boiled down to fashion, food, and single-use plastic.


In regards to fashion, buying secondhand comes before buying new. By stepping into a thrift store and browsing the racks you are saving 7 lbs. of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere for every 1 lb. of cotton reused. Otherwise, invest in brands such as Durham Originals that are committed to sustainable production to feel sound about your clothing choices.

Food is another part of your daily life where small changes add up to make a impact. “If we can reduce the amount of animal products we consume then we can really make moves and change the course of climate change,” Daria explains to me as she slices her X-Acto knife through some cream cardstock. But she understands that even this can sometimes be daunting, “Just trying to reduce is helpful, it’s definitely a process, nobody can change overnight.”

Aside from just the food you eat, how you are eating it is something that being mindful can be helpful. A lot of to-go packaging is “single-use waste that is petroleum based that produces copious amounts of stuff that’s good for five to ten minutes,” she tells me. Instead, try to be mindful about carrying a reusable mug, your own silverware, or a reusable straw. Even just bringing your own reusable mug for coffee on the go instead of using a disposable coffee cup can make a huge difference. One cup doesn’t seem significant at the moment, but think of all the times you’ve gotten coffee on the go. More and more shops are starting to get used to people bringing their reusable options, such as filling reusable mugs for coffee or tea or people asking for no straw with their beverage.

Each of these pillars of The Durham Originals is what attracted her to become involved with Keep Durham Beautiful, as well. “I grew up with them,” she says with a smile, stacking the cut outs she has been working on. “That was back when they were just Keep America Beautiful, though.” She explains to me that working on The Durham Originals just instantly connected her to organizations with similar initiatives, such as Keep Durham Beautiful. Not only has she worked alongside with Keep Durham Beautiful, but is one of our board members continuously helping us brainstorm and accomplish projects.

When I ask her what the most rewarding part of her work with Keep Durham Beautiful has been, she replies with a smile, “Connecting with the community and being part of the community has been one of the most rewarding things.”