Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Focus on Creating a Circular Local Economy

If you’ve shopped in a thrift store, fixed something instead of buying a replacement, loaned a shovel to your neighbor or shared summer squash, you’ve already contributed in your own way to a circular economy.

A circular economy is one where goods and materials are kept out of the waste stream through reuse, sharing and repairing, and it’s a key strategy in the city of Ann Arbor’s carbon-neutrality plan. It is also the focus of a new webpage with resources.

“It’s simply about keeping materials in productive use,” said Missy Stults, PhD, sustainability and innovations director for the City of Ann Arbor. “It’s about eliminating as much waste as you can from the cycle and ensuring that the goods we use can keep providing use.”

The Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area already have a lot of components of a circular economy – reuse centers, repair clinics, local food producers – but to take things large-scale will be an ongoing coordinated effort across the region.

The city of Ann Arbor has also put together a map to help connect community members with efforts to connect and reduce waste and identify businesses and organizations committed to the goals of a circular economy and keeping things local.

One of the places on the map is Growing Hope in Ypsilanti.

“Growing Hope invests in a sustainable, circular economy as a means of investing in our local food system and in pursuit of food and environmental justice,” said executive director Julius Buzzard. “We use our farm as an example of circular and sustainable practices. For example, we have underground cisterns that fill with rainwater and irrigate plants in our hoop houses, which use plastic to harness heat from the sun to create growing environments for plants, we have a green roof on top of our stone oven, which we use to prepare to produce grown on the farm, and the farmhouse uses solar panels to help power the farm.”

But the most crucial role Growing Hope plays, according to Buzzard, is through education around growing and producing food and composting.

“Our compost takes in products from around the community, including the farm, and produces healthy soil every season,” Buzzard said. “We also divert food waste by giving folks a place to share their extra yields each season through our produce cart. Sharing produce relieves waste and hunger simultaneously.”

Spend a bit of time as an urban or suburban scavenger and you know how much perfectly good stuff gets set out on the street on garbage day.

It’s also easier than ever to stop things from going to the landfill using neighborhood groups and social media, with the Buy Nothing Project well represented throughout Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti neighborhoods, and beyond.

Sometimes it’s still as simple as sharing sugar, but neighborhood groups are also often keeping things like furniture and household items – and, yes, extra overgrown zucchini – out of the trash.

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