Innovation Barn, at 932 Seigle Avenue, Charlotte, North Carolina, is a joint project by Envision Charlotte and the City of Charlotte, with the goal of transitioning Charlotte to a circular economy. It’s a combination of entrepreneurial businesses, zero-waste initiatives, and a space to bring groups together in order to learn more about and implement circular projects. The City of Charlotte rents the building to Envision Charlotte for $1 a year.
A circular economy has zero waste — its waste products are re-used or up-cycled, instead of going to landfills. Some of the projects at Innovation Barn are aquaponics, a mushroom garden, a plastics lab, a teaching kitchen, a cafe, and more.
For example, The Bulb gathers excess produce from stores and distributes them free of charge, to communities with food insecurity. Then The Bulb gives their leftovers to Crown Town Compost, who composts the scraps to create compost for gardens.
Innovation Barn in Newsweek
Newsweek honored Charlotte as one of five cities in the world that are “leading the way to a greener world,” because of Innovation Barn. Read the Newsweek article.
Volunteering at Innovation Barn
Individuals can drop in on Saturday afternoons to volunteer. Projects vary. Currently, volunteers are cutting up t-shirts. The strips of t-shirt material are then being woven into soundproof panels, which are then sold. Students who need volunteer hours might want to check out this opportunity. Please email engage@EnvisionCharlotte.org to check on the hours open for volunteering.
Highlights of Innovation Barn
100 Gardens maintains an indoor vertical farm and a tilapia tank that have a symbiotic environment. The waste from the fish is used as a fertilizer for the plants. When the vegetables absorb the nutrients they provide the fish with fresh, purified water. This system requires very little water, since it’s repeatedly recycled.
The greens are sold to local restaurants, and the tilapia are harvested for Refugee Services.
Innovations Barn accepts drop-offs of Number 5 Plastics, which are not recyclable in Mecklenburg County. Take-out containers are typically Number 5 Plastic. (You can drop them in the pink bins outside the plastics lab. At the plastics lab, these materials are processed into filament for 3-D printers. In addition, breweries donate their plastic beverage carriers, which are turned into shredded material that can be used in furniture and other products
The apiary is a relatively new addition to Innovation Barn.
Inside this storage container is a mushroom farm.
Change Please is a nonprofit coffee shop. It trains homeless people as baristas, and then uses the proceeds of the shop to help them get housing, transportation, therapy and higher-paying jobs.
You can shop for some of the products of Innovation Barn at the cafe. The shopping bags on the top shelf are made from brewery’s grain bags.
Tuesdays from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.
Fridays from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.
Free (register here)
Explore the inner workings of the circular and sustainable initiatives. Advance registration is required. The tours have a limit of 20 people.
You can also take a free, self-guided tour any time it’s open.
February 17, 2024
1 to 4 p.m.
Bring in your broken stuff to get fixed for free!