This article discusses lessons learned from a social enterprise project supporting sustainability
education in central North Carolina (U.S.A.). Since 2011, Eco-Cycle,1 a retail shop featuring
creative-reuse has provided support for a community meeting space that offers weekly
environmental education workshops. Many approaches to social justice-oriented green initiatives
in the United States emulate urban agriculture models and tend to be grant-dependent in
early years, only achieving economic sustainability with difficulty. In contrast, our non-profit
co-op of upcycler crafters and vintage vendors grew out of production and marketing of upcycled
rain barrels, based on a social enterprise approach rather than a traditional model. I discuss
the stepping-stones to this venture, which originated through a neighbourhood energy conservation
initiative, followed by alliance-building with non-profits to promote green job creation.
I relate the complications and surprising forms of synergism emerging from the social enterprise
approach to social theory on cooperatives and community-based development models.
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