Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Eating Seasonally and Locally

With summer time slowly coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about the seasonality of many fruits and vegetables. Do you know what's in season this month? According to USA Today Travel, the foods you should buy in September are pears and sweet potatoes. But what are the benefits of buying local and seasonal produce?

Support the Local Food Economy

Seasonal eating supports your local North Carolina food economy. There are many resources out there that encourage the consumer to make more locally conscious choices such as the NC 10% Campaign. By pledging to spend 10 percent of your existing food dollars locally you can make a big difference in the sustainable food industry. They track your progress and you'll be able to see your impact statewide. Supporting local and sustainable businesses and farmers will help your community in many aspects.

North Carolina has many great farmer's markets that offer organic seasonal food grown by local farmers. NC FarmFresh provides a fantastic overview and many other helpful information to connect you with farms, roadside farm markets, and farmers markets throughout North Carolina. Not only does it help you with your local fruits and vegetable needs, it also assists you in finding the freshest flowers, herbs and even Christmas trees and ornamental plants. 

Save Money and Eat Fresher

Another benefit of seasonal eating is the cost aspect. If you buy seasonal produce you can be sure to save money while getting fresher food at the same time! Out of season foods are usually priced way higher due to higher costs in shipping and producing which are being passed on to the consumer.

Ideal Home Garden has a neat infographic on their website that highlights fruits and vegetables and the right time to pick and consume them:

Environmental Benefits

If you pick up your food at your local farmers market you can be sure that the miles it had to travel are kept to a minimum. Waste produced with packaging is reduced, and fuels used for transport are lower. Grow your own food if you have the opportunity and reduce your carbon footprint even more. Use it as a teaching opportunity for your children or just enjoy the fact that you can pick your own produce from your backyard. Learn more about starting a home garden from the NC Cooperative Extension.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Why volunteer?

Many nonprofits are adept at finding innovative ways to utilize our limited resources within the financial constraints faced by our organizations. By doing this, we are better able to accomplish our nonprofits' missions. One of the most valuable ways to enhance our resources is to increase our reach with the aid of volunteers. NC GreenPower has nearly 700 individuals on our Speakers Bureau volunteer list, and most years we have almost 100 active volunteers staffing events for us!

Volunteers aren't just "free labor" in my mind. They are advocates, important to the growth of any nonprofit, and especially NC GreenPower. We operate statewide but our offices are based in Raleigh, NC. Just this past April, we had 14 events across the state - no chance they could all be staffed by NCGP employees! Without our volunteers, we would miss out on so many Earth Month events, speaking opportunities, and never would have the opportunity to spread the word about our program across this great state.

In our annual survey, some volunteers feel bad because they could only staff one event that past year. That's all we need! Just one event - 3 hours of your time - is enough to help us fill a shift for an event. 71% of our volunteers say they volunteer 20 hours or more annually for nonprofits, including us. Thanks for giving your time!

UC San Diego put together this list -Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer

#10: It's good for you.
Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards. It:
  • Reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
  • Makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like optimism, joy, and control over one's fate, strengthen the immune system.
#9: It saves resources.
Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on local improvements.
  • The estimated value of a volunteer's time is $15.39 per hour.
#8: Volunteers gain professional experience.
You can test out a career.

#7: It brings people together.
As a volunteer you assist in:
  • Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
  • Building camaraderie and teamwork
#6: It promotes personal growth and self esteem.
Understanding community needs helps foster empathy and self-efficacy.

#5: Volunteering strengthens your community.
As a volunteer you help:
  • Support families (daycare and eldercare)
  • Improve schools (tutoring, literacy)
  • Support youth (mentoring and after-school programs)
  • Beautify the community (beach and park cleanups)
#4: You learn a lot.
Volunteers learn things like these:
  • Self: Volunteers discover hidden talents that may change your view on your self worth.
  • Government: Through working with local non-profit agencies, volunteers learn about the functions and operation of our government.
  • Community: Volunteers gain knowledge of local resources available to solve community needs.
#3: You get a chance to give back.
People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit people they care about.

#2: Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.

#1: You make a difference.
Every person counts!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's Recycle Week, America!

It’s Recycle Week, America!

Did you know that more than a dozen items are currently banned from North Carolina landfills? Here are a few that you might not know about:

1. Used oil
2. Yard trash
3. White goods (appliances, like an old dishwasher)
4. Antifreeze
5. Aluminum cans
6. Whole scrap tires
7. Lead-acid batteries
8. ABC beverage containers
9. Motor vehicle oil filters
10. Recyclable plastic bottles (except motor oil or pesticide bottles)
11. Wooden pallets
12. Oyster shells
13. Computer equipment
14. Televisions

So, what can you do to help keep these items out of the landfill? 

