Green in brief: WNC Nature Center opens new exhibit

Wolf gnawing on a pumpkin
GRAB IT AND GROWL: Produce grown at the WNC Nature Center's Educational Farmers Market Garden provides nutrition and fun for the zoo's many animals. Photo courtesy of Friends of the WNC Nature Center

The latest addition to the Western North Carolina Nature Center isn’t a cuddly red panda or slithering snake — instead, it’s focused on life that grows up from the ground. In partnership with the WNC Farmers Market, the Nature Center launches its Educational Farmers Market Garden starting Wednesday, Nov. 16.

The new exhibit focuses on sustainable relationships between agriculture and nature. Using ecologically friendly practices such as rainwater harvesting, composting and companion planting, the garden generates produce for the Nature Center’s animals.

An educational kiosk outlines the garden’s life cycle, explains how the zoo uses fruits and vegetables and describes potential agricultural careers in kid-friendly language. The WNC Farmers Market is also exploring other ways to partner with the Nature Center, such as sourcing local watermelons, pumpkins and trees to use in animal activities.

“The WNC Nature Center’s mission is to connect our guests with the plants and animals of the Southern Appalachian Mountains,” said Chris Gentile, the center’s director, in a press release announcing the exhibit. “Because of this partnership, we now have the opportunity to show how agriculture as an industry has shaped our region.”

Buncombe composting program celebrates successful year

A residential composting program managed by Buncombe County and the city of Asheville has diverted roughly 56 tons of food scraps from the county landfill since launching last September. The initiative, which began with a single drop-off point for organic material at Asheville’s Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, now serves four locations and is slated to add up to three more over the next year.

Other drop-off points include the Buncombe County Landfill in Alexander (which also accepts used cooking oil for recycling), the Murphy-Oakley Community Center and the West Asheville Library. The county encourages residents to follow @BuncombeRecycles on Instagram for regular updates and visit for more information.

A recently released report suggests that Buncombe has plenty of opportunity to expand its compost offerings. According to a waste characterization study completed for the county by consulting firm SCS Engineers, nearly 37% of the county’s residential waste stream — nearly 113,000 tons in 2020 — consists of compostable matter, such as food scraps, compostable paper and yard waste.

Composting all the organic material that currently ends up in the landfill would avoid the equivalent of 13,390 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the approximate impact of taking 2,800 cars off the road.

Energy Savers Network expands offerings

Kelvin Bonilla
COOL JOB: Kelvin Bonilla inspects a heat pump as part of the Energy Savers Network’s effort to improve energy efficiency for low-income local residents. Photo by Pat Barcas, courtesy of Green Built Alliance

Programs available through the Energy Savers Network, an initiative of Asheville nonprofit Green Built Alliance, are offering new ways for low-income residents to save money on energy costs while combating climate change. Households with income at or below 200% of the federal poverty limit ($27,180 for a single person, $55,500 for a family of four) can receive free energy efficiency upgrades, heating system repairs and new electric heat pumps.

ESN is also expanding its Neighbor to Neighbor solar program, which provides free solar energy systems to low-income households. Roughly 16 systems will be installed by Asheville’s Sugar Hollow Solar over the next three years.

“Addressing climate change has to include everyone, especially those who pay the highest price for it, in order to make meaningful change and create a better future for all,” says Kelvin Bonilla, ESN’s project manager, in a press release. “The ease of signing up for the program brings down barriers that these families typically face when trying to access services in the community.”

Since its founding in 2016, ESN has provided energy efficiency upgrades to over 850 homes, in total eliminating 620 metric tons of carbon emissions. More information and applications for services are available at

Community kudos

  • Reid Woolsey
    UP, UP AND AWAY: Reid Woolsey of Barnardsville set a new world record for the most elevation gained by trail running over the course of a month, with a total of over 500,000 feet. Photo courtesy of Alana Cloud

    Barnardsville resident Reid Woolsey set a new world record for the most elevation gained by trail running over the course of a month. From Oct. 1-31, Woolsey ascended over 500,000 feet while running more than 990 miles on the Woody Ridge Trail and other trails in Pisgah National Forest. The previous record, set by Colorado resident Chris Fisher last year, was just over 400,000 feet.

  • Two local nonprofits, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Conserving Carolina, recently celebrated the opening of the Strawberry Gap Trail, a 3-mile hiking path in Gerton. The route terminates at Blue Ridge Pastures and connects with the Trombatore Trail; the nonprofits eventually hope to connect over 100 miles of area trails through the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail Loop. More information is available at
  • Mountain BizWorks announced that 11 local outdoor businesses will be supported as part of the Asheville-based nonprofit’s Waypoint Accelerator Program. The initiative provides coaching, networking and access to capital for startup enterprises seeking to grow. Chosen businesses include sleeping bag manufacturer Lucky Sheep, e-bike tour company The Flying Bike and therapeutic adventure program PIVOTPoint WNC. A full list of participants is available at
  • Multiple WNC projects received grants from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality as part of a $6.8 million investment in electric vehicle infrastructure. Funded work includes a rapid charging station on Hendersonville Road near Interstate 40, three charging points in Waynesville and three public charging points in Brevard. More information is available at
  • This year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is being harvested from Pisgah National Forest. The 78-foot red spruce, known as Ruby, is currently traveling throughout the Southeast and is scheduled to arrive in Washington Friday, Nov. 18.

Save the date

  • The Asheville-based nonprofit Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary with a fundraiser at Highland Brewing Co. on Thursday, Nov. 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Attendees will enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres and live music, along with updates on projects throughout the park. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at
  • The No Man’s Land Film Festival returns to New Belgium Brewing on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. The free event, presented in partnership with Asheville nonprofit MountainTrue, features adventure and outdoors films made by women, with the goal of providing “a platform for progressive thought and movement in the outdoor industry.” An online screening will also be offered for those who cannot attend in person. Registration and more information are available at
  • Bullington Gardens, the Hendersonville horticultural education center, holds its 18th annual Holiday Craft and Greenery Sale on Friday-Saturday, Dec. 2-3. Locally grown holiday plants such as cyclamen, amaryllis and poinsettia will be available, as will fresh-cut WNC Fraser firs, garlands and wreaths. Christmas trees and other greenery must be ordered by Monday, Nov. 21, at
  • The Creation Care Alliance, a faith-based initiative of MountainTrue, hosts a symposium and retreat Monday-Tuesday, Feb. 6-7. The event features workshops on climate resilience, eco-grief support, solar power and engaging with Indigenous communities, as well as a keynote address by Avery Davis Lamb, co-director of the national nonprofit Creation Justice Ministries. Early registration is available through Friday, Dec. 9, at

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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