Spotlight on Raleigh: A Morning in Carrboro

>> Sunday, January 25, 2009

My interest in Carrboro was first peaked while reading Garbageland when the author mentioned several places that were working toward the goal of zero waste. She listed San Francisco, New Zealand, Australia, a few other countries in the Pacific, and Carrboro, NC.

Really? Carrboro? One of these things is not like the other...

Carrboro, NC has a population of only 16,000 people and is located on the far side of the Triangle, just west of Chapel Hill. Except for its close proximity to UNC-Chapel Hill, there doesn't seem to be anything special about it, and yet Carrboro has a reputation for being one of the most liberal cities in the South.

Besides its goal of zero waste, Carrboro gets environmental bonus points as the location of the first Weaver Street Market, a community owned grocery store that opened in Carrboro in 1988. Like the Weaver Street Market in Chapel Hill, it's a huge, thriving co-op that carries local and organic produce, all natural foods, and environmentally friendly cleaners. They also have a large deli and salad bar and a cafe that was hoppin' when I was there, even though it was only 10:00 in the morning.

Weaver Street Market is next door to the Carr Mill Mall, an old cotton mill that was converted into a shopping center. The mall is primarily filled with small, locally-owned businesses selling everything from toys to clothing to jewelry. It also includes Panzanella, a community owned Italian restaurant that is well-known for its bread, produced at the Weaver Street Market bakery.

Across the street from Weaver Street Market is the Maple View Farm ice cream parlor. I really wanted to try their ice cream since I buy Maple View Farm milk from the farmer's market, but they weren't opening until noon, and I didn't have an excuse to stick around in Carrboro that long. I guess I'll have to come up with a reason to make another trip back.

I was surprised at the number of bikers I saw in Carrboro, considering that it was the middle of winter. Maybe it's just the proximity to the University, but with lots of sidewalks and bike lanes, Carrboro seemed like a perfect place for pedestrians and bikers.

Although I wasn't able to visit it, Carrboro is also well known for its year round farmers market. The market has two rules: everything sold at the market must have been grown within a 50-mile radius, and vendors must represent their own products. At the market, you can find locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheeses, meats, soaps, and much much more.

I think Carrboro is a great example of what a small town can do toward building a strong local economy and environmentally conscious communtiy. Small towns of America, take note!

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