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Saturday June 3rd

Local organization aims to reach a zero-waste environment in the Triangle

<p>Executive director of Circular Triangle, Jennifer Hill Carrigan. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hill Carrigan.</p>
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Executive director of Circular Triangle, Jennifer Hill Carrigan. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hill Carrigan.

Circular Triangle, a new community-based organization, works to transition the Triangle to a circular economy by helping organizations, governments and communities reach zero-waste goals. 

A circular economy is one that minimizes waste and lets natural systems thrive by designing products that maintain their value and are able to be reused.

Jennifer Hill Carrigan, executive director of Circular Triangle, founded the organization in January 2020. Carrigan said the organization is solely focused on waste streams at industry and commercial levels. 

“The amount of waste created in our society, the amount that we as individuals make, the amount that goes into our personal trash cans, is a very small amount compared to the amount of waste generated in industry and at the city level,” Carrigan said. “So, we're trying to address the much larger amount of waste that often goes unseen by regular citizens.” 

Circular Triangle pushes for a circular economy through community engagement and education, policy initiatives with industries and advocacy in local governments. 

Carrigan said Circular Triangle starts with educating the public about circular solutions as a different way of thinking about waste elimination. Much of this community engagement and education process is done by Jared Goldman, a UNC senior who also sits on the Circular Triangle Advisory Board. 

“We write blog posts twice a month on different topics on circularity and the built environment,” Goldman said. “It really motivates, we hope, the community to think more in terms of new circular solutions.” 

Because of the remote work environment, Goldman said Circular Triangle has been able to speak with speakers around the world, in places like Vienna and Switzerland.

“We definitely couldn't have afforded to fly them out here, so it's great that we're able to use these connections that our board members and our volunteers have around the world.” Goldman said.

Goldman said Circular Triangle also hosts monthly volunteer training and facilitates conversations with architects and engineers to discuss the challenges and successes of building with environmentally-conscious materials. 

“That way, we’re sort of creating a forum for people to discuss these issues,” Goldman said. “We get circular solutions that come out of it on the other end that will lead to real, noticeable change.” 

In addition to community engagement, Circular Triangle works with local organizations in the area that are also striving to cultivate a sense of social justice through economically sustainable, environmental justice. 

Durham Community Land Trustees is an organization that provides affordable housing to low and moderate-income individuals and families. Circular Triangle is supporting DCLT on the Alma Street Commons Project, a proposal that is one of twenty accepted to the Living Building Challenge Affordable Housing Pilot Program.

The Living Building Challenge is the highest standard of green building, which includes decreasing waste during construction and while residents live there. It also means the Alma Street Commons Project will harvest its own water, grow its own food and be toxin-free.

Although the Alma Street Commons Project is still in its concept phase, Sherry Taylor, DCLT’s asset manager, hopes to start building in late 2022 or early 2023. 

“Circular Triangle is a great partner," Taylor said. "They are connecting DCLT and this project, to some of the environmental resources that we need and to networks that we haven't necessarily been a part of." 

As part of the organization's three-prong approach to eliminating waste, Circular Triangle drafted a resolution to help local governments in the Triangle shift to a circular economy and are hoping to have it passed by 2022.

"We need to eliminate waste, not just figure out a way to manage it better, we need to actually get rid of it by changing the way that our systems work so there is none in the first place," Carrigan said.


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