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.

ROCK STARS: For 70 years, the Mineral Research Laboratory in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood has worked with mining companies around the world to come up with efficient ways to harvest and process minerals, as well as educate the public on North Carolina’s mineral resources. Utilizing its unique pilot plant (above), the lab has the capability to provide data on the cost and scale of operations for companies to use in commercial enterprises. Photo by Max Hunt

Minerals Research Lab cooks up cutting-edge solutions

For 70 years, the Minerals Research Laboratory on Coxe Avenue has collaborated with mining companies and educational institutions to develop more efficient processes for extracting the state’s mineral resources as well as ways to reuse potentially harmful byproducts.