Start by reducing your consumption of these items. Opt for rechargeable batteries when possible. 

Donate gently used appliances and electronics still in working condition before you upgrade to newer models. Reuse what you can and recycle items rather than tossing them.

NC DENR has some great resources for recycling cardboard boxes, electronics, fluorescent lights, thermostats that contain mercury, oil filters and wooden pallets. According to DENR, the first items were banned from North Carolina landfills beginning in 1989. Aluminum cans have been banned from landfills since 1994. They also offer resources for event and venue recycling. has a search directory if you are looking for a North Carolina market for recycling an item. You might also want to consider listing materials available/wanted on NC WasteTrader, North Carolina's marketplace for discarded or surplus materials or products.

Unfortunately, still only half of all aluminum cans generated in North Carolina are recycled. ·  Recycling an aluminum can saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from virgin materials. The pollutants created in producing one ton of aluminum include 3,290 pounds of red mud, 2,900 pounds of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), 81 pounds of air pollutants and 789 pounds of solid wastes.
At least 95 percent of North Carolina residents have access to some type of plastic bottle recycling through local government programs. Unfortunately, North Carolinians currently recycle only 18 percent of PET plastic bottles. Every 3.9 seconds, North Carolinians throw away enough plastic bottles to reach the height of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. (Sources: &
Landfill bans are necessary for several reasons. In many cases, the banned materials are hazardous to our health and environment. Improper disposal of some substances could contaminate soil, surface water or drinking water. In other cases, throwing away the product is like throwing away money. 

Now that you are informed about North Carolina’s landfill bans, go tell your friends!

Learn more about the bans at

Saturday, March 28, 2015

NC GreenPower Tests New Focus on Solar for Schools & Community

(Blog reposted from original story by NC Sustainability Connection)

Photo Credit: Alex Snyder / CreativeCommons

NC GreenPower has announced two new pilot projects that signal a shift in the organization's focus. After more than a decade of helping to boost the state's voluntary renewable energy portfolio through production-based incentives, the group is transitioning its direction toward school solar installations and other community impact projects more likely to galvanize contributor support.

A Changing Landscape for Renewable Energy
Launched in 2003, NC GreenPower is a Raleigh-based non-profit that has supported nearly 1,000 projects across the state, with emphasis on residential solar PV. The first initiative of its kind in the nation, the program pools support from donors who contribute in $4 increments through their utility bill. Only 25 percent of this donation is kept for marketing and administrative costs, and the $3 remainder goes toward payments to renewable energy generators. Since 2003, donors have supported the generation of more than 550 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy on NC's electric grid and have helped offset 28,493 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases.

In the last decade, the state has seen a dramatic shift in the renewable energy landscape, due in part to NC GreenPower's incentive program. By 2014, according to the organization's website, North Carolina was ranked third in the nation for solar PV installations, with more than 2,500 registered solar PV installations statewide, as well as more than 60 wind turbines, more than 70 hydroelectric facilities, and 32 landfill energy projects in operation. In recent years the cost of solar PV has decreased significantly, from around $10 to around $4.50 per watt, and federal and state tax credits have made this technology affordable to a large portion of the population.

But the $1 out of $4 contribution model has never been enough to sustain NC GreenPower's program costs in the long term, and donations to support a general pool of generators have decreased, according to the group's recent pilot proposal submitted to the NC Utilities Commission. With nearly 600 Renewable Energy Credit (REC) generators in the current program, incentive payments and their accompanying administrative costs exceed donor contributions.

A New Direction
When NC GreenPower approached its ten-year anniversary, its strategic planning committee partnered with the Solar Electric Power Association and the UNC Environmental Finance Center to study other green pricing programs and assess NC GreenPower's options to stay viable. Their research discovered that similar production-based incentives programs were changing because of high administrative costs and a decrease in public contributions.

NC GreenPower Vice President Vicky McCann is quick to point out that the program still enjoys the support of 9,000 contributors, but she says they are looking at moving toward a model where donors can see the direct impact of their contribution. “We've seen from other studies that people want to have a direct connection to things they support, and that they would be thrilled if they could put their money to support their son's school down the road or the high school they used to attend in the next town over. They're more inclined to donate to something that's tangible,” says McCann. “The cost has gone down dramatically, and there are a host of different reasons why people are less inclined to support general projects across the state instead of specific projects.”

On January 27, the NC State Utilities Commission approved the launch of two pilot projects that will test a new direction for NC GreenPower.

