Commitment to Sustainability on Display in Asheville, NC

Commitment to Sustainability on Display in Asheville, NC

During a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the city’s commitment to proactively addressing topics including climate change and sustainability on display. Asheville is dedicated to providing a safe and healthy environment for its community.  In 2008, the city created its Office of Sustainability to integrate sustainable design, technology, and practice into municipal operations, infrastructure, and services.

Goals of the Asheville Office of Sustainability include:

  • 4% annual carbon reduction goal for municipal operations
  • A food policy action plan
  • 50% municipal solid waste reduction goal by 2035
  • 100% renewable energy goal for municipal operations by 2030

Visit to learn more.

Our girls’ week-long stay in Asheville was filled with delicious BBQ, beautiful mountain scenery, and an abundance of good fun.

Girls Trip to Asheville
Here are a few of the wonderful places we visited in Asheville, each making joyful changes for themselves and the planet.

Kress Emporium

Exploring the Kress Emporium would be a great cold/rainy day activity. It is in a large space on one of the main blocks just off downtown.  Kress Emporium showcases the work of over 80 regional artists and crafts. Its booths have a huge variety of things for sale, and it was easy to find something that generated a smile or a laugh.

At the Kress Emporium, it was also easy to find products that are kind to the planet, such as:

  • earrings and pouches made from recycled bicycle inner tubes
  • soap, candles, and cologne made with local organic ingredients
  • biodegradable, eco-friendly leather handbags
Up-cycled Inner Tubes

Not far from Kress is the Spiritex clothing store selling 100-percent organic cotton apparel, sustainably manufactured using eco-friendly dyes. They even have a women’s butterfly dress and skirt collection, all designed with the imagery of local butterflies. 

LEAF Global Arts 

“The closest distance between two people is a story, a song, or a dance.”

Our last stop on the tour was a wonderfully welcoming community center. LEAF Global is a creative immersive experience that weaves together elements of an interactive museum with an arts center.  The organization believes that by honoring cultural differences and embracing meaningful connections, they can create more equity in their communities. For more information on the good work going on here check out

LEAF Global Arts
We commend the city of Asheville’s commitment to sustainability. 

Take a look around the next city you visit.  Are they making conscious decisions about how to be more sustainable?  How about your own city?

Mary Shane

This OPL in the Field experience was shared by Mary Shane, OPL’s Quaintrelle.  Learn more about Mary.

Minestrone Soup, Comfort in a Bowl

Minestrone Soup, Comfort in a Bowl

This Minestrone soup recipe has been one of my favorite comfort soups for many years.  At the end of the summer season —  when fresh green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and herbs are still in supply — I like to make this soup and freeze it for the cold months ahead. It is full of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and tastes delicious especially when an unexpected virus comes along.  You can serve this by itself or with homemade crackers, a grilled cheese sandwich, or crusty multigrain bread. 

Recipe adapted from Italian Cooking Class Cookbook, Beekman House New York

Servings:Makes about 12 cups (3L); 8 – 10 servings.

  • 3 medium carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 large potato (sometimes I use a sweet potato)
  • 1/4 pound (115g) green beans
  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1/2 pound (225g) green cabbage
  • 3 medium cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (60ml)
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups (825ml) vegetable, beef, or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (355ml) water
  • 4 – 5 large tomatoes with skin and seeds removed, or 1 can (28 ounces or 790g) Italian plum tomatoes or San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2ml) each salt, and dried basil, crumbled – If substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs use 1/2 tablespoons.
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1ml) each pepper and rosemary, crumbled (or substitute one small fresh sprig of rosemary for dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can (1 pound or 450g) cannellini beans or chickpeas
Minestrone Soup Ingredients
Minestrone Soup
      1. Peel the carrots; chop coarsely.  Chop celery coarsely. Chop onions.  Peel the potato; cut into 3/4 inch (2cm) cubes.  Trim green beans; cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces.  Trim zucchini; cut into 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) cubes.  Coarsely shred cabbage.  Mince garlic.
      2. Heat oil and butter in a 5-quart (5L) Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onions; sauté stirring occasionally, until soft and golden but not brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in carrots and potato; sauté for 5 minutes.  Stir in celery and green beans; sauté 5 minutes.  Stir in zucchini; sauté for 5 minutes.  Stir in cabbage and garlic; cook for 1 minute.
      3. Add broth, water, and liquid from tomatoes to the pan.  Chop tomatoes coarsely; add to pan.  Stir in salt, basil, rosemary, pepper, and bay leaf.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low.  Cover, simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
      4. Rinse and drain beans; add beans to soup.  Cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until soup is thick, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

    Note: Soup can be served with grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Chef Yvonne Dwyer

Recipe compliments of OPL Naturalist and Home Chef Yvonne Dwyer

OPL Plant-rich Recipes

Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

Easy Tomato Pasta Soup

Easy Tomato Pasta Soup

This easy Tomato Pasta Soup recipe is perfect for a fall evening. It is simple, light and hearty at the same time.  Serve the soup with a glass of lemonade for a comforting meal.

This recipe is originally from The Blue Zone Kitchens by Dan Buettner, with my minor adjustments.

