HERE COMES THE SUN: Appalachian Offsets is offering an opportunity to offset your carbon footprint and support a solar array for Isaac Dickson Elementary at the same time. Rendering courtesy of Appalachian Offsets

Appalachia­n Offsets seeks donors to help Isaac Dickson school go solar

Appalachian Offsets is providing an opportunity for Asheville residents to both protect the environment and invest in environmental education, by helping fund Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s much-anticipated 600-kilowatt solar system. Donations can be made via Appalachian Offsets’ website, which calculates a person’s carbon footprint and then asks for a donation to offset that footprint. The […]

LEGALIZED IT: North Carolina passed legislation allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp in 2015. But barriers still stymie farmers hoping to develop hemp as a new cash crop. Photo courtesy of Vote Hemp

DEA holds up industrial hemp in North Carolina

Local farmers are still holding out hope that 2017 will be the year industrial hemp grows in WNC fields for the first time in decades. But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration isn’t making it easy for growers to source seed or seedlings in time for planting, which may mean another year of waiting for eager prospective hemp growers.

GET MOVING: The newest section of the French Broad River Greenway — open and ready for action. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Asheville’s newest section of greenway opens next to New Belgium Brewery

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newest section of the French Broad River Greenway was held Friday, April 21, at the foot of the New Belgium brewery as part of the city of Asheville’s Earth Week Celebration. Representatives from the many public and private partnerships that had a role in the development of this section, called […]

QUALITY CONTROL: Two pollutants make up the bulk of the air quality monitoring oversight by the NC Department of Environmental Quality: ozone and fine particulates (PM2.5). From Bryson City to Lenoir, there are 11 ozone monitoring sites and five sites for PM2.5. The WNC Air Quality Agency conducts monitoring operations in Buncombe County, which also includes an urban air toxics monitor at A-B Tech. New this year is a sulfur dioxide monitor near the Duke Energy Progress plant in Skyland. Image from  Google, mapped by NCDEQ

Air apparent: monitoring air quality in the mountains

We all have to breathe to live, and the good news is that here in Western North Carolina, the quality of the air we all share is much better than it was just a few years ago. Across North Carolina, government employees are monitoring air quality and the associated health risks to make sure they stay within specified legal parameters. Meanwhile, citizen volunteers are also collecting data and working to make more information available to the public.

DIRTY BUSINESS: CompostNow offers weekly pickup of compostable waste for residential customers. Once a month, customers get back a delivery of finished compost equal to half the weight of the material they collected. The company now serves about 100 area customers and hopes to triple that amount by the end of the year. Image courtesy of CompostNow

Local companies lead the way as Asheville considers composting service

Asheville and Buncombe County have worked for several years on plans to reduce the area’s solid waste stream, but implementing “pay as you throw” and municipal composting programs remain in the realm of good ideas rather than reality or even future plans. But the city says it hasn’t given up on initiatives to divert more waste away from the landfill.

SEW SUSTAINABLE: Asheville's sewing scene is growing, both for businesses and hobbyists. Photo by Kari Barrows

Local businesses aim to make clothing more sustainabl­e

Industry studies show consumers are growing tired of fast, disposable fashion. In addition to a greater awareness of where clothes come from and the impact of their production, a new interest in extending the life of clothing or reusing materials to create new garments is fueling a resurgence of sewing skills in this region and around the country.

OTTER-LY ENGAGING: The Nature Center’s otter inhabitants draw kids and adults alike to watch their antics, which can be playful, cuddly and athletic, all in the space of a few minutes. Photo courtesy of the WNC Nature Center

The incredible shrinking subsidy: WNC Nature Center achieves 3-year reduction goal in one year

When the WNC Nature Center learned the city of Asheville’s subsidy for the facility would shrink by more than half over three years, the environmental education attraction wasn’t immediately sure how it would make up the funding shortfall. But it didn’t take long to figure it out: the Nature Center met the three-year goal in only one year. The attraction is expanding to meet demand, and visitation is setting new records nearly every month.

‘IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SYNERGIES’: To increase soil fertility, Living Web Farms keeps cover crops growing in different sections of its greenhouse at all times. “We try to give each bed one season in cover crops. This greatly helps with disease issues, which are major problems when you keep growing the same crops repeatedly,” says Patryk Battle, director of the nonprofit educational and research farm. Inset, Battle tosses fall cover crop seeds into a stand of summer cover crop. Courtesy photos

Regenerati­ve farming offers keys to a sustainabl­e future

Regenerative farming methods that use cover crops and other techniques to build soil fertility and boost the resilience of crops to stresses like drought are taking root in North Carolina. Gabe Brown and Russell Hedrick are among the pioneers in these techniques who will be speaking in WNC in connection with the Organic Growers School’s spring conference and related events.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Siblings Althea and Matthew Raiford will share lessons learned on their Brunswick, Ga. farm. The Raifords advocate specializing in a well-curated selection of crops and developing value-added products. Photo courtesy of the Organic Growers School

Organic Growers School’s Spring Conference builds sustainabi­lity, community

The Organic Growers School’s Spring Conference is hardly a new event: The annual gathering of farmers, gardeners, homesteaders and assorted sustainability seekers turns 24 this month. But organizers say those attending this year’s edition, whether they’re newbies or longtime conference regulars, will surely dig up some novel information.

BUILDING CULTURE: From the ancestors of the Ani Katuah to the first European settlers and later tobacco farmers, the evolution of human settlement and existence in the Southern Appalachians can be traced through the structure and buildings they erected to support their ways of life. The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University documents the evolution of built structures in its latest exhibit, Shelter on the Mountain, on display through May 28. Photo of an open cathedral-like hayloft of the 1951 gambrel-roof barn built by Delbert and Charlie Shelton in the Shelton Laurel community. By Earthsong Photography/ Don McGowan

Rural Heritage Museum highlights history of WNC barns

From the Ani Katuah to white settlers and tobacco farmers, barns and buildings have played a central role in defining the culture of the Southern Appalachians. Shelter on the Mountain: Barns and Building Traditions of the Southern Highlands traces the evolution of local building practices.