50/50 Hybrid Pilot
“The 50/50 hybrid takes part of the old program and combines it with part of a new program,” explains McCann. Half of the $4 contribution will continue supporting generator incentive payments, and the other half will be applied toward solar installation projects at schools across North Carolina.

The pilot will be open to applications from all K-12 schools across the state, though special emphasis will be made to target Tier 1 counties with the most need. The program will include provision of monitoring equipment so that students can learn about real-time energy generation, as well as curriculum development assistance so that the project can be incorporated into classroom lessons on science, health, math, and more. “We hope to be able to arm our teachers with a really fantastic educational tool,” says McCann.

NC GreenPower donations will match 50 percent of project funds up to $10,000; the balance is to be raised by the school and surrounding community. NC GreenPower will help market and raise support for the school campaign through use of its website fundraising tool,, and will play a close role in contractor selection and other administrative aspects of the project. “When we're using contributions, we want to make sure it's done well. Advanced Energy, our parent company, has engineers with a lot of experience so we feel like we can deliver a sound project, and once it's installed we hope the teachers and students can maximize the benefits of the tool,” says McCann.

Investor and Crowd-Source Funded Renewable Energy Pilot
The second new pilot is an ownership transition model that will help pay for large-scale renewable energy projects at schools, non-profits, and other community locations to offset facility usage.

Through this pilot, NC GreenPower will partner with a third party who will recruit investors and form an LLC to pay for the upfront costs of the system. The investor group will own the system and sell the electricity to the utility for a six-year period, allowing them time to gain return on their investment, in addition to payment from NC GreenPower's contributors for the associated Renewable Energy Credits. After six years, investors will donate the system to the host site. When the school, non-profit, or community takes ownership, they can continue to sell electricity to the utility to offset their electrical consumption and will own it for the life of the system.

The pilot projects are planned for an April launch. “We have a lot of work ahead of us,” says McCann. “If we can get more people to donate, we can do more across North Carolina. We hope to learn a lot and find success during the pilots and make it a real program that will positively impact as many schools as possible.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 tips for a greener Valentine’s Day – Love is in the air!

Valentine's Day. It’s the time of year when roses are received from a secret admirer, gifts are exchanged between friends and couples in love enjoy romantic candle-lit dinners. On the other hand, plenty of couples ignore the over-commercialized holiday and do nothing… Or feel forced to do something.

Whatever your opinion of the holiday is, please love the earth and have an eco-friendly celebration! We’ve pulled together 5 tips for you:

  1. Look for recycled paper Valentine’s Day cards or create a handmade one. Around a billion Valentines are sent each year globally, making the day the 2nd largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. NOT including cards exchanged in classrooms between children, 180 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged in the U.S. alone. Plenty of crafty spots have some great ideas for recycled paper cards. (like Pinterest) I especially like this idea from Merriment Design that uses recycled security envelopes!   
  2.  Giving flowers? Look for locally-grown or pesticide-free organic buds. It’s easy to find some local flowers at your neighborhood farmer’s market. The NC Farm Fresh website lets you search by product (like “cut flowers” or “roses”) in your area of North Carolina or for nurseries and garden centers near you. The FlowersFor Good line by Organic Bouquets will send 5% of your purchase to selected nonprofit charities. You can also shop through Goodsearch and get 25% off your Valentine’s gift AND a donation will be made directly to NCGreenPower! 
  3. Not a flower person? How about a rose bush or a potted plant! Instead of traditional flowers for Valentine's Day, give a potted plant from a local supplier. Just as beautiful and lasts much longer. An estimated 120 liters of water (about 32 gallons) is used to produce a dozen roses. Plant a rose bush instead - You'll conserve water and save money. WIN-WIN 
  4. If chocolate is his/her weakness, be socially responsible and make a smart choice. Send your sweetheart organic fair trade chocolates this V-day. Visit Equal Exchange Coop to learn more about organic sweets. You probably also have a local chocolatier in your city! 
  5.  Big spender? Eco-friendly and people-friendly jewelry choices are easy to find. If you’re really splurging this year and want to get jewelry, find a jeweler who uses conflict-free diamonds or recycled materials from an online retailer, like Brilliant Earth or BlueNile. For the socially conscious jewelry buyer, consider estate jewelry from a local retailer.
Remember to consider your loved one along with the environment with your Valentine’s Day purchases this year. Natural fragrances, soy candles and dinner at home are also some great ideas! Taking a trip? Green up a vacation with your loved one and donate to NC GreenPower carbon offsets for your trip. 

And during the month of February, donate$36 on behalf of a loved one and your valentine will receive and NC GreenPower local organic cotton tee shirt! Give $48, and we’ll send you a t-shirt, too!