Serves: 4


4 cups water

2 cups vegetable broth

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound orzo

1 teaspoon salt

Salt and pepper to taste


Tomato Pasta Soup Recipe
  • In a large pot bring water and vegetable broth to a boil.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato paste, olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20- 25 minutes. Stir to make sure the orzo does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Note: using a non-stick pot makes this easy.
  • Serve and add salt and pepper to taste.
Lorie Buckingham Home Chef

OPL Founder & Wayfinder Lorie Buckingham shares a favorite recipe.

OPL Plant-rich Recipes

Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

The Beautiful and Complex World of Honey Bees

The Beautiful and Complex World of Honey Bees

The beautiful and complex world of honey bees is something to admire. Our appreciation for these little creatures that produce delicious honey and pollinate so many plants was greatly heightened after a visit with Sara Bedillion, co-owner of Bedillion Honey Bee Farm located in Hickory, PA.  Hickory is about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in Washington County, PA.

”The biggest little honey shop in Pennsylvania.”

From the roadside, Bedillion Honey Bee Farm looks small but once inside there are many interesting things to explore along with resources about bees and beekeeping, books, beeswax, ornaments, wide varieties of honey, and more. In the corner, there is a framed box housing a hexagon-shaped honeycomb made from beeswax with many honey bees at work. This display enables viewers to watch the bees at work safely without the fear of getting stung.

We learned so much about the amazing world of honey bees from Sara Badillion, starting with the queen bee.

The queen, known as the mother of bees, is an egg-laying machine.  The queen bee literally lays thousands of eggs in a single day. In the hive exhibit, we saw that the queen is slightly larger than a worker bee and can be recognized by a green spot of colored paint on the thorax. The thorax is the back of the bee, just between her wings. As the queen inspects the cells in the comb, she will select the right-sized cell in which to lay eggs. A healthy queen decides which eggs will be fertilized. Non-fertilized eggs are males, also known as drones. Fertilized eggs are females and become worker bees, and potentially a queen bee.

Queen Bee in Hive
Nutrition is important for the development of bees, starting with royal jelly.

Royal jelly is a secretion produced in the head glands of nurse bees and is fed to all the larvae in the colony for the first few days, regardless of sex or caste. Worker larvae are then switched to a diet of honey and pollen, while the queen bee larvae will continue to be fed royal jelly throughout her life.

A strong healthy bee colony occurs when collecting nectar takes place in the spring and autumn.

Nectar is primarily made up of water as bees pursue wild forage from blossoming trees and wildflowers. When a worker bee locates a good source of nectar or pollen she will return to the hive to perform a waggle dance, letting her nest mates know that she has found a good source of nectar and will direct them to that source.

Once the bees have completed the process of collecting nectar and producing honey, the honey is then harvested.  

The majority of nectar gathering halts in the summer as moisture level is low and there is little flower or tree blossoming.  The honey harvesting process begins by removing excess frames of honey and cutting off the beeswax caps to reveal the honey. The honeycomb frames are put into a centrifuge that spins the comb which enables gravity to draw the honey to the bottom.  After the “liquid gold” has been spun out of the honeycomb, it is time to strain and bottle.  It is interesting to know that regular honey can undergo a variety of processes, possibly removing beneficial nutrients like pollen and reducing its level of antioxidants. 

Managing beehives includes inspecing the boxes, extracting honey, and ensuring that bees have the proper amount of space for honey production.

Sara was gracious to film her honey bees in action. It was fascinating to learn that the honey bees know Sara’s scent, as many were swarming around her while filming and she did not get stung.

Raw honey retains most of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants that it naturally contains and has no additives, preservatives, or other ingredients — making it the real deal. 

There are many varieties of honey.  Honey varieties include: Sweet Clover, Buckwheat, Lavender, Spring Blossom, Wildflower, Hot Chili Infused, Japanese Knotweed, and Creamed Honey. The light to dark colors, grade, and viscosity depend upon the wildflowers where the nectar was collected from in the spring and the fall. 

Honey Varieties
There are many beneficial uses of honey.
  • Honey can be used medicinally; some clinical research shows that honey may help heal wounds and burns, fight infections, and alleviate cold and flu symptoms.  
  • For seasonal allergies, 1-2 teaspoons of locally sourced honey taken daily may shorten allergic reactions or help with alleviating allergic reactions altogether.
  • Honey mask is a natural cosmetic that contains small amounts of gluconic acid and other alpha-hydroxy acids — which gently remove dead skin cells, moisturize, and brighten the complexion.
Raw Honey Benefits
This is an Elixir recipe I have shared with family and friends for years during the cold, flu, and allergy seasons.

Bragg’s Apple Cider Elixir

1 tablespoon Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother (see note)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon raw honey

1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Dash of cayenne pepper

1/2 – 1 cup of hot water

Mix ingredients in a coffee cup and add hot water.  Stir and enjoy while warm.

Note: Apple Cider Vinegar with the “mother” is a cloudy vinegar with enzymes, nutrients, and beneficial bacteria.  It can be found in your local grocery or health food store and online.

We thank Sara for our visit to the Bedillion Honey Farm, her time, and for sharing her knowledge of bees and beekeeping.  The benefits of buying honey locally is to support our beekeepers who have made a business of not only selling honey but teaching us the importance, value, and relevance of supporting bees as well as helping those of us who would like to start their own personal or commercial venture into beekeeping.  You can learn more about Bedillion Honey Farm at

OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer

This experience was shared by OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer.

Learn more about Yvonne.

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