BELONGING

Local Sustainability: Innovative Solutions from Our Neighborhoods

By

Becca Siegel

– VOL. 16

Whether it’s making second-hand clothing cool again, or meeting new friends through picking up trash in a community cleanup, Venn neighbors are showing imagination and ingenuity when it comes to rethinking waste management. It turns out trash is sometimes treasure, as these sustainability-minded businesses and organizations are showing us.

NoL Vintage | Midtown, Kansas City   

Owner Noel Gonzales is a regular at Venn’s Small Business Wednesday workshops series and runs NoL Vintage, his curated secondhand clothing pop-up shop in KC. The backstory is that he’s always loved fashion, but never had the funds to invest in fancy clothes. Five years ago, he turned his passion into his business, often sharing finds on Instagram, and recently he expanded with the launch of his pop-up. 

For Noel, reusing, repurposing and bringing clothing back to life offer ways for young people to “do better” for the local community and express themselves. “Second-hand clothes look just as good as a main brand,” says Noel and he’s eager to help others like him get into thrifting and give back to the community.

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Clean Bushwick Iniatives is a community-based organization that empowers neighbors to take action against waste on a local level.

Clean Bushwick Initiative | Bushwick, Brooklyn 

Headed up by Nicole De Santis, the Clean Bushwick Initiative is a local organization that hosts street and park-cleaning events, spreading the word about climate change. Nicole got involved with CBI as a volunteer when she was starting her own low-waste journey and she was motivated to take on a leadership role and get more people involved. 

Now, when she leads events, she tries to channel the spirit of a “community cleanup.” These events bring the neighborhood together and, for Nicole, underscore the importance of collaboration in CBI’s initiative.

CBI’s impact goes beyond community clean-ups and touches neighbors on an individual basis. People often tell Nicole how they’ve started compositing because they came to an event or collaborated in some way with someone they met at a cleanup. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that people feel rewarded and part of a community. 

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Kimberly De La Cruz, a DTLA Neighbor, is proud to work at Path, a California-based company deidcated to reducing single-use plastic waste.

Path | DTLA, Los Angeles 

Kimberly De La Cruz is a neighbor in Venn’s DTLA community, who brings a commitment to sustainability to her personal and professional life. For the past two years, she worked as an executive assistant at Path, a California-based company that produces reusable aluminum water bottles as a way of reducing single-use plastic waste. The company started in 2015 when the executive team saw a statistic that predicted there would be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. In brainstorming how to solve this problem, they invented their “infinitely recyclable water bottle” made out of aluminum. 

Much of Path’s focus is on the community in California. In the Skid Row section of DTLA, for example, they’ve partnered with Water Drop LA to distribute water and reusable bottles to people experiencing homelessness. Path’s partnership with Water Drop is one of many and proof of their mission’s importance and relevance. From Rivian and State Frame to SF State University to the Sacramento Kings, big names are all supporters of the mission and launching co-branded water bottle programs .

True to Path’s tagline ‘Refill it,” Kimberly says “If we lose money because everyone is refilling, then we’ve accomplished our goal.” 

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Jenny Silbert and Stephanie Choi founded Rewilder in Hollywood to make upcycling scalable.

Rewilder| Hollywood, Los Angeles 

In the heart of Hollywood, the sustainability movement is taking root thanks to Jenny Silbert, an architect turned environmentalist with a passion for dumpster-diving, and Stephanie Choi, a marketing and merchandising whiz who finds beauty in trash. Together, the two women teamed up to launch Rewilder, a sustainable design company dedicated to making upcycling scalable.

Originally, the company started making bags and backpacks from post-industrial, non-recyclable trash with the goal of keeping these materials out of landfills. Now, the aim is to get as close to “zero waste” as possible with the main focus being “material diversion.” Instead of starting with a design and then identifying materials, Rewilder’s design process starts with found materials and then works to find an appropriate design.

Equally as important to the company’s ethical design practices is its focus on the community.  In Hollywood, Rewilder works with a community of “makers” who make all of their products in their local studio. The studio also doubles as an educational space where they host workshops on the importance of upcycling. 

Scaling their impact more widely, Rewilder also partners with local music venue Hollywood Bowl to upcycling concert signage into consumer products. According to Stephanie and Jenny,  neighbors in Hollywood are super excited to see something come from the neighborhood streets and have it to keep it in their hands forever.