Accepted paper:

A Synergistic Approach to Building Community around Sustainability


Sandy Smith-Nonini (University of North Carolina)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss lessons learned from a self-supporting co-op in Durham, North Carolina (USA) that combines environmental education with a workshop and marketplace for upcyclers. The question driving the Recyclique co-op has been how to promote sustainability education to a broad public while addressing the need to make green lifestyles accessible for underemployed people. We chose a synergistic social enterprise approach rather than a traditional non-profit model.

Paper long abstract:

Most approaches to social justice-oriented green job creation in the US emulate urban agriculture models and tend to be grant dependent in early years. Our co-op grew out of production and marketing of upcycled rain barrels. In 2011 we opened a shop shared with other upcyclers, crafters and vintage vendors which sponsors educational events -- most with a strong skill-share component, and engages in community education collaborations. I will discuss the stepping stones to this venture which originated through a homeowner energy conservation initiative, followed by alliance-building with non-profits to promote green job creation. I will discuss complications and surprising forms of synergism that arise from the social enterprise approach, and relate it to social theory on cooperatives and community-based development models.

panel PE08
Communities of practice in global sustainability