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Throughout the month of June, we’ve talked with Food FWD’s Noah Marsh and Waste Industries’ Travis Hitchcock to discuss North Hills’ newest sustainable initiative: composting. To wrap up our three-part series, we spoke with North Hills’ Operations Manager Herb Ubbens. He shares why North Hills is excited about this partnership.

Tell me about your role at North Hills.

Herb Ubbens: I operate in the Facilities, Risk, and Sustainability role for Kane Realty and North Hills. My job is to create and manage projects, develop safety and risk programs, and improve efficiency of our community and buildings.

When did North Hills decide to partner with Food FWD and Waste Industries? What prompted it?

HU: We initially began the composting conversation when it was brought to us by one of our restaurants, b.good. They were the first to begin composting at North Hills in 2015, and Edible Art followed. The Waste Industries/Food FWD/North Hills partnership came about when we fully realized the incredible benefits of composting and the importance of food diversion. We felt that this was an important program for North Hills, as it is in line with our three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social.

How will this new partnership benefit North Hills?

HU: To understand the benefits for North Hills, you have to understand the benefits of composting and food diversion. Food that goes to the landfill decomposes and emits gaseous carbon dioxide. This is known commonly as a greenhouse gas and is harmful to our environment.

Also, these foods are not providing a post-consumer benefit while sitting in the landfill among discarded plastics, etc. Food diversion takes those discarded scraps and sends them to a composting company, where the food is then made into a post-consumer product and is beneficial for the ground. Farmers, and the average gardener, can now use compost for erosion control, added nutrients to the soil, etc. Compost reduces water consumption in farms and gardens, as it retains water much more effectively.

North Hills benefits on numerous levels within our three pillars of sustainability. Economically, we see reduced trash weights. Reduced smells associated from dumpsters and reduced frequency of trash pickup assist environmentally. Finally, by providing a small business such as Food FWD the ability to operate and employ others locally, we benefit socially.

What are North Hills’ goals, both short-term and long-term, through this partnership?

HU: We envision all of our restaurants participating, as well as residential and office tenants. The more food we can divert from the landfill, the better the environment.

In addition to composting, what are some of North Hills’ other sustainability initiatives?

HU: North Hills is designed to be walkable, reducing the need to move one’s car from store to store. For those who want, or need, assistance moving around the property, we have a 24-hours-a-day circulation program, and the vehicles are all electric. We utilize single-stream recycling throughout the property, which increases participation. In addition, we are a Zipcar site, we offer free Electric Vehicle (EV) charging, and we utilize solar panels to heat the pool at Park and Market and to generate power that goes back to the electric grid. Even more, we are located on the bus line for downtown Raleigh.

All of our new office buildings are LEED certified. North Hills also features bike parking, LED lighting, urban farming/edible gardens, and health and wellness programs like Wellness Wednesdays, Stroller Striders, and yoga in the park. We utilize E-water system for cleaning. E-water is an enhanced water that disinfects and sanitizes. This reduces the number of traditional chemicals and cleaning agents that can be harmful to the air, surfaces, environment, and, more importantly, our staff.

What is your favorite part about what you do?

HU: I have the ability to work on, and initiate, so many interesting projects that improve the lives of others, all within an organization that truly cares about our community.

At North Hills, we’re proud to have sustainability at the heart of our growth plan. Through partnerships like this one with FoodFWD and Waste Industries, we are able to create a stronger community for all. In case you missed them, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the composting blog series to learn more.

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