The Reuse Movement

In 1988 it was predicted that Durham County only had two more years of life in it's landfill. Durham was able to defy the odds and continue using the landfill until 1998. However, a closed landfill causes a host of issues for Durham County and beyond:

Durham disposes of it's solid waste by sending enough trucks to carry (on average) 554 tons of trash per day to the Sampson County landfill and back, an hour and forty-five minutes away. These trucks run six days a week on inefficient, heavy duty, carbon blazing trucks. 

Image still from Durham GreenToGo  video  by  Yuri Vayasgant

Image still from Durham GreenToGo video by Yuri Vayasgant

Landfill waste consists of various materials that all decompose at different rates; so when food matter and compostable containers are packed into a landfill, they are likely to cause air pockets of volatile gases, like methane, which is a greenhouse gas 25 times worse than carbon dioxide. These pockets can result in unexpected explosions and instability in landfill foundation. And even more sadly, once land is made into a landfill, it can never be used for anything else. Ever. Again. 

While many residents recycle, compost, and continue trying to reduce their personal landfill inputs, another type of environmental movement is gaining in popularity -- it's the middle "R" in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The EPA and environmentalists alike have been advocating for the expansion of the Reuse Movement for years. Because it's often hard to encourage people to reduce their consumption in a society that praises consumerism and recycling is merely a bandage for a larger problem, reusing becomes extremely important in our ever growing population.

Reuse is the act of utilizing an item or material more than once for its original or alternative purpose. While recycling is better than throwing waste into the landfill, it requires a lot of additional energy, adding to the items original carbon footprint. In recycling, materials are broken down to create new ones, thus degrading the initial quality and durability of those materials. But when we reuse, not only is the integrity of the materials preserved but the energy footprint of that item becomes relatively carbon neutral over time. 

Pictured: Reusable produce/lunch bag by The Durham Originals, reclaimed furniture by Reuse Warehouse, and refillable dish and hand/body soap by Fillaree.

Reuse is also a movement focusing primarily on people and the art of "conscious consumption". Unlike reduction, reuse doesn't encourage people to necessarily consume less, but instead to consumer smarter. Quality over quantity. Those who are inspired by this movement are buying higher quality, locally produced goods and shying away from single use items that are sure to end up in the landfill, or worse, in our environment and oceans. Some cities are turning to the reuse movement in hopes to reduce consumption, create a healthier environment for residents, and stimulate the local economy. People, planet, and profit. 

Durham is a growing sustainability hub and is home to a strong community of environmental change-makers -- both businesses and community groups alike. Don't Waste Durham is one such community organization, composed of a diverse group of citizens organizing solutions that reduce consumer waste in our community. They recently certified the first two ever Sustainable Food Trucks (Caffee Bellezza & Chez Moi) and are now working hard on bringing the reuse movement to Durham with their returnable and reusable takeout container service, GreenToGo.

Crystal Dreisbach of Don't Waste Durham.

Crystal Dreisbach of Don't Waste Durham.

GreenToGo is a subscription-based service, allowing restaurant go-ers to use super durable, leak proof, reusable takeout containers for a trash-free takeout experience. Boxes get returned to any of the participating locations to a drop box, where they are picked up, washed & sanitized, and redistributed to restaurant participants. See how GreenToGo works:


Video by Derek Alan Rowe of Doctrine Creative.

GreenToGo will create guilt-free takeout by diverting trash, saving participating restaurants the cost of single-use containers, creating sustainable jobs and a reduced waste stream in our community. The best part? You too can join the Takeout Revolution! Sign up at and help put Durham on the map of sustainable cities around the world!

Reuse is the Future, Help Durham Lead the Way!

Collaboratively written by Rebecca and Daria

More Reuse Resources:

The Scrap Exchange

The Reuse Warehouse


Reuse: Because You Can't Recycle the Planet

Daria Drake