AKRON, Ohio – If you’re interested in incorporating more sustainable practices into daily life, you should check out Akron Sustainer.
Akron Sustainer’s home base is hard to miss. The 8-foot by 20-foot shipping container at 21 W. North St. at the Cascade Lofts was painted by the University of Akron Art Bomb Brigade in the group’s signature multi-colored splendor.
Launched through a $5,000 Torchbearers’ Small Projects Achieving Real Change grant, by Torchbearer graduate Kaley Foster, Akron Sustainer is an educational hub designed to spark many small sustainability projects that generate lasting change.
“This is to educate people on the reusing of materials, to minimize our impact on future generations,” Foster said. “It’s to get people to think differently.”
Foster partnered with Let’s Grow Akron and Summit Reworks for a Sustainable Saturdays workshop series, which has covered everything from seed starting to rain barrels to making rugs and bags from upcycled plastic bags. The series will continue next year from April through October.
An upcoming event is Kombucha Fermentation on Aug. 12 from 11 a.m. to noon. Fermenting is used to preserve harvested food and Kombucha is a fermented tea used as an alternative to high-sugar soft drinks.
Akron Sustainer also works with the Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability, which educates the community and business professionals on sustainable practices.
Foster, who has made Urban Buzz Beeswax candles since 2014, got the idea for a long-term sustainability project after debuting her wares and other sustainable items in the shipping container at the North Hill Better Block in 2015.
“People were thrilled to have a shipping container in Akron,” she said. “It’s just an economical way to house things.”
True to the project’s purpose, the container, which was featured in the 2017 Akron Home Flower Show, is outfitted with furniture created from repurposed materials, some from the old Firestone and Selle buildings downtown. Informational materials for workshops and other events hang from upcycled pallets.
Foster is also working to add a solar panel, a vegetative roof, a rainwater catchment system and a living wall, or habitat wall. The wall will be made of recycled and natural materials like pipes, tree branches, loose stones and stacked bark to provide habitat to bees, birds and bats. It will attach to the side of the shipping container.
Foster recently was recognized for Akron Sustainer in the latest round of Emerging City Champions, which awards individuals $5,000 for the best ideas to build a better city. The program is part of the Knight Foundation’s 880 Cities, which works to improve communities.
She joined other winners at a June worship in Toronto to share ideas, hear presenters and participate in interactive sessions.
“It showed me how much I don’t know,” she said. “The cool thing is we could do a lot of the projects in Akron.”
Foster would like to launch a kind of incubator park of eight to 10 shipping containers in downtown Akron. Emerging businesses could rent the spaces for retail, food, art and music for short periods as they’re starting up, before committing permanently to a site.
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